The spokesperson said on Wednesday there had been no change to the 10-day Eagle Partner 2023 exercise involving 85 US soldiers and 175 Armenians, despite Azerbaijan’s launch of what it called an “antiterrorist” operation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
The drills that began on September 11 were designed to prepare the Armenians to take part in international peacekeeping missions. It took place at two training grounds near the capital Yerevan.
The Armenian Ministry of Defence said at the time that “the purpose of the exercise is to increase the level of interoperability of the unit participating in international peacekeeping missions within the framework of peacekeeping operations, to exchange best practices in control and tactical communication”.
Though small in scale, the drill has irked Russia, which has a military base in Armenia and regards itself as the prime security guarantor in the region.
Earlier this year, Armenia refused to host military drills by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led alliance of post-Soviet countries, reflecting Yerevan’s growing tensions with Moscow.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated earlier this month with an Italian newspaper that Russia had failed to protect Armenia against what he called continuing aggression from oil-rich Azerbaijan.
He suggested that Russia’s war in Ukraine meant it was unable to meet Armenia’s security needs.
Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.