Russia has begun delivering tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth $1 billion to Azerbaijan, a Moscow-based defense group said on Tuesday, as the former Soviet republic strengthens its military readiness in the volatile South Caucasus. Large-scale Russian military support for Azerbaijan is likely to provoke unease in neighbouring Armenia, especially as Armenia and Azerbaijan are still locked in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
A source at the Russian Defence Ministry said the order had been on hold for some time to avoid upsetting the military balance in the South Caucasus, where Russia has a military base in Armenia, and an agreement to defend the country if it comes under attack, but the deal had been pushed through at the behest of Russia’s arms industry.
Analysts have attempted to douse fears over Azerbaijan‘s increased militarisation, saying that the nation had no appetite for war, though Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliyev faces re-election in October, has boosted arms spending and threatened to take back the disputed territory of Nagorno- Karabakh by force from neighboring Armenia. Meanwhile, Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said last year that Azerbaijan was accumulating a “horrendous quantity” of arms and was threatening Armenia with a new war. The news seems to mark a current trend in the South Caucasus as last month Russia ignited fears over its reported rapid re-militarising, Russia’s Southern Military District’s forces, whose responsibility cover the entire Caucasus region, have been re-equipping relatively fast. With bases in Armenia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, this news has raised questions about the nature of the increased activity by the Russian military in the region–whether it is a sign of “dynamic development” or a “power message” to its neighbours?
The news of Russia’s shipment to to Azerbaijan also comes simultaneous with the release of data from the Campaign Against Arms Trade about EU arms exports (including EaP countries). CAAT has launched a new web-app which makes the existing data clearly and easily available to the public, politicians, civil servants and the media. The app shows all known weapons transfers out of the EU from 1998 onwards, broken down by source, destination and type of equipment.
According to CAAT:
“CAAT’s EU Arms Exports browser uses data compiled by the European Commission and released in annual reports. While the reports are hard to navigate and highly technical, the browser provides a simple interface that allows the user to browse the data in an accessible format and quickly make comparisons between different exporters, destination countries, types of hardware and year.”
The data, however, is far from complete, as CAAT is careful to point out:
“…the official data is far from complete and includes some glaring omissions. Though the EU data covers all military equipment, it does not include export licences for “dual-use” equipment, that is equipment that could be used for military or civil purposes, and information on actual deliveries is not provided by several countries including major suppliers Germany and the UK. In some cases, the EU data differs from national reporting.”
— Onnik J. Krikorian (@onewmphoto) June 18, 2013
— Hovhanes Nikoghosyan (@hnikoghosyan) June 18, 2013