DEFENSE MINISTRY CONSIDERS ABANDONING RADAR STATION IN AZERBAIJAN
May 24 2012
Russia’s Defense Ministry has expressed discontent over the conditions
of extending a missile defense radar station lease in Gabala,
Azerbaijan, a source in the ministry said on Thursday. Currently
Russia is renting the station for $7 mln per year, Baku wants to
increase this sum dramatically. The alternatives are abandoning the
station or possibly building a new one in Armenia.
“We are confused by the unreasonable leasing price increase with an
indefinite leasing period,” the source said. He added that the annual
price offered by Azerbaijan is equivalent to building two new radar
stations in Russia.
“Moreover, the Gabala station needs renovation, which requires
significant financial investment. Russia’s Defense Ministry is
interested in using the radar station for at least 10-15 years in
order to recoup our investment,” the source said.
“Taking into account all these circumstances, Russia has no other
alternative but to abandon the Gabala radar station,” the source said.
In July 2011, then-Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov held preliminary
talks in Baku about extending the leasing period, but Azerbaijan at
that time only spoke of an insignificant price increase.
According to Igor Korotchenko, head of the Defense Ministry Public
Council, the sharp increase in cost to lease the Gabala radar station
is an unfriendly move by Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan is forcing Russia to
leave. Paying that much money for the lease would be crazy. However,
there is still a chance that Azerbaijan could correct its position.
Vladimir Putin could meet with Ilham Aliev (the Azerbaijani president)
during one of the CIS meetings and talk about a return to the old
conditions,” the expert says. According to Korotchenko, the sharp
increase of leasing prices comes from the Azerbaijani Defense agency.
“According to one information, it was Azerbaijan’s Defense minister
Safar Abiyev who suggested to increase the leasing cost. He was
motivated by one of the Azeri community members from Moscow,”
Baku cannot use the Gabala station on its own. The radar station is
part of a missile attack prevention system, its computers are located
in the Moscow region. Ukraine once increased the lease price for its
radar station in Mukachevo. Russia then left the site, now it isn’t
used by anyone, Ukraine cannot use it alone. According to Korotchenko,
Russia might build a new radar station, in addition to the one planned
in the city of Armavir. Moreover, Moscow could accept an offer from
one of Armenia’s government official, who said Russia could use its
territory to build a radar system.
The Gabala radar system provides early warning about possible missile
attacks on Russia from the south (the main threat is Iran). In 2007
Vladimir Putin suggested that Russia and NATO states use the system
together, however the response was that it could not defend NATO
as well as a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech
From: A. Papazian