The Implications of the Iskander Missile

Special for the Armenian Weekly 

As Yerevan was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the independence of the Republic, the Iskander missile was revealed. Newspapers published article upon article about its sighting, and people were noticeably excited about this new sophisticated form of weaponry. But after the show is finished and everyone goes home, what implications does this sighting really have on Armenia and the region?

The Armenian military demonstrates Iskander missile systems during the Sept. 21 parade in Yerevan.  (Photo: Photolure)
The Armenian military demonstrates the Iskander missile systems during the Sept. 21 parade in Yerevan. (Photo: Photolure)

It is safe to say that Russia’s relationship with the West is possibly at an all-time low. With the recent situation in Crimea and Syria, and the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, this comes as no surprise. With the fall in oil prices in the recent past, Putin and Moscow have had to rule with a heavy hand in order to keep their tight grip on power—both domestically and abroad. While it may be easier to rule one’s own people; in order to have a foreign ally, you have to give in order to receive. After April’s Four-Day War and Russia’s arms dealing with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and July’s capture of a police station by the armed “Sasna Tsrer” group, anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia was high. Although, these might not have been essential factors in the equation, they might have been catalysts for the Iskander missile to be sold to Armenia.

The introduction of the Iskander missile is significant for the region, since Armenia became the only country other than Russia to have one in its possession. With a range of 300 kilometers of precision and a deadly aftermath, it is a big upgrade to Armenia’s arsenal of weapons.

That being said, there are several questions to be asked. Why did Russia sell these missiles to Armenia? Could the aforementioned reasons be the only ones at play?

One might say that Russia feels threatened and fears losing power and influence in the world arena and this was a way to deepen the relationship with Armenia. Russia had already extended the lease on the Russian 102nd military base stationed near Gyumri—Armenia’s second largest city—until the year 2044. Though Russia’s influence in the South Caucasus was always felt, they became an even bigger player in the region with the Iskander missile in the equation, and now in possession of an ally.

The entrance of the Russian 102nd military base stationed near Gyumri. (Photo: Billert)
The entrance of the Russian 102nd military base stationed near Gyumri. (Photo: Billert)

Armenia should not get excited too quickly, though. As history shows, when one side of a conflict gets an upgrade, the other always counters with its own purchase—either of a similar weapon or a weapon which makes the other null. It is also not too far-fetched for Russia to exploit the geopolitical situation and sell Azerbaijan the Iskander in due time. While I do not believe Russia will do this—at least in the near future—I believe Russia can sell Azerbaijan something to make the Iskander null—if anything in the market exists—in order to capitalize on its interests in the region and for the stalemate to continue.

The losers here are both Armenia and Azerbaijan, who have to increase military budgets, decrease public spending on social services, or—as we have seen before, especially in the case of Armenia—take out loans from Russia in order to purchase weapons from them. One side, more than the other, understands that this situation is not ideal and definitely not sustainable. Considering the fact that Azerbaijan is an authoritative sate, it is difficult to imagine the Aliyev family doing what is best for their nation when sitting at the negotiating table.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a trilateral meeting at the Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg on June 20. (Photo:
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a trilateral meeting at the Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg on June 20. (Photo:

At the end of the day the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) issue is another tool through which the ruling family in Azerbaijan maintains its power, and a way for Russia to keep the status quo and capitalize economically, geopolitically and militarily. Both ruling parties and political systems in the two nations have benefits from controlled conflict stemming out of the region. The Armenian ruling elite might have seen some rally-around-the-flag effects, but even that can wear-off for a political party as others promise better policies in order to keep the citizens safe.

No matter how you look at the Artsakh situation, any rational person will see that the only parties that truly want peace are the Republic of Armenia and the NKR. A continued conflict and instability along its borders is no benefit to Armenia and Artsakh and their democratically elected governments. The conflict is of no benefit to a population that is continuously under threat. The NKR has no benefits in the conflict when investments are put on hold and development is hindered.  And when Armenian soldiers are being killed weekly—daily in some cases—it becomes clear that Armenia and Artsakh are the only states in the region that truly want peace.


