Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 57

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian warned yesterday that Armenia would take “measures in response” to a possible establishment of a Turkish military presence in Azerbaijan. Discussions on that matter, Oskanian told a news conference in Yerevan, are already underway between Baku and Ankara. He argued that such a step would “upset the military balance” and endanger regional peace; Armenia would therefore have to “restore the balance.” Oskanian argued that Russian troops are in Armenia not in connection with the Karabakh conflict, but only to defend the country’s “external borders” and the “borders of the CIS” (Noyan-Tapan, March 22). Baku and Ankara have often pointed out that Armenia’s “external borders” facing Turkey and Iran face no conceivable military threat which would necessitate the presence of Russian troops. Oskanian’s strictures against Turkey seem obliquely aimed at the United States. While the prospect of a NATO presence in Azerbaijan seems remote at this stage, the United States would clearly be a more plausible candidate than Turkey for such a role, and Azerbaijan has addressed its entreaties primarily to Washington.

A delegation of the policy planning staff of the United States military command in Europe is arriving in Azerbaijan today to look at the ex-Soviet air base in Nasosnoye–one of the sites proposed by Azerbaijan for the possible stationing of U.S. or NATO troops (Turan, March 22). This may help explain the timing of Oskanian’s warning. Also yesterday, Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev sent a protest letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin regarding the accumulation of Russian armaments in Armenia. Aliev wrote that the billion dollars worth of 1994-97 deliveries remain a fait accompli while Moscow is in the process of adding new weaponry (Turan, March 22).