Armenia pulled into Russia-Turkey clash in Syria
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The clash between Russia and Turkey is not just taking place in the skies over Syria. It’s also spreading to the nearby Caucasus region, where a fresh wave of Russian military overtures to Armenia threatens to reignite a frozen conflict that has pitted Moscow against Ankara for decades.
Given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anger over the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces in November, Moscow has spent the past several months beefing up its military footprint in Armenia, a country of roughly 3 million people that shares a 165-mile border and a land-mine-filled history with Turkey.
After quietly signing an air defense agreement with the tiny former Soviet republic in December, Moscow has deployed at least four new MiG-29 fighter jets and a slew of other military vehicles to a Russian base just outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
The moves constitute a case study in how the multinational, multifront conflict in Syria is spilling into other theaters, widening the zone of instability and heightening tensions between countries such Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey and Russia.
According to Russian news reports, the air defense agreement was in the works for months. But the shipment of MiGs and new Russian helicopters in mid-February appears to have been Mr. Putin’s way of warning Turkey and its NATO allies of Moscow’s capacity to make trouble in the region.