YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — President Serzh Sarkisian has insisted that the Armenian military has enough modern armaments to cope with security threats to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meeting with military personnel, government officials and public figures in the resort town of Dilijan on Thursday, Sarkisian clarified his controversial 2016 remark that Armenian soldiers are “fighting with weapons from the 1980s.”
“Firstly, the context [of the statement] was a bit different,” he said in televised remarks publicized by his office on Friday. “Secondly, there is not a single army in the world that possesses all modern types of weaponry. Neither the American army nor the Russian army nor any other army can claim to have all the modern weapons because no army, no state can gain them [at once.]
“But every army needs to have sufficient weaponry in order to be able to accomplish its tasks. That is evaluated in its entirety. On top of that are soldiers’ skills. Today our army possesses not the most advanced armaments … but sufficient weaponry and ammunition to achieve objectives set for it.”
“A sufficient quantity and quality of weapons and ammunition plus intelligent and resilient fighters: this is the formula for success which I don’t doubt,” added Sarkisian. He did not disclose news types of weapons which Armenia has acquired in recent months.
Two years ago, Russia allocated a $200 million loan to Armenia which is being spent on the purchase of more Russian weapons at internal Russian prices that are below market-based levels. The Russian government subsequently publicized a long list of items which the Armenian side is allowed to buy with that money. It includes, among other things, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, TOS-1A heavy flamethrowers, anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
The arms supplies envisaged by the loan agreement appear to have begun last year. According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Russia delivered 300 air-defense systems to Armenia in 2016. Those most probably were shoulder-fired Igla and Verba systems.
In late 2015 or early 2016, the Armenian military also acquired advanced Russian Iskander missiles. The acquisition was apparently not covered by the low-interest Russian credit.
Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian said in January that Yerevan is planning more arms acquisitions in addition to the $200 million defense contracts signed with Moscow. He gave no details.
Russia has long been Armenia’s number one arms supplier, reflecting close militaries ties between the two states. Membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has enabled Armenia to receive Russian weapons at discounted prices or even for free.