published : 2023-09-09

Armenia and US to Conduct Military Exercises Amid Tensions with Russia

Armenian Defense Ministry focuses on preparing military for international peacekeeping missions

Armenian soldiers during military exercises in Zar Training Area, taken with Nikon D850

Amid growing tensions with longtime ally Russia, Armenia has announced plans to conduct military exercises with the United States.

The exercises, set to begin on Monday, aim to prepare Armenian units for international peacekeeping operations.

Around 85 U.S. soldiers, along with approximately 175 Armenian soldiers, will participate in the training.

The exercise will take place at Zar and Armavir Training Areas near Yerevan and will run until September 20.

The announcement of these military exercises has raised concerns, given the current circumstances, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

U.S. soldiers and Armenian soldiers engaging in joint training activities at Armavir Training Area near Yerevan, taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for the U.S. command, stated that the exercise is an essential opportunity for soldiers from both nations to build new relationships and increase interoperability for peacekeeping operations.

The U.S. troops participating in the exercises include soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and soldiers from the Kansas National Guard, which has had a partnership with Armenia since 2003.

Armenia, a landlocked country, has historically had close military ties with Russia, including hosting a Russian military base and being part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization alliance led by Moscow.

However, since the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, Armenia has grown increasingly disillusioned with Russia.

Despite the armistice that ended the war, which called for a Russian peacekeeping force to ensure passage on the road from Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, the road remains blocked by Azerbaijan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov addressing reporters about the military exercises between Armenia and the U.S., taken with Sony Alpha A7 III

Armenia has repeatedly criticized Russian peacekeepers for not taking action to open the blocked road, leading to severe food shortages in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia has also declined to allow exercises on its territory and refrain from sending troops to current bloc exercises in Belarus.

This move to hold joint military drills with the United States signals Armenia's shift in its historically close relationship with Russia.