Transcript: A honeymoon in Paris or discord in South Caucasus? Russia's Reaction to French Weapon Deliveries!

Posted on Sunday, Mar 3, 2024 by Hovik Manucharyan | Category: Armenia, Politics, Clip, Transcript | Series: Blog | Groong Podcast, Sergei Melkonian, Russia, France, South Caucasus, Geopolitics, International Relations, Armenia, Iran, NATO, Security, Weapon Deliveries, Western Influence, CSTO, Intelligence Sharing, Political Maneuvering, Post-Soviet Space, Military Cooperation, Radar Systems, Diplomacy, Strategic Alliances, Arms Procurement, State Secrets, Security Architecture, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh

The following is a transcript of a clip from episode 311, where we address the blooming romance (at least as it appears externally) between the Armenia and France, NATO and the collective West.

Russia is expressing serious concerns about Western influence encroaching on Russian interests in the region. Iran remains cautious about potential NATO presence near its borders and refusal of Armenia to cooperate in the security sphere.

The selective secrecy surrounding arms deliveries raises questions about political motives, which emphasize western weapon deliveries which are of small significance or in yet small quantities, while purchases of potentially advanced weaponry of Russian origin are being downplayed and minimized.

Listen to the segment and/or read the transcript below.


Asbed: How would you say that the Russians are viewing these events, specifically, how would you say that Russia is reacting to the French weapon deliveries?

Sergei: We had the first reaction when French Bastions came first time, and that time there was quite a tough reaction from Russians, because from their perception, South Caucasus and all post-Soviet space in general may become a battlefield one day between Russia and the West.

And in order to avoid such developments, they won’t, I mean they are not trying, but they at least they want to prevent any Western infiltration in the post-Soviet space. From their perspective, if Western countries, the French, that has not only just making money, like selling weapons, because weapons in many cases, it’s more about money rather than some political stuff. There are some political ambitions to have their foothold in the South Caucasus.

And from Russian perspective, these French steps are part of all collective Western steps aimed against the Russian interest in the South Caucasus especially.

Because what does it mean? If you supply weapons on some military munitions, you should also send some officers with some instructors to conduct some trainings for Armenian military. And we have statements that yes, France will soon appoint some instructors to prepare Armenian military staff.

Asbed: Yeah, that’s right.

Sergei: At the same time, newly appointed military attaché last year. So we see like the developments step by step, French engagement in Armenian security architecture increased. At the same time, we have, this is one trend that we have.

We have the second trend that is going in parallel.

Russian engagement in Armenian security architecture is decreasing. It’s related not only Russian ability to supply the weapon in time that there was extreme need for such weapon, and also the rhetoric about Armenian membership in CSTO. It’s about rhetoric of Russian border troops in Zvartnots et cetera, et cetera.

And these are two parallel trends.

And the best indicator of it, for example, Armenian decision to accept EU monitoring mission rather than CSTO mission. So that was the first signal for Russia that Armenia may choose the Western option rather than Russian option.

Asbed: Would you say that Iran is uneasy about these weapons the same as Russia, especially the radar systems that have been talked about? Do they worry that there’s going to be a NATO eye on the border of Iran?

Sergei: From the Iranian perspective, the only red line is a permanent Western presence. Until there is not permanent Western military presence close to Iranian border, this is not a red line.

But obviously we have statements from Iran about EU mission, they are not happy with that. We heard statements from Iranian officials, both from Iran and from Yerevan, that Western engagement is also not so acceptable for Iran. But Iran is not ready to do any tough steps.

The only problem that we may have with Iran in this case is that Iranian attempts to not block, but at least make some obstacles in transit of our military munition and weapon from India via Iranian territory. So we have such problems in Iran, to be honest, and this is one of the most important points on our bilateral agenda.

It was all weapons that we are getting from India, passing Iranian territory, and this is the only way how we can get Indian weapons. And the problem is that Armenia buys weapons from India, Armenia buys weapons from France, but we do not agree like in all list that Iran has put on the table. It’s related to not only about weapons and some military munition procurement. It’s related also to some security guarantees, it’s related to joint military drills, etc.

