4 մարտ, 2016 13:40

Azerbaijan Leaves Russian Arms Delivery Stranded

Dmitry Rogozin Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of defense industry and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

Eurasianet reports that Russia's senior defense industry official has made an unexpected visit to Baku, as Azerbaijan is refusing to pay for a shipment of Russian arms.

Other than the apparent economic problems, the drop of oil prices in an economy 70% reliant on oil economy and the devaluation of the Manat, Azerbaijan’s reluctance to assume a shipment of Russian weapons ordered several years ago, which according to an unnamed source cited by Kommersant, “is currently sitting in port waiting for payment”, is also seen as a reaction to the recent Russian-Armenian arms deal signed on February 19.

According to the agreement, Armenia received a $200 million USD loan from Russia to purchase weapons, requiring a 10% deposit with the remaining balance to be remitted over a 10-year term following a 3-year grace period. The technology to be purchased in early 2017 includes flame throwers, multi-rocket launch systems, anti-tank weapons, communication and demining technology, to name a few.

Shortly after the announcement of the agreement, Azerbaijan responded with a letter of protest. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry press representative Khikmet Gadzhiev stated the deal "does not facilitate the settlement of the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict", despite statements by Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, that “any weapons are delivered to Armenia or friendly Azerbaijan with careful consideration of necessity to preserve the existing balance of power in the region”. Zakharova had also hoped “that Azerbaijan will treat this fact with understanding”.

In an article, Azerbaijan Unable, Or Unwilling, To Pay For Russian Weapons, Eurasianet reports that “Russia's deputy prime minister in charge of defense industry, Dmitry Rogozin, arrived in Baku for a previously unannounced visit on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, Rogozin posted a photos with him and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on his facebook page with the caption "Following positive negotiations with the leader of friendly Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev." There was no indication of what may have resulted from the positive negotiations.”

In this context, it should be noted that the weapons technology to be received by Armenia is comparable to the technology Azerbaijan received as early as 2009 and that Azerbaijan’s defense budget has consistently trumped that of Armenia whose entire budget is approximately the same, thus the deal is not shifting the hard-power distribution toward Armenia, rather the playing field will become slightly more leveled. More broadly, the deal carries a considerable amount of symbolic weight as regional and international politics become more and more agitated, increased Russian involvement in close proximity to Turkey, a NATO member, will undoubtedly have disquieting effects globally in addition to the anxiety already felt by neighboring Azerbaijan.