Russian diplomat, Director of the Fourth European Department of the Russian MFA, Yuri Philipson, stated on February 14 that Russia, unlike the USA, does not sell weapons to foreign countries in order to pit its neighbors against each other, RIA Novosti wrote.
“The fundamental difference between Russian approaches to military-technical cooperation and those of other countries is the categorical rejection of the misuse of justified needs of partners in ensuring their own security,” Philipson said.
He added that Russia’s military-technical cooperation takes into account the context of the relations of the countries where weapons are supplied, and has practical significance. Philipson said that “Russia will not stoop so low as to resort to blackmail or threats in the matter of military-technical cooperation”.
The Fact Investigation Platform has studied the volumes of Russian arms supplies to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone, according to SIPRI.
Military procurements of Armenia and Azerbaijan according to SIPRI
After the 44-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) referred to the military expenditures of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the supply of weapons to these conflict zone countries.
SIPRI notes that until the second war, mediation to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict since the 1990s was entrusted to the OSCE Minsk Group, which was co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States of America. Russia also carried out mediation activities outside the framework of the OSCE. Back in 1992, the OSCE called on its member states to voluntarily introduce an embargo on the supply of weapons and ammunition to the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces involved in the armed clashes in Nagorno Karabakh.
“However, as international attempts to resolve the conflict have dragged on, the two countries have prioritized the build-up of their military capabilities,” the report reads.
According to the research institute, in 2020, Armenia’s military spending accounted for 4.9% of GDP, and Azerbaijan’s accounted for 5.4%. In 2020, the national share of each country was considerably higher than the world military spending average of 2.4%. However, SIPRI emphasizes that in absolute terms the military spending levels of Armenia and Azerbaijan are very different: in 2020, Armenia spent US$ 634 million and Azerbaijan spent $ 2.238 billion.
Russia is the main supplier of weapons to Armenia and Azerbaijan
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute introduces the two countries’ main arms suppliers, including Russia, Israel, Belarus and Turkey.
According to SIPRI, despite Russia acting as a leading mediator in the conflict between the two countries, in 2011–2020, it accounted for 94 per cent of Armenia’s imports of major arms and 60 per cent of Azerbaijan’s.
Over the decade 2011–2020, Russian deliveries to Armenia included armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and multiple rocket launchers and tanks—all of which were used in the 2020 war.
Among the deliveries were Iskander surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 300 kilometres, as well as “Smerch” rockets, which Russia supplied in 2016-2017.
In 2019, Russia supplied Armenia with 4 Su-30SM multipurpose fighter jets, which, according to the report, could significantly strengthen Armenia’s strike capability, but were not used during the war.
Russia’s supplies to Azerbaijan included armored vehicles, air defense systems, transport and combat helicopters, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and tanks. In 2013, Russia supplied Smerch rockets to Azerbaijan, which were also used by the latter during the war.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes that Russia has wider military cooperation with Armenia: Armenia is a CSTO member, Armenia hosts a Russian military base, and acquires weapons from Russia at relatively cheap prices. According to SIPRI, Russia often supplies arms to Armenia at reduced prices or in the form of military aid, with the likely aim of maintaining influence in the region.
As for Azerbaijan, it is noted that the country has usually paid the full price for weapons supplied by Russia. In 2018, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan spent about US$ 5 billion on military equipment from Russia.
Taking into account this circumstance, SIPRI notes that economic interests are likely to be an important motive for Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan.
Thus, we can state that the statement of Yuri Philipson, director of the Fourth European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, that Russia does not sell weapons to foreign countries to turn neighbors against each other, is not true, and Russia has been the largest supplier of weapins to the conflict parties in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone.