Amid rising military tensions with Azerbaijan and deteriorating relations with Russia, Armenia announced its plan to host a joint army exercise with the United States called “Eagle Partner 2023” from September 11-20. The exercise aims to prepare Armenian forces for international peacekeeping missions. The move is perceived as Armenia expressing its frustration towards Russia, particularly after Armenia accused Russia of not adequately protecting them against perceived Azerbaijani aggression. As the situation escalates, both sides are on high alert, with Russia stating it will closely monitor the exercise.
- The “Eagle Partner 2023” exercise will involve 85 U.S. soldiers, including members of the Kansas National Guard, and 175 Armenians. The U.S. participants will be armed with rifles and won’t use heavy weaponry.
- Armenia’s decision for the joint exercise stems from its disappointment with Russia, especially after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Moscow of neglecting its protective duties amidst its conflict with Ukraine.
- Russia, which considers itself a dominant power in the South Caucasus region, expressed concern over the joint exercise and pledged to scrutinize the situation closely.
- Tensions are exacerbated by Azerbaijan’s nine-month blockade of a crucial highway connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, causing significant shortages in Armenia.
- Olesya Vartanyan from the Crisis Group pointed out that despite being closer to a peace agreement, there’s an alarming risk of significant escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Recent social media footage shows heightened Azerbaijani military activity near their shared border.