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US completes joint military exercise in Armenia

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US soldiers have completed their 10-day joint military exercise with Armenian forces in Armenia, despite the neighboring Azerbaijan launching a significant military operation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The exercise, known as “Eagle Partner 2023,” involved 85 US soldiers and 175 Armenian personnel and was conducted without disruption.

According to a spokesperson from the US military, there was no alteration to the planned exercise schedule, even in the face of Azerbaijan’s “antiterrorist” operation. The spokesperson explained, “We were aware that they were conducting operations but we didn’t assess there to be any risk to our soldiers at the time and so they remained for the duration of the exercise.”

This joint training initiative, which commenced on September 11, aimed to enhance the preparedness of Armenian forces for international peacekeeping missions. The drills occurred at two training grounds near the capital city of Yerevan.

The Armenian Ministry of Defence highlighted the exercise’s objective as “increasing the level of interoperability of the unit participating in international peacekeeping missions within the framework of peacekeeping operations and exchanging best practices in control and tactical communication.”

Despite its relatively small scale, the joint exercise raised concerns in Russia, which maintains a military base in Armenia and considers itself the primary security guarantor in the region. Tensions between Armenia and Moscow have escalated, with Armenia’s refusal earlier this year to host military drills by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet alliance.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, criticized Russia for what he perceived as a failure to protect Armenia against ongoing aggression from Azerbaijan. He suggested that Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine had limited its ability to address Armenia’s security needs.

The backdrop of this joint military exercise is a history of conflict between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan, including two wars in the three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. These recent developments underscore the complex geopolitical dynamics in the South Caucasus region.

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