Business or Brotherhood?: Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan trigger Armenian backlash

The sale by Russia of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan caused a wave of discontent in Armenia. What particularly angered many local politicians and experts was the sale of Smerch rocket launchers, which are considered to be one of the deadliest weapons.

First Armenian political analysts and experts loyal to Russia had to prove that nothing bad had happened and that Russia did have the right to sell arms to Azerbaijan, as it gives Armenia weapons almost for free.

Then Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolai Bordyuzha had to come to Armenia to assure partners in Yerevan that the sale of arms to Azerbaijan was pure business and that in order to “maintain the balance” Russia was also arming Armenia.

Not all in Armenia, however, were convinced and some experts and politicians began to even express opinions through media that Armenia should undertake symmetrical measures by refusing to continue to host the Russian military base, declaring about its withdrawal from the CSTO and moving to terminate its agreement on strategic alliance with Russia.

But the most remarkable thing is that this time around discontent was also raised in Karabakh. Independent Karabakh MP Vahan Badasyan made a tough statement, accusing the Armenian authorities of allowing themselves to become too much dependent on Russia to the degree that Moscow now determines the policy of Armenia in the Karabakh issue.

Then, in an interview with first commander of the Karabakh Self-Defense Forces (1990-91) Arkady Karapetyan accused Russia of preparing a ‘new genocide’ of Armenians in Karabakh. Describing the combat characteristics of Smerch systems, Karapetyan said he did not want to sit and wait until Azerbaijan uses this lethal weapon against his family. He said that Russia must choose – either business or brotherhood. And if it chooses business over brotherhood, let the Russians pay for the military base in Armenia, he emphasized.

On July 2, in Yerevan, during the presentation of the revised version of the book ‘Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Between Peace and War’ an interesting polemic took place between its author, senior associate at the Washington Carnegie Endowment specializing in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Thomas de Waal and Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan.

“After the accumulation of a certain quantity and quality of weapons on both sides of the conflict the resumption of hostilities becomes unlikely. Accumulation of arms triggers the mechanism of deterrence based on threat. In this respect, I do not agree with Thomas de Waal that the likelihood of renewed hostilities has increased, on the contrary, it is decreasing,” said Iskandaryan.

De Waal, in his turn, stressed that along with the process of accumulation of arms tensions are rising in the region, which at one point will get out of control, as it happened during the First World War.

Meanwhile, active citizens in Armenia are now discussing questions like: will the asymmetrical armament of Azerbaijan and Armenia by Russia lead to renewed hostilities and why the Armenian leadership does not express a tough stance on the matter?