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Tensed with Azerbaijan, Armenia Joint Military Exercises with US

The Armenian army began conducting joint military exercises with the United States (US) army on Monday (11/9/2023). This came amid tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan and the exercises were held near the capital Yerevan.

The main agenda of the joint exercises is to increase the ability of Armenian soldiers to prepare themselves if they want to join the peacekeeping forces. The training was carried out in two places, Zar and Armavir Training Areas.

Armenia basically has close ties to Russia. Moscow also has a major role in mediating Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan. The military exercises with the US at least made Russia a little annoyed.

1. Small military exercises

Armenia’s military exercises with the US are not spectacular large-scale exercises. The exercise involved only 85 US troops and 175 Armenian troops. The Armenian Defense Ministry said the drills were designed to prepare its soldiers to take part in international missions.

Reported by VOA News, the exercise is called Eagle Partner. The Armenian soldiers are from the 12th Peacekeeping Brigade. The US Army participated in the military exercise to prepare Armenian soldiers to undergo a capability assessment that meets NATO standards.

Training will last for 10 days. US troops involved in the exercise include members of the 101st Airborne Division and the Kansas National Guard.

Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the US command, said the exercise was an important opportunity for the two countries’ armies to build new relationships at the tactical level and increase interoperability in peacekeeping operations.

2. Russia is upset with Armenia’s decision

Since before the joint drills took place, Russia has expressed concerns about Armenia’s plans. Russia chairs the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which includes Armenia so the drills irked Moscow somewhat.

Reported by RFE/RL, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed regret over the Armenian leadership’s decision. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would monitor the developing situation.

On September 8, Russia summoned the Armenian ambassador in protest because it was deemed to have carried out unfriendly steps, including military exercises involving US troops.

Tigran Grigorian, analyst and head of the Regional Center for Democracy and Security, said the joint US military exercises showed Yerevan was trying to distance itself from Moscow.

“All Armenia’s recent steps can be considered an attempt to show that Armenia does not belong to Russia’s camp,” Grigorian said.

3. Recent Armenia-Azerbaijan issues

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war in 2020 over Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan managed to control parts of the region in a six-week war. Nagorno-Karabakh is territory of Azerbaijan but is inhabited by ethnic Armenians who are supported by the Yerevan military.

A ceasefire was held with Russia as mediator. The war ended, leaving Nagorno-Karabakh with only one road connecting to Armenia called the Lachin Corridor.

Reported by the Associated Press, Russian peacekeepers should be on the route to ensure free movement. But Armenia says the Azeris have blocked roads, limiting the delivery of humanitarian aid such as food, medical supplies and other essentials.

Baku denied having cut off supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh. They claimed that the convoy, which was in the name of humanitarian aid, was carrying smuggled goods with the aim of provocation.