YEREVAN — The Armenian National Assembly voted 102 to 8 today to ratify the government’s decision to join Russia’s air-defense system amid protests by the opposition. The parliament opposition members protests were connected with the fear of sharing the control of one of the most important elements of the country’s defense with a second country.
Armenia and Russia, along with the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The agreement between the two countries on creation of the Joint regional air defense system was signed in December 2015, Moscow.
The Russian and Armenian militaries have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace ever since the mid-1990s as part of a defense alliance binding the two countries. The agreement in question would deepen that arrangement through the creation of a Russian-Armenian “united regional system of air defense.”
Under the agreement, the air-defense system will cover “the Caucasian region” presumably encompassing southern Russia, Armenia and adjacent territory in the South Caucasus. It will be led by the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District and “coordinated” by the Russian Air Force chief.
The accord at the same time stipulates that an Armenian army general will command all air-defense forces deployed within Armenia. Those include sophisticated S-300 and Buk surface-to-air missiles as well as MiG-29 fighter jets that are part of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri.
Speaking about the agreement yesterday, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan said Armenia will be able to use Russian warplanes and spy satellites for protecting its airspace after its new system of joint air defense with Russia takes shape this year,.
Ohanian insisted that the newly modernized MiG-29s and other Russian air-defense facilities will be at Armenia’s disposal “in times of both war and peace.” “The agreement will also enable us to have serious intelligence data that will be available in a common information space and will help us avert violations that could be committed by our adversaries,” he told reporters.
The minister seemed to allude to information collected by Russian spy satellites. The Armenian Defense Ministry already indicated this in a detailed statement released early this month.