Russian Khrizantema‑S anti-tank missiles arrived in Azerbaijan on Thursday, June 29, with the Azerbaijian Ministry of Defence announcing the units would be sent to the frontline in Nagorno-Karabakh in the near future. Armenia criticized the deal, as usual.
Both countries are major importers of Russian arms, with Azerbaijan ranking as Russia’s 6th biggest arms customer according to SIPRI, importing $1.9 billion since 2010, while Armenia has imported $142 million over the same period (but is also the recipient of significant Russian military aid). Preferential pricing schemes for Armenia may also distort the significance of these numbers. Despite the rancor caused by Moscow ostensibly supporting both sides of this dispute, Russia’s strategic interests in Azerbaijan influence its behavior.
Moscow has sought, in various ways, to bring Azerbaijan closer, particularly to take advantage of the distance created between Baku and the West over criticism of the country’s track record on governance, human rights, political freedom and other issues. Moreover, Azerbaijan carries added strategic significance for Moscow with the coming Southern Gas Corridor, which will deliver Azeri gas to Europe, providing a non-Russian alternative source of supply for Europe.