(Yerevan) Armenia and the United States began joint military exercises on Monday, at a time when this Caucasian country does not hide its growing frustration vis-à-vis its traditional Russian ally, in the midst of the Ukrainian conflict.
According to Yerevan, the Eagle Partner 2023 exercises, scheduled until September 20, aim to “raise the inter-operational level” of American and Armenian forces participating in peacekeeping operations.
“We confirm that the opening ceremony of the exercises has begun,” a spokesperson for the American army for Europe and Africa told AFP on Monday afternoon.
According to Washington, “about 85 American soldiers will train alongside some 175 Armenian soldiers” at the Zar and Armavir training centers, located near Yerevan.
These exercises are viewed very negatively by Moscow, which summoned the Armenian ambassador on Friday denouncing “unfriendly measures”. The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, stressed on Sunday that Russia saw “nothing good in the attempts of an aggressive NATO member country to penetrate the Caucasus”, Russia’s backyard.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov indicated that such a rapprochement between Yerevan and Washington “required a very, very in-depth analysis”, while insisting that Russia wanted to continue “a close dialogue with the Armenian side”.
In response, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that “Russia, which has invaded two of its neighbors in recent years, should refrain from lecturing countries in the region on their arrangements.” of security “.
He reiterated the fact that these were “routine exercises which are not linked to other events”.
Frustrated with Russia
But in Yerevan frustration reigns over Russia’s inability to support Armenia against Azerbaijan, and the lack of engagement of Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict between the two neighbors.
The two rival Caucasian countries have fought two wars for control of the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which they have fought over for decades. The last one, in 2020, ended in a defeat for Armenia, which had to cede territories to Azerbaijan in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Tensions between Baku and Yerevan have escalated in recent months, with Azerbaijan blocking the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Armenia to Nagorny-Karabakh, which has caused major shortages in the mainly populated enclave. ‘Armenians.
Russia, which has a contingent of peacekeepers on site, has failed to contain the crisis and has been accused of inaction on multiple occasions by Armenia.
“By pinning their hopes on the Russians, Armenia lost, considering what is happening to us. So let’s try now with the Americans,” 27-year-old Yerevan resident Mariam Anahamian told AFP.
“Russia did not respect its commitments during the war and even worsened our situation,” accuses Arthour Khatchadourian, a 51-year-old security guard.
In the eyes of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Moscow is either “incapable of maintaining control over the Lachin corridor, or it does not have the will”.
In an unprecedented diatribe, he even described Yerevan’s dependence on Russia in security matters as a “strategic error”.
In another news for Armenia, Mr. Pashinian’s wife traveled to Kyiv last week to participate in a meeting of spouses of leaders organized by the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on humanitarian issues.
“Armenians are frustrated with Russia, which failed to help them during the Karabakh war or deal with its consequences,” summarizes independent analyst Arkady Dubnov, adding that Moscow “also seems to lack a clear plan , of a strategy in the Caucasus”.
Mired in its war in Ukraine and isolated on the international scene, “a weakened Russia is rapidly losing its influence in its Soviet-era backyard,” he said.
Although Russia negotiated a ceasefire in the fall of 2020 and deployed its peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh, its influence over the belligerents is at half mast.
The European Union and the United States have thus imposed themselves at the forefront of mediation between the sworn enemies of the Caucasus, even if no progress has taken place so far.
On Monday, Dmitri Peskov affirmed that Moscow had received “no official signal” from Yerevan to leave the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance headed by Russia.
Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan, whose military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire budget thanks to its oil windfall, is supported by its powerful Turkish ally.
And “the Kremlin has neither the resources nor the will to help Armenia, and lets Azerbaijan and Turkey pursue their objectives,” assures Mr. Dubnov. In this context, “Armenia is now trying to forge new strong alliances,” he emphasizes.