France is starting to supply weapons to Armenia. Initially, it involves the delivery of 50 armoured vehicles, but in the future, deliveries of French Mistral surface-to-air missile systems are also possible – writes James Wilson.
This information has been published by several Israeli and European media outlets and later was confirmed by the statement of one Rachya Arzumanyan, a former high-ranking official of the separatist administration in the Armenian enclave of Karabakh, situated on the occupied Azerbaijani territory. Arzumanyan, speaking to the Armenian channel 1inTV, stated that “significant changes would occur in the military sphere in Armenia in the next two months”. He also added, “I cannot openly talk about it yet… We need to forget about cooperation with Russia in the military sphere… We don’t have time to talk and wait.”
Earlier, several Ukrainian outlets and the state television channel of Moldova reported on the upcoming supplying of French weapons to Armenia, emphasising that “Western military equipment supplied to Yerevan could be used by Russians to counter the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ counteroffensive. This is apparent, considering the close military cooperation between Yerevan and Moscow.”
Commenting on the reports of Moldova’s state TV regarding the French arms supplies to Armenia, Ukrainian military expert Roman Svitan stated “If France carries out such deliveries, it is playing into the hands of Russia.”
Kyiv has feared all along that Western military hardware, delivered to Armenia, may be used by the Russians. This is why Ukrainian intelligence services have actively surveilled the developments within the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone since mid-2022. Their concerns primarily stem from the understanding that such equipment may be reverse-engineered to enhance Russian capabilities in countering the same weaponry supplied by the West to support Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.
The probability of this outcome is very high, considering the close military collaboration between Yerevan and Moscow. After all, Armenia even allowed two Russian military bases to be established within Armenian territory.
Obviously, Russians are eagerly following any developments in direct military cooperation between France and Armenia. The partnership itself was announced during a visit by Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan to Paris in September 2022. Various sources, including the U.S. analytical outlet on international security, Global Security Review, wrote about the supply of arms: “The pro-Armenian rhetoric of [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron could lead to an agreement regarding air defence.” This May, Russian outlet REX reported that the military aid that France plans to supply Armenia “at the initial stage includes lethal weapons.”
In the wake of the discussions about French military aid to Armenia leading Western media outlets like The New York Times published various articles about the role that Armenia plays in aiding and abetting Russia to circumvent sanctions, including secret exports of chips and microcircuits for its military, as well as additionally serving as a trans-shipment hub for Iranian weapons sent to Moscow.
Those Iranian weapons, especially drones, are already very much in use by Russia in Ukraine, but also the same drones were used during clashes in April and May between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
There is also a significant likelihood that French weaponry could potentially find its way into the possession of Iranian forces. Given Iran’s history of employing reverse engineering techniques, this strategy presents an opportunity for Iranian arms manufacturers to upgrade and enhance their own arsenal. Such advancements could then be channelled into the arms exported to various terrorist organisations, actively seeking to disrupt stability in the Middle East.
The timing of France’s weapon deliveries to Yerevan, coinciding with the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey is rather important. Over the past three years, Erdogan has consistently portrayed himself as a counterbalance to Macron, particularly concerning developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the South Caucasus. This rivalry between the two leaders was notably amplified during the aftermath of Azerbaijan’s victory, with the backing of Turkey and Israel, in the Second Karabakh War in 2020.
Besides that, weapon deliveries from France to Armenia put France on a collision course with Israel, for whom Azerbaijan is a close strategic partner. Israel is also one of the of the main suppliers of weapons to Baku’s defence forces.
Prominent Israeli expert Ron Ben Ishay has issued a warning about the heightened threat posed by the modernization and improvement of Iranian munitions. He asserts that the utilisation of Russian weaponry in Ukraine will inevitably contribute to enhancing Iranian capabilities, thereby intensifying the danger for all powers currently opposing Iran’s aggressive military activities. This development, notably, includes Israel.
Should Erdogan face electoral defeat in Turkey, Israel could potentially emerge as the sole strategic ally for Baku, which consistently faces threats from Tehran. This shift in the political landscape could have significant implications, reshaping the dynamics of regional alliances in the ongoing geopolitical landscape.