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Air Defense: Armenia Has Its Own
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January 5, 2011: Armenia admits that it has its own S300 anti-aircraft missile systems. This has been rumored for over a year, but this was the first official admission. Since the 1990s, Russia has made no secret of that fact that it's 3,000 man force in Armenia (as part of a "friendship treaty") was equipped with S300 systems, as part of a joint air defense system for the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a coalition of some of the countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union). With Armenia now controlling some S300s of its own, neighboring Azerbaijan is less likely to revive the dispute it has with Armenia over some territory. That war ended in 1994, but Azerbaijan was a poor loser and threatens to try again.

Meanwhile, last year Armenia signed a pact with Russia that, in effect, makes it a protectorate of Russia. The deal extends the lease on a Russian military base in Armenia from 2020 to 2044. The 3,000 man Russian force in Armenia may be increased and Russia, in effect, guarantees Armenia's security. Armenia needs all the help it can get, as it is a landlocked Christian nation surrounded by three hostile Moslem states (Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran). To the north, there is Georgia which, while Christian, has its own problems with Russia.

There are over nine million Armenians worldwide (including the three million still in Armenia), making it clear that most Armenians want to be anywhere but Armenia. But not everyone could get out. Moreover, Armenians have been in Armenia for over 3,000 years, and there is a certain attachment to the place. The Russians like surrounding Georgia, and being closer to Turkey (an ancient enemy).

In return for this security, Armenia will have to follow Russia's lead in diplomacy, and any other area the Russians feel is important (like relations with Azerbaijan, a friend of Russia). Meanwhile, the Russians will provide new weapons and equipment for the 43,000 troops in the Armenian military, and help arm an even larger reserve force.

The only active enemy Armenia has at the moment is Azerbaijan. Both countries continue to disagree over possession of Nagorno-Karabakh, a 4,400 square kilometer district, full of Armenians, surrounded by Azerbaijani territory. Technically, there has been a truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994. But it has been a hot truce. Between 1991 and 1994 there was a war between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenia won. Some 20,000 people died, and over a million (400,000 Armenians and 700,000 Azerbaijanis) fled their homes as Armenia occupied 31,000 square kilometers of Azerbaijani territory, to connect Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Most of the refugees were from areas dominated by one group, who drove out the minority. Some 40,000 Azerbaijani civilians were driven from Nagorno-Karabakh. The situation was humiliating for Azerbaijan, who saw it as yet another example of more powerful and wealthier (via oil fields) Moslems being defeated by a smaller number of more capable non-Moslems.

The Armenians have survived, although surrounded by Moslems, for centuries. But the Armenian economy is a disaster, particularly since Turkey and Azerbaijan have closed their borders with Armenia. Since the early 1990s, the best educated Armenians have been emigrating. They join a six million strong community of expatriate Armenians. This group can raise millions of dollars on short notice, and have provided the emergency funds when needed for the fighting against Azerbaijan. Some twelve percent of the 150,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are armed and organized to defend the mountainous area, and are backed up by even more troops in Armenia. Since the late 1990s, the economy began recovering as well, and is now growing at about 7 percent a year, but is still poorer than its major neighbors (Turkey, Iran and Russia)

Azerbaijan is making a serious effort to create an effective military. Azeri defeats at the hands of better trained, led and organized Armenian troops were caused, in part, by Azerbaijani corruption and double dealing among themselves. Moreover, the Armenians have a military tradition going back centuries. The Azeris are constantly working to redress the military balance, thus the Armenian need for a Russian alliance.

The S-300 system is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Patriot system and was known as the SA-10 to NATO, when the system first appeared in the early 1980s. S-300 missiles weigh 1.8 tons each and are 8.4 meters (26 feet) long and about 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter. The missiles have a range of some 200 kilometers and can hit targets as high as 32 kilometers (100,000 feet). The missile has a 145 kg (320 pound) warhead.

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garandguy    History Matters   1/5/2011 11:54:05 AM
The statement "There are over nine million Armenians worldwide (including three million in Armenia), making it clear that most Armenians want to be anywhere but Armenia. But not everyone could get out."  is quite devoid of historical context. You conveniently forget to mention the impact of the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey 1915 (1.5 million people), the Karabakh war (started in 1988, ended in 1994 but not settled),  the 1988 earthquake that essentially destroyed the country's 2nd largest city (Gyumri), killing 25,000 people, and the chaos resulting from the breakup of the Soviet Union (1991) in what has taken place there.  The Turkish/Azeri blockade you did mention also has had an impact.  Yes, there has been emigration from the country but most of the 9 million Armenians worldwide you reference have never lived in Armenia due to what took place in 1915.  The country has dealt with more crises in its 20 years of independence than most countries AND won a war against a numerically superior enemy.  Before you get too smug remember the British did burn Washington in 1814.
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sarkis    Thanks!   1/5/2011 10:21:21 PM
Thanks for this article. It's nice to know that Armenian has its own S300 anti-aircraft missile systems. This will add to our security. Peace!!!
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Anar    Ugly bias   1/5/2011 11:19:26 PM
An interesting article, but it evinces a very ugly religious bias, supported by a severe lack knowledge of the relevant circumstances. "The situation was humiliating for Azerbaijan, who saw it as yet another example of more powerful and wealthier (via oil fields) Moslems being defeated by a smaller number of more capable non-Moslems."
Now, this shows a proud bias of a Christian author. Now, the facts on the ground could not be further from truth:
First, yes, humilation is felt, but it has nothing to do with religion, but with the fact that you have lost 20% of your territory. Nagorno Karabak war is a territorial dispute, and the author should not rush to feel certain prideful association with his/his co-religious people. Now, about the lack of knowledge:
1) When Azerbaijan lost the war in 1992, it had $0 revenues coming from oil. So Azerbaijan was not rich 90s, but as poor if not more poorer, as Armenia. So the analogy, although it sounds clever and pleasant to a Muslim-distrustful author, does not hold.
2) Armenia won because it was better organized, by virtue of the fact that they were the ones who wanted to change the status quo and had to be organized to do so. The war back then was not a real professional war, but more like one group of armed villagers attacking another village taken aback.
3) Armenia was not alone, and was supported by Russia. So again, the analogy that a smaller nation beating a bigger one is mistaken. Why would Russia do so? Look at the situation today. Russia is able to stay in the region exclusively thanks to the Azerb-Armenian conflict, as a guarantor of Armenian security. If Azb and Armenia were at peace, there would be no need for Russian military base in Armenia. Look, they are already kicked out of Georgia and Azerbaijan. I think Armenia is paying a very dear price: to get Karabak's independence, they are giving up Armenia's independence!
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TonyG       1/6/2011 10:46:40 AM
I don't know too much about the region but I will say good for Armenia and smart move. They should invest in defensive weapons considering who their neighbors are and their ill intentions. Its about time a Christian people stands up for itself and I can understand their alliance with Russia.
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Photon       1/11/2011 2:15:33 PM
Russo-Armenian history probably also played a role in the Armenians beating the Azeris back in 1994.  Going back to the Soviet era, compared to the Azeris and the Georgians, higher proportion of Armenians served as officers for the Soviet Army.  In short, they had an organizational advantage over the Azeris.  After all, the first prerequisite for a nationhood is to be able to organize better than one's enemies.  (There are other historical examples as well, such as the rise of Israel.)
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