Armenia and Region: First Deputy DM in U.S. as Yerevan seeks additional security guarantees

A delegation of the Armenian Defense Ministry led by First Deputy Minister David Tonoyan has been on a visit to the United States. Tonoyan has already met with representatives of the defense office of the United Nations Secretary General and stated about the increase in the number of Armenian peacekeepers involved in UN peacekeeping missions.

A total of 32 Armenian peacekeepers are involved in the UN mission in Lebanon. In May they were visited by Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan. He also said that one Armenian officer may start a mission in Mali.

Armenia also participates in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo under the auspices of NATO. And the country’s participation in these missions is assessed as Armenia’s contribution to the Western, Euro-Atlantic security system. Despite its membership in the pro-Russian military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenia is trying not to sever its ties with other international security systems.

The visit of the first deputy defense minister of Armenia to the United States is taking place after visits to Armenia by CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha and head of the Chief Intelligence Department of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Igor Sergun. It is not known what the Russian military and the Armenian leadership agreed about, but it is clear that Armenia has not received from Moscow full security guarantees in the situation emerging in the region.

And the situation is fraught with most unexpected twists. In September, it is not ruled out that a meeting of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan will take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. Nor is it excluded that some sort of agreement on the Karabakh problem will be concluded. And this could lead to a change in the status quo in the region, and even the emergence of an international peacekeeping force, including the UN’s.

Furthermore, the situation in Turkey is also getting exacerbated. It has almost openly engaged in a war against the Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Remarkably, the terrorist acts and retaliatory actions have been taking place in modern-day Turkey’s territories that historically were Armenian and are even called Western Armenia in Yerevan.

In this situation Armenia should seek alternative security guarantees. It does not appear to be a coincidence that before traveling to the United States Tonoyan visited Georgia, where apparently he received guarantees of “non-aggression”. After that visit, the Armenian defense official said that Georgia and Armenia trust each other and will not take steps that will jeopardize the interests of each other.

In Washington Tonoyan is likely to seek guarantees over several threats: 1. Russia’s and Azerbaijan’s possible attempts to escalate the situation in Karabakh, start military operations and introduce Russian peacekeepers; 2. The probability of the transfer of military operations in Turkey to the territory of Armenia; 3. Attempts by third forces to escalate the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in order to change the status quo, to introduce international peacekeeping troops and to open up regional communications with Iran.