Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 10

Russia has now made public, in explicit form, its intention to deploy S-300 surface-to-air missiles at Russian military sites in Armenia. Major-General Vasily Grigoriev, identified as the head of a Russian Defense Ministry directorate in charge of cooperation with CIS countries, confirmed this intent yesterday in Moscow. An operational plan to site the missiles was hinted at by the MonitorRussia’s new ambassador to Armenia, Anatoly Drukov, on January 12 in Yerevan (Turan, January 14; Noyan-Tapan, January 12). The S-300 deployment forms one aspect of a program to upgrade the inventory of Russian forces based in Armenia. Moscow describes the planned missile force as an element of the CIS joint air defense system. If this description is more than a legalistic nicety, it would follow that Armenia could hold one finger on the trigger.

Those preparations are a matter of concern to Azerbaijan as both a national and a regional security problem. They spur Azerbaijan’s quest for regional defense cooperation anchored on Turkey. Armenia counters by decrying the prospect of “regional polarization” (see the Monitor, January 14).

At the same time, Yerevan allows Russia to foster such polarization through its military presence in, and arms transfers to, Armenia. Polarization, should it gel, may well strengthen Moscow’s hand, complicating even further the resolution of local conflicts and the task of guaranteeing security of oil pipelines. Washington is, therefore, actively encouraging an Armenian-Turkish dialogue, which began informally last month.