Armenia may increase military budget by nearly 50 percent

By Mark Dovich

The Armenian government plans to increase its defense budget next year to over 501 billion drams, or about $1.2 billion, according to a draft government budget made public Thursday. If passed, it would be the first time Armenia’s military budget has ever topped $1 billion and would represent a year-on-year increase of over 47%.

The National Assembly, which must sign off on the funding, traditionally debates government budgets in November and December.

The money would be earmarked for five areas, according to the draft budget: “defense support programs, military healthcare and healthcare services, military education and training, international military cooperation, and humanitarian demining and expert services.”

At a cabinet meeting Thursday where the draft budget was first made public, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stressed that “consistent reforms of the armed forces” should remain a government priority.

In addition, Pashinyan told his cabinet that “we have cases where hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid (for arms), but supply commitments have not been met, including by allied countries. This is the painful reality.”

The remarks were widely interpreted in Armenia as a rebuke of Russia, Armenia’s traditional security guarantor and weapons supplier.

Pashinyan also accused Azerbaijan of “trying to prevent the supply of arms and ammunition to Armenia” by pressuring Russia and other countries not to sell weapons to Armenia.

Political analyst Tigran Grigoryan hit back against that suggestion, saying that “the situation is caused by the war in Ukraine and not by Azerbaijan’s efforts as Pashinyan implies.”

In the past month, lawmaker and former Deputy Defense Minister Gagik Melkonyan has repeatedly said that Russia had not supplied any weapons to Armenia since the 2020 Karabakh war.

The only public information on Russia’s military sales to Armenia since 2020 is the delivery of a batch of helicopters earlier this year, according to CivilNet’s fact-checking team.

In a separate development, Indian media reported Thursday that New Delhi and Yerevan had reached a deal for a major order of Indian military equipment. Citing unnamed sources, Indian media said the supply, worth upwards of $244 million, includes rocket launchers, anti-tack rockets, and ammunition.

CivilNet was unable to independently confirm the news with either the Armenian or Indian government.

Armenia signed a $40 million contract with India about six months before the 2020 Karabakh war for Indian-made weapon-locating radar systems, becoming the first country in the world to purchase the technology.