Interview with Daniel Ioannisyan, project coordinator of the Union of Informed Citizens The Russian side has published the list of weapons it will supply to Armenia under the 200 million dollar loan agreement signed with Armenia in the summer of 2015. Is this list adequate to the loan?
The issue is that the quantities of weapons have not been published. In other words, it was told that Smerch systems and ammunition will be supplied. It is known which modification of rockets this is but the quantity is not known so it is early to consider whether the deal was useful or not. As to the deal, it is interesting that we are going to pay in rubles but the price will be set in dollars. In other words, later on, if the rates of national currencies drop, we will have losses anyway, and in this sense this is a good deal for Russia, it develops its local producers, forces Armenia to buy rubles worth 200 million dollars. This deal is very useful for the stability of the Russian ruble.
Anyway, we don’t see many new systems. The newest thing on this list is Smerch reactive system which has been produced since 2004. The others are rather old types of weapons. Smerch is not a new system, Solntsopyok which is a modification of the so-called Buratino heavy artillery, is not a new system. It has existed since 1987, and the modification sold to Armenia is that of 2001 which almost does not differ from the one of 1987. Smerch is not new either. It has a history of 30 years. Hence, we are not speaking about modern weapons, we are speaking about weapons which might be standing in Russia’s warehouses, and it is trying to sell them because as a rule other countries buy new weapons. So we say that this is not a useful deal, especially that we have to start repaying the loan in 2018, with 3% interest.
For Russia, this is a useful deal, especially when you lend money, and the money stays with you because they buy weapons from you, weapons that were decaying in your warehouses. This deal is more useful for Russia. And there is no need to overestimate the weapons that are sold to us. At the same time, we need to be honest that there is no need to underestimate either because to some extent this is restoring of the balance. It should be noted that Armenia had problems with long-range artillery systems though those systems are not many and will not play a significant role during the war. However, at any rate, the chances of Armenia in long-range artillery fight have increased a little. Besides, it should be noted in regard to Solntsepyok that it is a system intended for burning the infantry live, and when a few years ago Azerbaijan bought Solntsepyok, there were concerns that they would advance with their help in case of a possible war because the infantry in trenches becomes highly vulnerable. Now that the Armenian side has Solntsepyok, it will also be able to attack by way of balance but these are systems which should have been banned altogether, like the chemical or biological weapons, and its impact is close to the chemical one. These weapons, I very much hope, will never be used by either side. In your opinion, why was the list of weapons published now? Do you link it with the tension in the Russian-Turkish relations and is Russia involving us in this?
Russia is trying to drag us into a conflict. Even Francois Hollande has announced officially that a Russian-Turkish war is not ruled out. And Russian-Turkish wars often take place on several battlefields, including the Caucasian front, especially after NATO has announced that ut may not support Turkey in a possible conflict with Russia. It is possible that Russia has issues with Turkey and is trying to develop pro-Russian moods in Armenia. Evidence to this are these publications, propagandistic mechanisms reaching Armenia, including information that Putin will return Mount Ararat and the treaties of Kars and Moscow will be repealed. All this is propaganda which intends to develop pro-Russian sentiment in Armenia, to involve Armenia into the Russian-Turkish conflict. It is difficult to guess how, physically, this involvement will take place. Will it be on the bank of the River Arax? Or will it be at the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact? At any rate, they are trying to involve us all the time, use in any possible way, therefore they are trying to create such sentiment.
Returning to the deal over arms, it should be noted that Russia is selling to Azerbaijan many more weapons, relatively newer weapons, Russia is selling to Azerbaijan hundreds of T-90 tanks. If this is about tank engines, about 840 horses, for our tanks to be competitive in the mountains, they sell to Azerbaijan T-90 tanks which have 1000 horses which are better than our tanks in every aspect, more powerful and more competitive. So, to say that Russia sells to Azerbaijan as many weapons as to Armenia is a lie. We did not see types of expensive weapons on this list. Why is Iskander not found on the list after months of consideration?
We did not see such expensive weapons as tactical rockets, for example, Iskander and others. We did not see a single weapon which would enable Armenia to send at least 1 kg of explosive to Baku, whereas the Russian weapons sold to Azerbaijan could hit any spot in Armenia. Smerch is the most long-range weapon of all the weapons sold to us. This modification of these rockets can fly up to 90 km. SU-30 fighters were considered but were not sold to us, at least it is not in the deal, the agreement does not list any jet or helicopter, a tank or an armored car. The agreement lists only several units of artillery and trucks, sniper guns, engines, navigation equipment, several radio stations etc. I repeat that there are no tanks or armored cars or aircraft. Is this another failure agreement?
I think it is a failure because we received very few weapons. We can see from the same Ukrainian conflict that tanks may be quite important but the Syrian conflict shows that it is very important to have air forces in this era whereas this deal does not buy us armored cars or aircraft. Unfortunately, we cannot say that our army became significantly more competitive thanks to the weapons acquired under this agreement. The reason is not quite the money shortage why we haven’t bought aircraft for a long time. Simply, Russia has sold so many air defense equipment to Azerbaijan that acquisition of helicopters and jets by us is not a justified expense because Azerbaijan will down them immediately. We remember that a year and a half ago two helicopters went close to the Azerbaijani posts and the soldiers on duty hit one of them. Russia has sold 1200 pieces of Igla, S-300 systems of the 2009 modification to Azerbaijan. S-300 sold to us is of 1982. Russia has sold so many and such quality air defense systems to Azerbaijan that it is meaningless for Armenia to boost its air force debts. Why would one buy jets or helicopters if the enemy will down them right away?