YEREVAN (RFE?RL)—The Armenian military has revealed plans to recruit new professional soldiers and acquire more weapons next year as part of a 5.6 percent increase in defense spending envisaged by the draft state budget for 2012.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said late on Tuesday that Armenia’s military expenditures will total 150 million drams ($400 million) if the budget is approved by parliament.
Ohanian told journalists that the additional expenditures proposed by the government would primarily finance recruitment of more military personnel and resulting “structural changes” in the country’s armed forces. Speaking after the first parliamentary hearings on the budget, he gave no details of the planned expansion.
The Armenian Defense Ministry is apparently keen to increase the number of soldiers serving in the largely conscription-based army on a contractual basis. That number has already grown significantly over the past decade.
News agencies also quoted Ohanian as saying that the extra funding sought by the government and the military would also be spent on fresh arms purchases as well as “the maintenance and exploitation of recently acquired systems and devices.” He did not elaborate.
Armenia’s officially declared military spending will thus continue to pale in comparison with arch-foe Azerbaijan’s defense and security budget which is projected to reach $3.3 billion this year, up from $2.15 billion in 2010.
Armenia has been trying to offset this spending gap through close military ties with Russia that entitle it to receiving Russian weapons at discount prices or even for free. A new Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in August 2010 commits Moscow to helping Yerevan obtain “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.”
The Armenian military demonstrated some of its new weaponry, including S-300 air-defense systems, during a high-profile parade staged in September. Ohanian insisted after the parade that Yerevan is maintaining “the balance of forces” with Baku despite the latter’s massive military buildup fuelled by oil revenues.