Armenia’s decision to hold joint exercises with US troops has been described as “strange” by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov expressed regret over Armenia’s actions, highlighting that the country is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a defense alliance that includes Russia and Belarus. He noted that Armenia has been avoiding any drills with its allies recently.
Lavrov also raised concerns about the presence of NATO in the South Caucasus, stating that it would not benefit the region’s security. He expressed skepticism about the intentions of American troops, stating that wherever they go, there is often trouble. Lavrov claimed that the US seeks to dominate all developments in regions where its forces are present, including political ones.
Yerevan’s political direction has been a cause for concern in Moscow for some time. In September 2022, Armenia refused to participate in a CSTO exercise in Kazakhstan due to its ongoing border conflict with Azerbaijan. Tensions between the two neighbors had escalated, resulting in border clashes and the loss of soldiers on both sides. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan requested military assistance from the CSTO, but the alliance opted for diplomatic means to resolve the situation.
In January 2023, Pashinyan announced that holding CSTO exercises on Armenian territory would be inappropriate for the year, without providing further details. This decision came after Russia’s Defense Ministry had already announced several joint exercises, including one planned in Armenia.
Yerevan has also shown an inclination towards NATO, insinuating that the CSTO had failed to defend Armenia and making overtures to the Western alliance. Pashinyan even stated in an interview that Armenia is not an ally of Russia in its conflict with Ukraine.
The joint US-Armenian exercises are scheduled to take place next week. However, the announcement of these drills has further strained relations between Russia and Armenia. On Friday, Moscow summoned Armenia’s ambassador over a series of what it deemed “unfriendly” actions. These included Armenia ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Pashinyan’s wife delivering humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and offensive statements made by Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan directed at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The ICC has charged Russian President Vladimir Putin with the alleged forcible deportation of Ukrainian children. Moscow has dismissed the charges as absurd and maintains that the court has no jurisdiction over Russia.
In conclusion, Armenia’s decision to hold joint exercises with the US has raised eyebrows in Moscow, especially considering its membership in the CSTO. The move has further strained relations between Russia and Armenia, with concerns being raised about the US’ presence in the South Caucasus and Armenia’s shifting political direction.