Serob Abrahamian

LA-native Serob Abrahamian currently lives in Yerevan and is a graduate student at the American University of Armenia (AUA) studying Political Science and International Affairs. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his bachelor's degree in Political Science. After serving on the local and regional executives of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Western United States, he moved to Goris, Armenia, where he spent a year. He has been residing in Armenia since.

Latest posts by Serob Abrahamian (see all)


  1. Some facts are not presented correctly in this article. The caucuses are amongst the most vulnerable border regions of the Russian federation and any instability or war will also be seen as a threat to Russia. Same can be said about Iran who is very nervous about Azerbaijan’s intentions. Given the complex conflicts Russia and Iran are engaged in this is the last thing they want so I would make the correction that the only parties that want peace in the region are Armenia, Artsakh, Russia and Iran (North-South axis).

    The topic of Russian deliveries of weapons to Azerbaijan are repeated ad nausea nowadays, mostly as a political tool to drive anti-Russian sentiment. Truth is that the April war demonstrated that most of the casualties were not caused by Russian supplied weapons, but by Israeli kamakazi drones. Armenia officially lost 14 T-72 tanks, hit by those drones as well as a bus carrying volunteers. Just from this alone, considering each tank carries at least 3 crew members then we have 49 victims due to Israeli weapons. The remaining victims were on the front lines killed by Azeri special forces units. Moral of the story is that Azerbaijan can buy extremely deadly weapons from anybody they want given their huge budget. On the other hand, Russian weapons like Smerch and T-90 tanks require continuous maintenance and ammunition resupply which means that the Russians can cut off supply any time the Azeris decide to do something stupid like a full scale war. Israel and Turkey do not have this motivation so personally I would prefer that a strategic ally be in the position to limit our enemy than another country who has shown nothing but disdain towards Armenia.

    Regarding the Iskander-M supplies to Armenia, the strategic significance of this cannot be over-emphasized enough. Yerevan is within artillery range of Nakhichevan, and genocidal Azerbaijan with the capability of causing over 100,000 civilian deaths in Yerevan alone, Armenia and her Ally have no option but to provide a serious deterrent to the Azeris. The Russians with the the deliver of the most advanced ballistic missile in the world to Armenia have guaranteed that all Azeri inspired wars will be limited to small scale attacks such as in April, rather than full scale. It is up to Armenia to get its act together to defend it’s borders with efficiency and precision and to stop blaming Russians for weapons delivery to Azerbaijan, because the alternative can be much worse.

    • === Very well said Arto. Russia is the only friend of Armenia and without Russia there is no Armenia. The west invested millions of dollars in propaganda and color revolutionaries in Armenia. Hopefully the Armenian people will support their government and save the country.

    • The only true friend Armenia will ever have as long as it is blockaded and surrounded with illegally established fascist and genocidal Turkey on one side and the artificially invented state of Azerbaijan, a gas-station disguised as a country, on the other is nuclear weapons. Neither Russia, nor the West and nor any other friendship can match that. Not now and not ever.

      It is time to acquire these weapons and put the fear of God in the hearts of our coward and anti-Armenian racist enemies who are bent on realizing, at the cost of attempting to wipe Armenia off the map, the pan-Turkic and pan-Turanic dreams of their mass-murdering ancestors which were shattered and put to rest for good with the assassinations of the authors and executioners of the Armenian Genocide, hiding like beggars in foreign capitals, by a handful of dedicated and brave Armenian patriots in 1920s.

    • Ararat,

      Theoretically you’re right. But hardly will Armenia be “allowed” to acquire nuclear weapons or be able to develop them secretly being under surveillance of the Americans, Europeans, and the Russians. When eminent Soviet scientist, head of the USSR research institute of experimental physics, senior development and test engineer of the Soviet atomic and hydrogen bombs, a founder of the Soviet ballistic missile defense, professor Samvel Kochariants said in 1991 that he could develop an Armenian atomic bomb in a garage and do so in a relatively short time, he died in 1993. Coincidence?

