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Armenia to take part in US-led military drills

7 April 2023
A soldier taking part in the Saber Junction 20 international military exercises in Germany. Photo: Sgt. Thomas Stubblefield/U.S. European Command

Armenia has announced it will take part in two US-led military drills in Europe in 2023, after the announcement and then retraction of Armenia’s participation in the Defender 23 international military drills. 

On Thursday, Armenia appeared on a list of 26 countries participating in the US-led Defender 23 multinational military drills in Europe, set to take place from 22 April to 23 June. A few hours later, Armenia was removed from the list.  

Armenia’s Defence Ministry spokesperson did not explain the change, but told state news agency Armenpress that the country ‘is planning to participate in two other military exercises organised by the US army command in Europe — KFOR (Kosovo Force) and Saber Junction military exercises’. 

The US Defence Department reportedly told an Armenian journalist that questions about Armenia’s removal from the list should be addressed to the Armenian government. 

According to RFE/RL, Armenia was also close to joining a US-led military training in 2021 but withdrew at the last minute. 

The news about Armenia’s participation in the drills came against a background of increasingly tense relations between Armenia and Russia, its long-term strategic ally. 

Relations between the two countries have been strained since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, particularly following outbreaks of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

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Recently, tensions between Moscow and Yerevan have further increased, with Armenia agreeing in January to host a two-year EU Monitoring Mission, and, in March, signalling its intent to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

[Read more:  Russia ‘criticises’ Armenia’s International Criminal Court ratification]

Moscow has not yet commented on Armenia’s decision to participate in the US drills, but senior officials have frequently criticised Armenia’s growing ties with the West. Last week, Russia banned dairy imports from Armenia, in a move widely seen as an attempt to exert pressure on the country.  

Yerevan has, in turn, criticised Russia and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) for not providing military support to Armenia during conflicts with Azerbaijan following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. Earlier this year, the Armenian government refused to host CSTO exercises, having also refused to participate in the exercises in 2022. 

Armenia also declined to appoint a deputy secretary-general of the CSTO and did not agree to the deployment of a CSTO peacekeeping force to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.

[Read more: Armenia refuses CSTO Deputy Secretary General term]