(Azatutyun). The government plans to considerably increase its defense spending next year in order to purchase more weapons and ammunition for Armenia’s armed forces, Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian said on Monday.
Sargsian declined to specify the types and sources of that weaponry. “I prefer to show weapons during military parades,” he told a news conference. “It is useless and meaningless to speak of forthcoming or possible arms purchases first of all because that makes all processes more difficult. Secondly, that means disclosing your plans for the future, which would allow the enemy to take countermeasures.”
The draft 2018 state budget unveiled by the government last week would increase Armenia’s defense spending by roughly 17 percent to 247 billion drams ($515 million), reflecting a continuing arms race with Azerbaijan. According to Sargsian, the extra spending will “mainly” finance additional arms acquisitions.
Russia has long been Armenia’s key arms supplier. The Armenian military has received Russian-made weapons at knockdown prices and even for free due to close military ties between the two states.
Two years ago Moscow lent Yerevan $200 million for arms purchases from Russian manufacturers at domestic Russian prices. It subsequently publicized a long list of items which the Armenian side is allowed to buy with that money. The list includes, among other things, Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, TOS-1A heavy flamethrowers, anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. The Armenian military demonstrated Smerch systems as and several other new weapons at a September 2016 parade in Yerevan.
Sargsian announced that the arms supplies financed from the Russian loan will be completed by the end of this year. Other officials in Yerevan said earlier that 18 supply contracts were signed with the Russians as part of that deal.
Finance Minister Vartan Aramian revealed in July that Yerevan is discussing with Moscow the possibility of obtaining another loan which it would spend on buying more Russian weapons. He declined to specify the amount of the Russian loan sought by the Armenian government.
Sargsian also said on Monday that the Armenian army is increasingly reliant on military equipment manufactured by Armenian companies. He said that more such equipment has been installed in Armenian army positions this year. The minister did not list any of those items, though.
Armenian defense firms mainly manufacture various types of ammunition, unmanned aircraft as well as electronic targeting and surveillance devices.