  2. Long live Armenia. Long live Russia. Despite some political issues that come up from time-to-time, Armenians and Russians have been brothers in arms for two hundred years. It has been and it will continue being a symbiotic relationship between Armenia and Russia: Russia keeps Turks and radical Islamic terrorists out of Armenia and Armenia keeps Turks and radical Islamic terrorists out of the strategic south Caucasus. Armenians and Russian are therefore natural allies. In fact, after Armenians themselves, Russia is the only nation on earth that would suffer terribly if Armenia disappeared from the map. Armenians would therefore do well to place all their emphasis on deepening and strenghtening Armenian-Russian relations. Armenains would also do well to realize that the political West poses the greatest single threat to the entire world, including Armenia. Any Armenian today that is anti-Russian or wants to limit the Russian presence in Armenia is either a Western funded mercenary or an idiot – or both.

  3. In the short run, this may very well have been the result of anti-Russian sentiment among Armenian people after the April war, and the perceived or real risk of loosing Armenia by means of a maidan-like scenario after Sasna Tsrer. In the long run, this may just be a stupid arms race fueled by Russia in order to keep the control of both Armenian and Azerbaijan.

    • Keep day dreaming. The weapons in question have been available for the Armenian military for a long time. Iskanders were first discussed in Armenia in 2012. Trust me, Russia was not about to lose Armenia just because a small group of loud, politially ignorant, emotionally compromised and foreign funded individuals decided to take to the streets with their Russophobia. Trust me, the bond between Russia and Armenia is much stronger than your kind can possibly imagine. Arms race? Only Baky has the money for an arms race. Had it not been for Russia, your kind would be perennially lamenting the lose of NKR in front of the Azeri mission in NYC.

  4. With 14(at least) tanks with personnel destroyed by drones and rest killed by Azeri ground troops only tells me the Armenians are not well trained. When and if Armenians do return fire, it seems their aim is not very good. A fighting force does not necessarily have to have the most up to date weaponry to overcome; it’s training, discipline and tactics. Forget about snappy dressed and stiff soldiers marching in unison during a parade, it’s how they do in the field. Armenians can learn a lot from German military history.

    • Armenians, in the Karabakh Stronghold, are well trained, and very disciplined. They were able to neutralize and defeat a premeditated surprise attack, last April, 2016, in less than a week. In fact, the April Karabakh War, is also known as the Four Day Karabakh War, because the Azeri Offensive was neutralized in just 4 or 5 days. Russia knows and trusts the well disciplined reputation of the Armenian soldier, whom quietly does his duty. Sure Germany has an exemplary military reputation, but Armenia has earned its own place among the heroic warriors of military history, despite that many historians and politicians are blind to it.

    • Uhhh, are you well?

      Armenia published its losses, Azerbaijan never fully did. We do not know how many exactly we have taken out, but usually the attacking side loses 4 to5 times the amount of the defending side.
      Did you expect not to have any losses? Is this a video game for you?
      Just one conscript of ours took out 5 tanks alone by using the Kornet ATGM.
      Not to say we do not need more training, however to spew such retarded and asinine comments is well retarded and asinine.
      Muffin, if Azeris did not go and cry to Russia for cease fire and if Serge was not Putin’s lap dog, Armenian units were ready for a counter attack by the end of the day 4.
      It was going to be 1994 all over again.

  5. {This may very well have been the result of anti-Russian sentiment among Armenian people after the April war.}

    Was there any opinion poll held in Armenia that had revealed if there was a strong anti-Russian sentiment among the large masses of the Armenian people after the April war? Even if, hypothetically speaking, there was such a sentiment, it would hardly result in the transfer of the best ballistic missiles in the world to Armenia, which only the manufacturing country, Russia, and Armenia now have. The release of the 200 mln. Russian credit could have effectively quelled that sentiment, if it was so widespread and threatening.

    {The perceived or real risk of losing Armenia by means of a maidan-like scenario after Sasna Tsrer.}

    The majority of Armenian citizens, based on surveys on the streets, did not approve of the methods that Sasna Tsrer had employed. Hardly could such public moods lead to “maidan-like scenarios” in Armenia.

