Armenian General Threatens Azeri Economic Facilities


Eurasia Daily Monitor – Jamestown Foundation
Nov 8 2012

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 205
November 8, 2012 05:12 PM Age: 1 days

By: Fuad Huseinzadeh

Armenian S-300 missile battery

In a little-noticed development last month, a senior Armenian military
official has announced Armenia’s willingness to use military force
against Azeri economic facilities in the event of an outbreak of war
in Karabakh. On October 15, Major General Artak Davtyan, Chief of the
Operative Department, Armenian Armed Forces, made an oblique reference
to Armenia’s S-300s which it recently acquired from Russia as a measure
of retaliation against Azerbaijan. During a press conference, General
Davtyan told journalists on October 15 that the Armenian Armed Forces
consider long-range missiles a priority and, if necessary, are ready
to attack the enemy’s economic facilities, particularly gas and oil
pipelines ().

Armenia first acknowledged receipt of the S-300s in December 2010, and
a few days later showcased a video of the missiles being tested (see
EDM, January 11, 2011). The surface-to-air missiles went on display to
the public in January 2011 when they were featured during a military
parade ().

Immediately following General Davtyan’s comments, Azerbaijani military
officials in Baku responded, noting the economic impact Armenia’s
actions would have, as well as Azerbaijan’s ability to protect its
threatened assets. According to Colonel Eldar Sabiroglu, a spokesman
for Azerbaijan’s defense ministry, “Firstly, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas
fields are being used jointly with the biggest states and companies.

Secondly, Azerbaijan is able to protect its oil and gas fields, all
measures needed for missile defense are in the focus of attention. The
enemy should understand that the new missile systems of Azerbaijani
Armed Forces can strike any strategic facility of Armenia”

At the same time that the statement by the Armenian military appeared,
information was released by Yerevan announcing that Armenia had
actually placed Russian-made S-300PS surface-to-air missiles
within seven kilometers of the border with Karabakh. Information
released by IMINT & Analysis, a US-based open-source military
analysis group, stated that according to Google Earth satellite
imagery of air defense systems, the deployment of the highly mobile
S-300PS complexes would allow Armenia, with Russian assistance,
to cover the entire air space over the occupied territories
of Azerbaijan. “[T]he placement of Armenian S-300PS batteries
adjacent to Karabakh, represent significant occurrences potentially
impacting various future scenarios in the region,” the source noted

More importantly, what does this all mean? First of all, the statement
by General Davtyan is likely the first instance in recent years of a
senior Armenian military officer quite clearly threatening Azerbaijan.

At the same time, his statement would also be a direct threat
against US and European oil investments since Azerbaijan’s major oil
facilities, such as the Sangachal oil terminal and other facilities,
are jointly operated in cooperation with western oil companies.

Officials in Baku also did not interpret the statements as solely an
impulsive statement made by Yerevan, but assumed they were made at the
likely urging of Moscow. As Azerbaijan’s defense ministry spokesman
Sabiroglu noted, “[Armenia’s] strength and sense do not belong
to itself,” which is a diplomatic way of indicating that Yerevan’s
posturing is directly backed and possibly inspired by Russian military
and political guarantees ().

With the peace process in a virtual deadlock, the recent statements
by such a senior ranking Armenian defense official and the subsequent
announcement of the deployment of the S-300s near the Armenian-occupied
territory of Karabakh stand to further inflame regional tensions. While
Russian forces based in Armenia have had S-300s in their hands for
over ten years, the actual transfer of the S-300s to the control
of Armenian forces is an entirely different matter. Moreover,
the announcement that they have been deployed near the border with
Karabakh is a destabilizing move. The highly mobile missile system
can easily be redeployed, but in the event of an armed conflict,
its current location would invite a potential retaliatory response
from Azerbaijan on a target within Armenia proper. Such a response
is legally vastly different than attacking a mobile battery within
the disputed Karabakh territory, which is internationally recognized
to be inside Azerbaijan.

Finally, these developments are occurring against the backdrop of a
complete absence of US activity in the South Caucasus as Washington
has largely deferred its role in the Karabakh peace talks to Moscow.

With the transfer of S-300s to the control of Armenian forces
next to Karabakh, and the Russian sale of S-300s to Azerbaijan in
mid-2011 (, June 30, 2011), Moscow is now both the lead
negotiator in the talks over the future of Karabakh and the supplier
of destabilizing weapons to both Yerevan and Baku. This stands to
leave Moscow as the sole arbiter of regional stability in the South
Caucasus, both in the negotiating room and on the battlefield.