Russia Defense Report: Russian Forces in Armenia

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Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

The Russian military involvement in assistance of the government of Syria had led to a sharp deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey, which until recently had been seen as if not an ally then at least a solid partner. While the reasons for Turkish president Erdogan’s betrayal of trust with Russia are still not fully known, this unexpected turn of events had instantly elevated the importance of the Russian military contingent in Armenia, a country which is not only tied to Russia by a range of collective security treaties but also shares a long border with Turkey, which is after all a member of NATO, as well as with Azerbaijan and Georgia, both of which have been building their ties to NATO in recent years. Which means that Armenia is the Transcaucasus equivalent of Belarus–a buffer state between the suddenly hostile NATO and Russia. Any escalation of the Russia-NATO differences of opinion over the future of Syria would necessarily involve the Russian forces already stationed there, plus whatever reinforcements could be sent to the area. The presence of Russian forces in Armenia is also significant for the reason of the still unresolved Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the future of Nagorno-Karabakh. Given Armenia’s geographic importance and its political and military alignment with Russia through the Collective Security Treat Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, one also has to keep in mind that Armenia represents a tempting “color revolution” target. For that reason, Russian troops stationed there can rightly consider themselves to be part of a frontline deployment.

The permanent contingent of Russian forces in that country centers around the 102nd Military Base near the city of Gyumri, with Russian troops enjoying basing rights there thanks to a bilateral Russia-Armenia agreement until 2044. The 102nd Base was established on the basis of the 127th Motorized Rifle Division that was based in Gyumri. Its equipment strength includes 74 Main Battle Tanks, nearly 200 BTRs and BMPs, as well as artillery systems including long-range Smerch MRLs, which is equivalent to a reduced-strength motorized rifle division of three motorized rifle regiments (each with one tank company) plus a separate tank battalion, consistent with the number of 4500 Russian soldiers stationed at Gyumri.  The 102nd is not the only such formation in existence–the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan that is intended to help maintain security in Central Asia also as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, has roughly similar organization and strength.

However, while the 201st only needs to worry about Taliban, Al Qaeda, and, now also ISIS infiltration from Afghanistan, the 102nd is based in close proximity to a NATO state which necessitates protection against air attack. That protection is provided by the 988th Air Defense Missile Regiment with S-300 and Buk-M systems and a flight of MiG-29SMT fighters based at the nearby Erebuni airfield which recently also received 18 Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters. Rounding off the 13 thousand strong Russian contingent in Armenia are the 4.5 thousand FSB Border Guards based at Gyumri, Armavir, Artashat, and Megri.

This force serves a number of peacetime functions. It extends Russian conventional deterrence umbrella over Armenia against any external attempts to violate Armenia’s sovereignty. It helps integrate Armenia into the CSTO, with Russian troops serving as military trainers and advisors in a fashion similar to the role their counterparts played in Syria. Indeed, Russian and Armenian forces hold frequent joint military exercises to hone their interoperability. Should the situation deteriorate, the 102nd’s organization and strength make it suitable to wage a low intensity counter-insurgency campaign against well organized “foreign fighters” and, in the event of a major military threat to Armenia, it is sufficiently powerful to screen Armenia’s borders until reinforcements could be sent, while bombarding key enemy sites with Iskander-M missiles. Even though Armenia does not share a border with Russia, it does have one with Iran, whose close security relationship with Russia shows no signs of weakening which means that, should the worst come to worst, Iranian airspace could be used to reinforce Armenia.

Current Russian national security plans foresee the Russian force grouping in Armenia to be increased, as part of the overall enhancement of the role of CSTO in guaranteeing regional security and in response to increased NATO activity in the region. What happens next is really up to the West. Should it insist on continuing the course toward confrontation, Russian forces in Armenia could greatly complicate its strategic calculations.

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  • Dillon Francis

    Are you all sure about the 13,000 soldiers being in Armenia?
    Last I checked it was under 6000.

  • It is very nice of this article to not only recognize Armenia as a close ally, but also Iran. I predict that Iran will be the single most important ally to Russian in 5 years time. Most reliable, most honest, most supportive, most inventive.

  • Vlad Pufagtinenko

    What happened to Arnenia that it actually invites these terrorist Russuan soldiers to stay in their country. Disgusting.

    • Scradje

      Unfortunately Armenia is little more than a defacto RuSSian oblast. Has been for some time. If it ever gets a Saakhashvili into power it would face a rerun of Krim. There is literally no one who will help them.

      • Hans

        Funny how you talk of SS with a guy who has a thumbnail of a known Ukrainian Nazi sympathizer! :D Long live the ignorance! Russia is SS, while a Nazi simpathiser of modern western democrat :D :D :D https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepan_Bandera

        • Scradje

          You don’t know your history do you kremtroll? RuSSia was a nazi collaborator country; it invaded and occupied Poland with its nazi allies, committing atrocities which it blamed upon its ally. Fascists and liars then, fascist liars now. Kremtrolls, like their troll bosses, like to accuse the victims of their fascist aggression as themselves fascists. No wonder putler is such a fan of goebbells.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            This is why Poland went to Czech republic together with Hitler, later gave up all the jews to nazi and built SIX concentration camps on its soil.
            Now, dear Polish propagandist, tell us please about Ivan Susanin and why he is a hero of Russia? Also why the statue of Minin and Pozharsky is in Moscow, near Kremlin.
            Please.