I mean, there is a wide, wide list of security related points that Iran is putting on the agenda, but Armenia is refusing all of them. And from Iranian perspective, okay, why in this case I should facilitate your attempts to build some security ties with other countries when you are not, at least do not have political will to do at least something with me?

Asbed Yeah. Sergei, just a quick question on secrecy of weapons deliveries.

About a month back when there was news that the Russians were delivering the weapons purchase that Armenia has had on the books for some years, the Armenian parliament passed legislation that weapons acquisitions, deliveries, and so on would henceforth be classified as state secrets.

So I’m wondering, what is your view on this issue? Because just reading state media on the French weaponry, they were public about them almost specifying the hours of the deliveries and the type of equipment. I mean, you can’t track your Amazon package with more clarity.

Meanwhile, we have very little to go on as to what has been delivered from the Russian side except that, “it is mostly complete”.

So what acquisitions are secret and which ones are not?

And who is deciding this?

And is this driven by security concerns or are these political decisions?

Sergei: To be honest, it looks more than, it’s more like a political game, I will explain.

For example, we got first part of our bastions and we got it like photo shots that everyone has sold it. How they are coming from Georgia or Black Sea to Georgia then to Armenia, these are just armored vehicles.

So there is nothing like, this is not Himars or some other like high quality weapon. It’s like just military vehicles, armed vehicles? And that’s it. So there is nothing special.

But we do not know anything about Russia’s military supply. But as far as we know, and that’s for sure, because I asked this question to Russian officials and to Russian experts, and they confirmed that, yes, almost all problems are solved. Part of weapon, it was already supplied to Armenia, and other part will be supplied.

And there is a last part, there are some, I mean, the third one, there are some agreements how we are going to deal with it. So almost all problems in this case are solved.

But the same, for example, case we have with India, when in India, media will have any statements that “according to our information, one in the company is ready to supply some new weapon to unnamed country”. And this statement is spreading by all Armenian government-affiliated media. And they’re trying to demonstrate that “we are this unnamed country”.

And this is the problem. It means like your enemy knows everything about your military procurement.

At the same time, we do not know anything real about Azerbaijani military procurement. Starting from this year, there were four cargo flights from Israel to Azerbaijan with military munitions. There were several flights from Turkey and several flights from some European countries.

And we have zero information!

At the same time, Azeris have all information about the weapon that is coming from India is coming from France, obviously this is a problem for our security.

Hovik: Sergei, not official, but there were also reports that Pashinyan and Macron signed an intelligence sharing deal between France’s Directorate General for External Security and Armenia’s newly founded External Intelligence Agency, a so-called citizen journalist site, Agravox, which seems to be pretty reputable in its category, reported that, as well as Pashinyan’s own Haykakan Zhamanak, which afterwards promptly also deleted this news.

So what is known about this deal, considering Pashinyan’s intrigue-laden appearances with CIA directors, MI6 directors, and now I guess the French Intelligence Agency, do you know anything more specific about what type of information will be shared between Armenia and France?

Sergei: Officially, Armenia has stated that such statement has nothing to do with reality.

The POAK (in Armenian, this is expanded to “Governmental Non-Commercial Organization(GNCO)”, specifically referring to the Center for Public Relations and Information) officially stated that this is a fake news.

I cannot confirm this information, but I know from my sources that some Western countries indirectly were involved in creating Armenian… this new security service, because what was the point from, they were explaining, the problem is that ruling parties, especially Pashinyan, they do not trust the current security services because most of them passed through Soviet-slash-Russian school.

Now they’re making like parallel structure that is more connected with the West.

So I’ll be not surprised when all high-level Armenian officials, including not only Nikol Pashinyan, but also the head of Security Council. They met with the head of Western, head of security services. And again, we have zero information about the content, like zero statements.

And the problem is we have such statements, such developments in peril when Armenian officials state that it’s freezing its membership in CSTO, because what does it mean? In CSTO, there is also an exchange of intelligence information.

So it means that in this case, we are freezing our cooperation with Russia and we’re developing cooperation with the West.

So this is not about diversification. This is about U-turn indicator.

NOTE: The above is a preliminary transcript and may contain errors.