    {This may just be a stupid arms race fueled by Russia in order to keep the control of both Armenian and Azerbaijan.}

    Only if Azerbaijan receives same missiles from Russia could it be called “arms race fueled by Russia”. Interesting how Russian supply of ballistic missiles to Armenia is called “a stupid arms race” and characterized as Russia “fueling” it. But hardly ever have we seen on these p[ages anyone calling the supply of 5 bln. dollar-worth arms to Azerbaijan by Israel “stupid” and that Israel fuels the regional tension. Cheap double standards?

    • {The majority of Armenian citizens, based on surveys on the streets, did not approve of the methods that Sasna Tsrer had employed. Hardly could such public moods lead to “maidan-like scenarios” in Armenia.}


      The most optimistic estimate (by the organizers) of demonstrators in Yerevan at the time was less than 10,000. Less than 1% in a city of 1.1 million. If you watched the vids, you could see that most were there just to be out and about. Most people there were there to express general unhappiness about how things are in Armenia: quite understandable.

      In any case, the efforts by professional agitators like Davit Sanasaryan to start trouble again fell flat.

  6. Armenia is a small country and have their own economical problems. They don’t need to envonvol in political chaos.
    They should have friendly relationship with Russia, with the West, with neiboughrs even with Turcky if they are wise enough to accept the atrocities in a past. Azarbaijan is a mutter of the time. Some countries shouldn’t escalate the situation
    Russia as a friend should treat Armenia equal bases and respect Armenia as a individual and independent country.
    The west doesn’t have any political or economical issues with Armenia.

  7. It is heartening to see both an intelligent piece of analysis and thoughtful comments in reaction to it. Hurling insults and invective may be fun or cathartic for some people, but level-headed discussion is what the moment and the dangerous situation call for. Aprek, guys.

  8. It’s certainly pleasant to observe that the Russian nationalist runts have finally realized that their country will indeed suffer terribly if Armenia disappears from the map. Therefore, they should take it upon themselves to vehemently scold their beloved leader (Putin) on his desire to continue supplying billions of dollars worth of military arms to Hyena Aliyev (who wishes to destroy Armenia), and also scold him (Putin) on his desire to preserve his close relationship with Turkey’s Islamic terrorist leader (Erdogan).

  9. 1.{……only tells me the Armenians are not well trained. When and if Armenians do return fire, it seems their aim is not very good.}

    It only tells you that you are ill informed about the men and women in ROA and NKR military.

    Our side lost ~100 people, including murdered civilians.
    About half the military losses were young Armenian conscripts. The other half officers and contract personnel.
    Out side claims about 2,000 Azerbaijani losses, but that seems a bit of an exaggeration.
    However, according to analysis and private information obtained by Oktfast, a Russian military analytical group, Azerbaijan lost about 800 men, including about 30 highly trained special forces commandos. The latter trained at great expense by NATO specialists from Turkey. Most of the commandos were killed by our very well trained conscripts.

    Two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down; several tanks hit or destroyed; APCs; drones,……
    What part those losses inflicted on the Azerbaijani surprise attackers tells you that Armenians are _not_ well trained?

    2.{ A fighting force does not necessarily have to have the most up to date weaponry to overcome; it’s training,}

    Not true. _Most_ of the losses of our side’s armor and hardware were due to the very high-tech Israeli made hardware.
    Most of our tank losses were due to Israeli made (and Israeli-specialist operated from Baku) suicide Harop drones.
    In one tragic incident a bus carrying not-so-young volunteers was hit by a Harop: 7 valuable, experienced warriors were killed.
    The Harop was a complete and nasty surprise to our military, and admittedly an intelligence failure: our side had no competent defense against it.
    Most of our tanks were hit from above by Harops: hi-tech certainly worked.
    The other large contributor to our armor losses was the very high-tech Israeli Spike anti-tank missile.