          • Scradje

            Russia is a historical nazi collaborator state, you cannot deny it. Kremtroll, tell us how many millions of innocents were murdered by Lenin, Stalin and others. Do not forget the 6-10m systematically starved to death in the holodomor. RuSSia is still a fascist power, murdering its neighbours, stealing their land and then lying about it. Even employing imbecile trolls like you to infect comment sites with drivel.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            OK, now could you tell us about Ivan Susanin please?
            nazi collaborator… hmmmm lets see…. who has been fighting with Germany inside the USSR…wow! Even Finns! As well as Bulgaria, Slovakia, Italy, Romania etc.
            But you guys sold your jews and sent them to the concentration camps you have built yourself under the German command. And then working there as nazi volunteer helpers. And it was OK together with Hitler invade Czech republic….
            By the way, when will you pass Breslau back to Germany and take back Lviv from Ukraine?

          • Scradje

            Once you admit to the historical fact that you are a nazi collaborator country that is once again behaving like nazis, perhaps we can have a conversation. Meanwhile, go join your friends on the daily stormer or its sister site russian insider.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            Just to remind you – I want to hear about Ivan Susanin, Minin and Pozharsky

            A collaborator, burning jews in Polish concentration camp tries to blame Russia for his own crime…. pathetic!

          • Scradje

            A troll who trolls for the most genocidal state in history, that is hell bent on continuing the ‘good’ work of its predecessors, has no moral ground whatsoever. Nothing. You are are just an empty little troll. Run off and buy yourself a dried fish with your troll earnings.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            So this is a lie about concentration camps in Poland, a lie about selling out jews to nazi’s….
            The Holocaust in German-occupied Poland was the last stage of the Nazi “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” (Endlösung der Judenfrage) marked by the construction of death camps on Polish soil in 1941–42. The genocide officially sanctioned and executed by the Third Reich during World War II, collectively known as the Holocaust, took the lives of more than three million Polish Jews. The extermination camps played a central role in the implementation of the German policy of systematic and mostly successful destruction of over 90% of the indigenous Polish-Jewish population of the pre-war Second Polish Republic.[6]

            German police battalions (Orpo), SiPo, and special-task Einsatzgruppen operated behind the front lines along with Ukrainian and Lithuanian auxiliaries systematically shooting tens of thousands of men, women and children independently of the army. Massacres were committed in over 30 locations including Tarnopol, Radomyśl, Białystok, as well as provincial capitals of Łuck, Lwów, and Stanisławów among others.[22][23] Gas vans were made available in November 1941.[24] The survivors of mobile killing operations were incarcerated in the newly created ghettos of pure economic exploitation,[21] and starved slowly to death by artificial famine (künstliche Hungersnot) at the whim of German authorities.[25]

            wiki – the Kremlin propaganda, correct?

          • Kalinin Yuri

            See, how hard for a Polish troll like you to explain the world – what the Polish troops have been doing in Russia??????

    • Hans

      What happened to Ukraine that it actually betrays its Slavic brothers and invites some terrorist soldiers from another half of the world to stay in their country? Disgusting! Just like your thumbnail of Stepan Bandera a known Nazi sympathizer and mass murderer!

      • Vlad Pufagtinenko

        Russians are not Slavs, They murder their neighbors. Hope you enjoy visiting your hero in The Hague.

        • Nexusfast123

          There will be no Hague standing if the euro idiots mix it with Russia.

          • Vlad Pufagtinenko

            Russia wouldn’t last a week against NATO comrade

          • The troll is banned. If the so-called “Ukrainian patriots” want to avoid bans, they have to learn how to participate in discussions and to use proper names of states and nations.

        • Hans

          Russians are very much Slavs and they are pretty much the closest to Ukrainians. While your beloved hero Bandera was supporting Hitler who was a known Slavophobe whose concentration camps were filled with Slavic peoples whom he considered “untermensch”. How easily you have forgotten your bloodrelatives in favor of some stinking dollars and euro’s.

          • Vlad Pufagtinenko

            So comrade… Did they do a urine check on the Russian Euro team? You Russians cheat at the Olympics and in tennis. Probably the only reason that drugged up team scored a goal

  • dutchnational

    The choice of Armenia to ally with Russia is not a choice made in heaven, a love match, for them but a rational one.

    Almost literally besieged by Turkey and Azarbaijian, both having genocided armenians in the past, makes Russia the only possible ally of Armenia.

    Sadly, the US cannot be trusted by Armenia as the US has the sad history of abandoning allies when it suits them and the US considers Turkey to be a more important ally than possibly Armenia.

    So, Armenia is stuck with Russia.

  • BongBong Chu

    Clearly, the interests of Russia and Armenia are complementary. It is hard to overstate hostile attitudes toward Armenia in Azerbaijan and Turkey, and Georgia is an uncertain connection to the rest of the world. In the same time, a military position next to Turkey is of huge value to Russia. For example, mercurial Erdogan could get an idea to close the Marmara Straights to Russia. With a solid and easy to reinforce military base next door, his own generals would dissuade him.

    At least by numbers, Armenia seems to be an armed camp, so I do not think that they would have much of a problem with infiltration, border control etc. But as we have seen earlier this year, an attack from Azerbaijan with support from Turkey is quite possible. A pound of prevention can save a ton of trouble.

    A bit of news on Ukrainians and their Slavic friends. Last week there was a joint Polish-Ukrainian demonstrations about victims of Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Less than twenty participants. Perhaps Ukrainians get more sympathy in Slovakia? Slovenia? Montenegro?

  • Random guy

    If NK conflict flares up, Russia will stay out of it as they did in early April. However if Azerbaijan attacks Armenia itself, only then Russian military will get involved. It is based on CSTO sphere of influence and territory recognition.
    However definitely Russian base is a 1st line in Caucasus agains NATO, and it is very logical and important for Russia to protect their interest against NATO a little further than their own borders.