Russia expresses concern as Armenia prepares to train with US troops | news

Yerevan says the exercises will prepare units for international peacekeeping missions, as its relations with Moscow appear increasingly strained.

Armenia is set to hold joint military exercises with the United States next week, which has worried Russia.

The aim of the September 11-20 Eagle Partner 2023 exercise is to prepare its forces to participate in international peacekeeping missions, the Armenian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

“Within the framework of preparation for peacekeeping operations, units preparing for international peacekeeping operations frequently participate in similar joint exercises and exercises in partner countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

A US military spokesman said that 85 US soldiers and 175 Armenians will participate. He said the Americans — including members of the Kansas National Guard, which has a 20-year training partnership with Armenia — will be armed with rifles and will not use heavy weapons.

Earlier this year, Armenia refused to allow the CSTO, a Russian-led alliance of post-Soviet nations, to hold military exercises.

The Kremlin said this week’s exercise, though small-scale, would be closely watched.

“Of course, such news is cause for concern, especially in the current situation. Therefore, we will analyze this news in depth and monitor the situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and considers itself the preeminent power in the South Caucasus region, which was part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

It maintains a peacekeeping force in the region to enforce an accord that ended the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, the second time they have fought since the Soviet collapse.

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But Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a weekend interview with an Italian newspaper that Russia had failed to defend Armenia against continued aggression by oil-rich Azerbaijan.

He suggested that Russia’s war in Ukraine meant it could not meet Armenia’s security needs.

Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that he disagreed with Pashinian’s comments.

“Russia is an absolutely integral part of this region,” he said. “Russia plays a constant, very important role in stabilizing the situation in the region … and we will continue to play this role.”

Tensions between Moscow and Yerevan are rooted in Armenia’s conflicts with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan since the end of the separatist war in 1994.

Pashinyan has been increasingly critical of Russian peacekeepers in recent months, accusing them of failing to secure free transit along the corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

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