    3.{ Armenians can learn a lot from German military history.}

    Yeah? When was the last time Germans won a war?
    Was it the Germans who in 1991-1994 defeated an enemy that had overwhelming advantage in fighting men (4-to-1), hardware (10-to-1), populations base, funds, etc, etc? Who liberated our historic lands in Artsakh, Germans?

    • Does Edward also realize that during WWII from all the nations involved, the Armenian army was the first to enter Berlin? Perhaps now it is the Germans who can learn from the Armenians.

      This being said, Germany -at one time- really did have one of the best, if not the best military traditions. Which is why the Turks were trained within that tradition and why they used the military to commit the Armenian Genocide against defenseless Christian citizens of the Ottoman Empire. The Germans even complained at the time about Turks preoccupied with using the military with civilian massacres instead of fighting the war.

  10. === Only Russia is a friend of Armenia. The west has invested in millions of $ in color revolutionaries and propaganda to destroy our country and break the Russian support for Armenia.

  11. Good first article here, but with a few points which are not accurate. I seem to have read somewhere that Armenia has had the Iskander missiles for a while, and the Azeris knew it. Worse, and more concerning, they knew when it was about to be deployed, leading me to speculate that they have an effective intelligence network either from sources in Armenia or from sources in Russia.

    When Azerbaijan launched the attack in April, Armenia was apparently about to launch the missiles, which is why Azerbaijan ran to Russia’s lap for immediate ceasefire negotiations. Same as in 1994 when they were about to have their rears handed to them.

    Although we can all appreciate peace, I find it a bit unfortunate that Russia has stopped Armenia every time from taking care of business when its rights have been violated. In this way, Azeri aggression is going unchecked, and their egos and aggression increasing each time.

    My opinion, in the April war, Armenia didn’t even need to use the missiles, it should have first taken out the pipelines going to Israel (through Georgia) immediately with the invasion of the Azeris, especially that Israel is now shamefully supplying arms and training to Azerbaijan. This temporary interruption would serve as an “introduction” to what is coming next with the missiles taking out Azeri rigs which would have prolonged effects.

  12. It is certainly pleasant to observe how the boneheaded Azeri agent provocateurs make derisive attempts to paint themselves as Armenians by repeating ad nauseam profanities, such as “Hyena Aliyev” and “Terrorist Erdogan”, from thread to thread…

  13. First Russia is no ‘friend’ of Armenia. It would sell out Armenia in a heartbeat if it needed too. When Armenian official, including Pres Sargsyan, and no not “Russiaphobe troublemakers”, complained regarding the Russian weapons being used by Azerbaijan to kill Armenian soldiers, it was rebuked by Medvedev saying something nonsense like this keeps parody and that Russia has no intention to stop selling Azeri’s weapons. A Great friend? NOT! However closer to the truth is Russia might be the only option Armenia has. And as long as Israel controls most all of the USA’s foreign policy, then the USA will never be Armenia’s ally over any Turks. Never..
    2nd, Had it NOT BEEN FOR THE RUSSIAN ADVANCED WEAPONS within Armenian hands, its surely guaranteed that Azerbaijan resumes full hostilities without question or hesitation. Sorry but Armenia does indeed need and should have advanced military deadly weapons for its protection, as that’s the only deterrent and the only thing Turks understand: Azerbaijan’s demise if they should should try the 2nd Armenian genocide in Karabakh. Also after the 4 day war, Azerbaijan installed thousands of rockets in Nakhichevan pointing and threatening Yerevan. My only issue is that Armenia needs to be more secretive with our weapons, like Israel, and not show everything we have to our enemy. Boasting is a sign of weakness in my opinion.
    3rd, Azerbaijan is run by a despotic thug ruler who needs the Armenian boogieman for domestic consumption. Aliyev needs hostilities or the domestic anger of his collapsing oil economy gets turned on him. That’s why Armenia needs to be constantly vigilant and prepared as another 4 day war might just be launched again. Azerbaijan needs to understand AND FEEL that a new war is devastation to Azerbaijan and that war is not the answer. Sure Armenia wants peace but must be ready to unleash hell if needed. No other way.
    Last, as for gross military expenditures, the 4 day war also shed light on a few highly corrupt military leaders stealing weapons appropriated money, which is TREASON IN MY BOOK, and these traitor thieves should have been hung but instead just got dismissals. Seems typical for Armenian leadership..

