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102nd Military Base

The Armenian government has sought to bolster the military alliance with Moscow, both on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia continued to reinforce its relationship with Russia, signing a 25-year basing agreement with Russia in 1997 that provided for the significant Russian military presence in Armenia, including 18 MiG-29 fighters in Yerevan, along with infantry, armor, artillery, air defense and other supporting regiments near the city of Gyumri.

Russia stations an estimated 5,000 troops in Armenia, including 3,000 officially reported to be based at the 102nd Military Base located in Gyumri. The 102nd military base in Gyumri, formerly the Soviet Army's 127th Motor Rifle Division of the Soviet Seventh Guards Army, is part of the Transcaucasian Group of Forces. Armenia's second largest city, Gyumri is close to the Armenian-Turkish border. Much of agricultural land in Akhurik and nearby villages is located within a security zone patrolled by Russian border guards protecting Armenia's borders with Turkey and Iran. Local farmers need special permits to cultivate it. They complain the procedure obtaining such permits is cumbersome and slow. The Russian base has been reinforced with military hardware and other equipment that belonged to Russian troops which were pulled out of neighboring Georgia. Under a Russian-Georgian agreement signed in 2006, Moscow closed the bases headquartered in Batumi and the Armenian-populated town of Akhalkalaki by the end of 2008.

Armenia regards Russian military presence as a key element of its national security. The presence of Russian troops in Armenia precludes any military pressure from Turkey, a staunch ally of Azerbaijan, and allows Yerevan to receive Russian weapons at discounted prices or even free of charge. The 102nd military base is supplied by air traffic via Azerbaijan, which is unique given the unsettled Karabakh conflict. The military base is part of a joint air defense system of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which was deployed in Armenia in 1995. Furthermore, the Armenian Air Force relies partially upon the Russian MiG-29s located at the military base, for the defense of Armenia's airspace.

The troops involved in Russian-Armenian joint air defense operate according to a system developed in the Soviet era: joint monitoring of the airspace to the south, using combat aviation and air defense units. Essentially, this is an anti-NATO air defense option; de facto, it's anti-Turkey - despite a significant thaw in Moscow-Ankara relations of late.

In June 1994 the Armenian parliament approved the addition of airborne troops to the Russian garrison at Gyumri near the Turkish border. Armenia is the only country in the Trans-Caucasus where Russia can deploy a group of troops. Transit of Russian military cargoes to Armenia via territory of Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey is hindered by political problems and even higher restrictions, though it is not impossible."Anyway, the consequences of the August War have alienated Russia from Armenia directly and in a figurative sense," says Sergey Minasyan, Head of the Political Research Department, Caucasus Institute. The Russian 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia, is part of the Transcaucasian Group of Forces.

Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian insisted in October 2005 that Armenia was keeping a Russian military base on its soil because of Turkey's "hostile" policies, not the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which was cited by a senior Western diplomat. He said Britain's special representative to the South Caucasus, Brian Fall, was wrong to state at an international conference in Yerevan on Thursday that the Russian military presence "may be largely determined by [Armenian] perception of a military threat from Azerbaijan." Sarkisian said "Russian troops are stationed in Armenia at the request of the Armenian state and in accordance with a [bilateral] agreement, and make up an integral part of our national security. ... If you want me to specify in relation to which countries the Russian troops could be useful for us, then I'll tell you: countries outside the CIS. More specifically, Turkey. ... Until now Turkey has pursued a hostile policy towards us. As for what its policy will be in the future, let us wait and see."

Armenia's leadership and Russia's visiting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov pledged to step up the already close military cooperation between their nations as they held talks in Yerevan on 30 October 2007. Serdyukov's one-day visit to Armenia involved separate meetings with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian as well as a visit to Russian troops stationed in the country. "The two sides discussed issues pertaining to military-technical cooperation between the two countries, expressing their satisfaction with the level and quality of their partnership in this sphere," Kocharian's office said in a short statement. According to the Armenian government's press service, Serdyukov told Sarkisian that his visit "will give new impetus" to the development of Russian-Armenian military ties. Sarkisian was quoted as saying that those ties "stem from our national interests" and that Yerevan "will do everything to further deepen and develop them." A separate statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said Serdyukov and Harutiunian approved a "plan of cooperation" between their ministries for next year. They also discussed preparations for the next Russian-Armenian military exercises to be held in 2008, the statement said.

Russian-Armenian military-technical cooperation deepened with the signing in Yerevan on 17 December 2009 of an agreement which the Armenian defense ministry said envisages bilateral "interaction in exporting military products to third countries." A defense ministry statement to that effect gave no details of the deal. Armenia was among five of the seven former Soviet republics aligned in the CSTO, the Russian-dominated defense pact, which formed the Collective Operational Reaction Forces (CORF) rapid reaction force in June 2009.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov underlined the "strategic" character of his country's relationship with Armenia during talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart, Seyran Ohanian, on 13 January 2010. Ohanian was in Moscow on a working visit aimed at reviewing Armenia'c close military ties with Russia and their future. "The ministers discussed the prospects of military and military-technological cooperation between Russia and Armenia, as well as the issue of Armenian servicemen studying at the Russian Defense Ministry's academies," the Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Irina Kovalchuk saying. The Armenian Defense Ministry issued a virtually identical statement on the talks. "Anatoly Serdyukov stressed that Russian-Armenian cooperation in the military sphere has a strategic character," it said. No further details were reported.

Russian military bases in Armenia will be modernized and upgraded, Armenia’s top national security official said 27 June 2013. Modernization of Russia’s 102nd Military Base at Gyumri, in northern Armenia near its border with Turkey, and the airbase at Yerevan’s Erebuni Airport will begin this year and continue for several years, Artur Bagdasaryan, head of the National Security Council, said after a meeting with Nikolai Bordyuzha, general secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance of former Soviet states. Bordyuzha said the CSTO’s scope would be augmented to include special operations forces and a collective air force, designed to “defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of CSTO member states.” The CSTO includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

A senior Russian military official said in 2012 that Russia would double the number of contract personnel at its Gyumri base while permanent staff numbers would remain at the current 5,000. In 2010, the lease on the base was extended through 2044. The base is part of the air defense system of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States and is home to S-300 anti-aircraft missiles and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters. Russia has repeatedly said the presence of that base in the republic does not violate any international agreements or upset the balance of forces in the region.

Russia will strengthen its air contingent at the Erebuni air base in Armenia with a helicopter squadron in the next few months, the base commander said 18 October 2013. Russia’s 3624th Air Base at the Erebuni airport in Yerevan currently hosted at least 16 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets operating under the framework of air defense agreements concluded between the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. “A decision has been made to form a helicopter squadron in addition to the fighter squadron at the Erebuni base by the end of this year or in the beginning of the next year,” Col. Alexander Petrov said. Petrov did not specify the type of helicopters to be deployed at the base. Petrov said Moscow and Yerevan have agreed that Russian pilots will be able to practice bombing runs and missile launches with live ammunition at the nearby Marshal Bagramyan training grounds belonging to the Armenian Defense Ministry. The Erebuni air base is part of Russia’s 102nd military base located in Gyumri, near Armenia’s border with Turkey.

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