Armenia announced on Wednesday that it will host joint military exercises with the United States next week and the Kremlin was quick to voice concerns.
Armenia will host what is known as the Eagle Partner 2023 joint Armenia-U.S. military exercises from September 11 to 20, the defense ministry announced on Wednesday, saying that the drills will take place in the “‘Zar’ Training Center of the Peacekeeping Brigade and the N Training Center of the Ministry of Defense.”
“The purpose of the exercise is to increase the level of interoperability of the unit participating in international peacekeeping missions within the framework of peacekeeping operations, to exchange best practices in control and tactical communication, as well as to increase the readiness of the Armenian unit for the planned NATO/PfP [Partnership for Peace] ‘Operational Capabilities Concept’ evaluation,” Armenia’s defense ministry added.
Armenia has been part of the NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans.
“Within the framework of preparation for peacekeeping missions, units preparing for international peacekeeping operations frequently participate in similar joint exercises and trainings in partner countries,” the defense ministry added.
A Pentagon spokesperson said Wednesday that the 85 American soldiers and 175 Armenians would take part, Reuters reported. The source said the Americans – including members of the Kansas National Guard which has a 20-year-old training partnership with Armenia – would be armed with rifles and would not be using heavy weaponry.
This announcement about the exercises has raised concerns in the Kremlin, whose spokesperson on Tuesday hit back at Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for claiming that Armenia’s decades-long alliance with Russia could be deemed a “strategic mistake” and saying that Russia had failed to protect Armenia against attacks from Azerbaijan.
“Of course, such news causes concern, especially in the current situation. Therefore, we will deeply analyse this news and monitor the situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Reuters.
Peskov commented on Tuesday about Pashinyan’s assertions, made during an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, that because of the Ukraine war Russia was unable to fulfill its security obligations to Armenia and the South Caucasus.
“Russia is an absolutely integral part of this region,” Peskov told reporters Tuesday. “Russia plays a consistent, very important role in stabilizing the situation in this region … and we will continue to play this role.”
It was also telling that the state-sponsored RT news site framed the news as “Russia’s Treaty Partner to Hold Joint Drills with U.S.”