  14. I do not know who Norserunt is and I really do not care.
    His statement that ” is either a Western funded mercenary or an idiot-
    or both” is uncalled for, insulting, inappropriate and an allegation with absolutely no proof.
    Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.
    Personal attacks and offensive language should not grace the pages of the AW.
    Vart Adjemian

  15. The Implications of the Iskander Missile by Russia is a direct warning toward Turkey and her fake allies! As long as Turkey represent Western powers against Russia, then Russia will acknowledge her readiness against NATO forces!

  16. Reading through these comments it is hard to discern what is truth and what is typical Armenian arrogant chest thumping. One thing I know is true, the authors comment “Considering the fact that Azerbaijan is an authoritative state” pertains identically to Armenia with its own “authoritarian” mafia bosses who came to power by murder of Armenian parlimentarians and maintain power by murder and oppression of anyone opposing them and complete vote rigging and fraud. Don’t be so confident fellow Armenians, with corrupt mafia scum like this in control of every aspect of the Armenian life and identity; the country has no future, Turk or no Turk, Iskander or no Iskander.

  17. Armenia, and its stronghold Artzakh, currently in the grips of a Cold War with Azerbaijan and Turkey, need the solidarity of the people behind their country’s military. Perhaps, this is the wrong time for a regime change, when those two hostile countries (Azerbaijan and Turkey) have organized an economic blockade intent upon crippling the Armenian economy, as well as massively military budget spending that pose a direct threat upon the security and safety of Armenia and Artzakh.

  18. We Armenians are in the middle of a major geopolitical showdown, Russia on our side and the “Deep State” on the other. The tactic used by the “Deep State” is to artificially split a country into two oppositions and have them tear up their own country for the benefit of the “Deep State”. What is most alarming is the Turks have gladly accepted the role of decimating the people of their neighboring countries, as the CIA and Mossad operatives of the “Deep State” command their planned hegemonic rule of the region. Iraq, Libya, Ukraine etc., splitting the distressed people prompting them to kill each other.

    I am so proud of my people that we did not become the fools of the instigators of the “Deep State”. It is so obvious that they keep on trying to have our people fight one another in being their patsy but Armenians will not become their fool.

    That is not to say that we have no problems; we do, however, if we put our people in front of the me first attitude, we will stand up against any foe.

    In the past we had to rely on God to save us. Today we must thank God and President Putin for giving us the deterrent (Iskander Missile Systems) we need to defend our country. Any Armenian that denies or downplays this reality is not serving the interests of his people but is serving the interests of the “Deep State”.

    Reality is this, either you are an Armenian or you are not.

    There is a major responsibility on the shoulders of any one who claims he or she is Armenian. That responsibility links us to our great ancestors that lived before us and specially to those that perished. A true Armenian will readily sacrifice his or her life in fulfilling that responsibility. That is why Arstsakh has and always will be Armenian. For these reasons, please excuse yourself from deceptive coercive measures that serve the anti Russian sentiment held by the “Deep State” at the expense of the Armenian people. Our people will not fall for that trick.

  19. “We Armenians are in the middle of a major geopolitical showdown, Russia on our side and the ‘Deep State’ on the other.”

    But yet, Russia also happens to be on the side of Armenia’s mortal enemy (Azerbaijan), by supplying them with over four billion dollars worth of military arms, and vowing to continue supplying the Azerbaijani side with billions of dollars more in military arms within the near future. Furthermore, Russia (who vehemently pretends to be on the Armenian side) has never once condemned Azerbaijan for its brutal campaign of terrorism against Armenia and Artsakh. All of this, is certainly not the definition of Russia being on the side of the Armenians; instead, it’s the definition of the Russians playing the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides against one another, for the benefit of Russia.

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