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Armenia recently pulled out of a NATO exercise in Georgia at the last minute and without explanation, most likely bending to pressure from Moscow, who is loath to see any client state cooperate with the alliance. Moscow fought a war with Georgia and has military forces stationed in Armenia to this day, so the development is not without justification if one knows the facts on the ground in the region.
Georgia’s Ministry of Defense announced just before the start of the exercise, on September 3, that Armenia had decided not to go. “Armenia was due to participate in the military exercises, but unfortunately it abandoned that intention a few days before their start,” a spokesman for the Georgian Defense Ministry told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on September 3. “I don’t know what the reason for that is,” wrote Euraisa.net.
Yerevan, as well as other former Soviet territories or satellites, have taken steps to have relations on both sides of the new Cold War between the West and Russia. Armenia did not make any effort to dissuade the fact that pressure from Moscow caused the decision.
“This is a sovereign decision of Armenia,” said Eduard Sharmazanov, the vice speaker of Armenia’s parliament, on September 4. “Armenia never said it was going to be a member of NATO even in the distant future, never said it was going to leave the [Russia-led security bloc Collective Security Treaty Organization]. Armenia has always said that it sees no alternative to the CSTO…It would have been strange had Armenia not participated in CSTO or Armenian-Russian exercises. Armenia is a CSTO member and has a clearly defined military-political orientation.”
Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakarian said, “Armenia never officially stated that it will definitely participate…In any activity, certain revisions are always possible … You should not see anything extraordinary in that.”
For its part, Azerbaijan is taking part in Agile Spirit, although with a low profile, most likely to not upset the Kremlin more than they have by participating in the exercise at all.