MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorizing his government to sign an agreement with Armenia on the creation of a joint regional missile defense system in the Caucasus, Novosti Armenia reported citing a decree published Wednesday.

“I hereby instruct the Defense Ministry of Russia to hold negotiations with the Armenian side with the involvement of Russia’s Foreign Ministry and sign the said Agreement on Russia’s behalf upon reaching consent and permit making minor amendments to its draft approved by the government,” the document said.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet confirmed late last month plans for the creation of the Russian-Armenian “united regional system of air defense in the Caucasus region of collective security.”

The Russian and Armenian militaries have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace ever since the mid-1990s. Their integrated air defense system was given a “regional” status by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 2007.

Top Russian military officials said at the time that Moscow has upgraded Armenia’s anti-aircraft capacity and trained Armenian specialists to operate sophisticated S-300 systems. Some Armenian defense analysts suggested that Moscow is keen to extend the geographic span of the joint air defenses to the entire South Caucasus. Those consist of not only Armenian and Russian anti-aircraft weapons but also 18 or so MiG-29 fighter jets that are part of the Russian military base in Armenia.

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