YEREVAN — The National Assembly of Armenia overwhelmingly ratified on Thursday a Russia-Armenian agreement on a joint military force that was first formed in Armenia more than a decade ago.
Under the agreement signed late last year, “the united group of troops” is tasked with “ensuring military security in the region” and thwarting or repelling possible foreign aggressions against Armenia or Russia.
The joint contingent comprises troops from the Russian military base in Armenia and an Armenian army corps. It has been led by Armenian army generals since its creation in 2001.
The Armenian parliament backed the treaty, ratified by Russia’s parliament this summer, by 87 votes to 7. All of those seven deputies represent the opposition Yelk alliance.
Yelk’s representatives said during Wednesday’s parliamentary debate on the issue that the accord will limit Armenia’s sovereignty and put its armed forces under Russian control. Leaders of the pro-government majority in the parliament dismissed those claims.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party (HHK), insisted on Thursday that the Russian-Armenian military force will boost Armenia’s security. He said it will defend the country in case of a military attack by Turkey or Azerbaijan.
“If a tense situation erupts on Armenia’s borders and if Armenia appeals to its allies — Russia and the [Collective Security Treaty Organization] — they will be obliged, under the CSTO statutes, to intervene and defend Armenia,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The same will be true for that military force, if necessary.”
Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakarian confirmed during the parliament debate that the mandate of the Russian-Armenian unit covers only Armenia’s internationally recognized territory, meaning that it will not be required to intervene in possible hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sharmazanov dismissed statements by pro-Western opposition figures that Russia cannot be trusted because it has sold billions of dollars worth of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan in the past decade. He insisted that there is still no alternative to Armenia’s close military ties with Russia. “If we don’t create this united military force, what can we create in its place?” he said.