Azerbaijan, Baku, Aug.20 / Trend, E.Tariverdiyeva /
A new agreement to extend term of lease of the Russian military base in Gyumri is intended to expand and strengthen Russia's influence on the region. However, this step can negatively affect the stability in the region, given Yerevan's claims, experts say.
"This move shifts the balance of power in the region. Baku and Ankara can't be thrilled."
Ariel Cohen, The Heritage Foundation leading expert on Russia, Eurasia, and international energy policy, a member of the Trend's Expert Council, believes.
Russia and Armenia signed a protocol amending the bilateral agreement on the Russian military base in Gyumri dated 1995, concerning the extension of the document term, RIA Novosti reported.
The document was undersigned by the Armenian and Russian Defense Ministers. The validity of the 1995 contract was 25 years and the document will now operate 49 years (since 1995).
The Russian 102nd military base has been accommodated in the north of Armenia, Gyumri since 1995. The military base follows combat duty in the framework of the CIS United Air Defense System. The base is under the management of the Russian Troops in Transcaucasia, North-Caucasian military district of Russia.
The base is equipped with anti-aircraft missile system S-300 and MiG-29. The force strength of the base is about 5,000 people.
In addition to protect the interests of Russia, the Russian military base jointly with the Armenian Armed Forces secures Armenia's security during its stay in this country. The Russian side undertakes to supply the Armenian side modern and compatible armament, military (special) technique in accordance with the document
According to experts, the extension of terms of lease of the base in Gyumri aimed at strengthening Russia's influence on the region.
According to Cohen, while the Obama administration's maintains a "hands off policy" toward Eurasia in general, and the Caucasus in particular, the Kremlin applies time-tested geopolitical principles.
The arrangement is similar to that of the recently renegotiated lease for Sevastopol naval base, which is now extended to 2042.
"Moscow expands ground and sea perimeters and aerial envelopes it controls. The Kremlin closes air space to future American contingencies, such as air strikes against Iran, or ability to use bases without Russia's agreement," Cohen told Trend by e-mail.
According to the Armenian political scientist Sergey Shakaryan, the agreement on the extension of term of the Russian base is not so important, as all issues on the military base, were studied in detail in 1995 during the conclusion of a similar agreement, Tert.am writes.
"Extension of the term of dislocation of the military base is a meaningless step for Armenia, as well as for Russia," Shakaryan said, adding that he doesn't understand such rashness, when the previous contract's term is not expired.
The expert believes that by extending term of dislocation of the Russian military base Armenia and Russia's powers make a call to adjacent non-regional states, thus making it clear that Transcaucasia cannot be used in fight against Iran.
The situation, which will emerge after signing a new agreement on the base, could negatively affect the stability in the region, experts believes.
According to the Azerbaijani MP Aydin Mirzazade, signing of the document will strengthen Armenia's claims and will have a negative impact on the situation in the region.
"In fact, Armenia will become more militarized, and, given Armenia's claims on neighboring countries' territories, this fact will destabilize the situation in the region even more", he said.
Mirzazade believes that Russia pursues a very low-key policy in the South Caucasus, but tomorrow Russia will be responsible for the possible escalation of tension.
According to Cohen, it is clear that based on the new agreement on the Gyumri base, Armenia's borders going to be protected against Azerbaijan and Turkey.
"This can increase the tension in the region, so Baku and Ankara can't be thrilled with this perspective," Cohen said.
Another Azerbaijani MP Asim Mollazade believes that in the case of signing this document, Armenia will serve as a long outpost.
"Armenian Armed Forces are formed based on the Russian military base, and in response to it Armenia creates the opportunity for privatization of major part of its economy by Russia," Mollazade told Trend.
However, according to the Russian MP, Chairman of Russian State Duma's Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots Alexei Ostrovsky, the continued presence of Russian military bases in Armenia will result in stability in the region. It meets the interests of Armenia and doesn't damage Azerbaijan's interests.
"I don't see any reason for Azerbaijan's concern over President Medvedev's decision. There may be some concern of Azerbaijan, the other partner and ally of Russia in the region," Ostrovsky told RIA Novosti.
He said Russia establishes equal relations with its partners..
"I am sure cooperation with Azerbaijan will be developed in parallel," the MP said.
By keeping its military presence in the Caucasus, Russia confirms its status as a regional super power that ensures not only its own interests, but also the interests of its partners, he believes.
Alexei Ostrovsky said Russia is interested in the rapid resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, which is confirmed by President Medvedev's consequent policy, numerous meetings of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia
According to Cohen, Moscow's interest in progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh process is linked with the Kremlin's own interests in the region.
"Russia is trying to assume the role of primary mediator in the bitter territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Here, Moscow hopes to retain its historic ally, Armenia, while wooing a promising new partner, Azerbaijan," he said.
M.Aliyev contributed to the article.