MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — President Serzh Sarkisian has suggested that the Russian and Armenian governments set up a “joint military-industrial complex” in Gyumri, which is home to the headquarters of a Russian military base in Armenia.
In an article published by the Moscow daily “Izvestia” on Tuesday, Sarkisian did not elaborate on the proposed joint defense venture. He said only that it would help to modernize the Russian base, serve as a “platform” for Russian arms exports to neighboring states and create jobs in Armenia’s second largest city beset by high unemployment.
Moscow and Yerevan signed in 2013 an agreement on joint manufacturing and maintenance of weapons and other military equipment. Seyran Ohanian, Armenia’s defense minister at the time, said it will enable the Armenian defense industry to work with Russian arms manufacturers “on privileged terms.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin inspected Russian troops in Gyumri when he visited Armenia later in 2013. Sarkisian emphasized this fact in his article timed to coincide with the start of his official visit to Moscow. He is scheduled to meet with Putin on Wednesday.
The current Armenian defense minister, Vigen Sargsian, said last month that the Russian military presence remains a “very important” element of Armenia’s national security strategy.
The Russian base headquartered in Gyumri is thought to have up to 5,000 military personnel as well as hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems, and more than a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets. Moscow has bolstered it with helicopter gunships and other military hardware since a 2010 Russian-Armenian agreement extended its basing rights in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044.
Writing in “Izvestia,” President Sarkisian described Russia as his country’s “strategic ally.” He pointed out that the two nations agreed last year to reinforce a joint system of air defense and a Russian-Armenian military force originally set up in 2000.