Azerbaijan was the second-largest arms importer in Europe over the past five years, according to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an arms trade research group.
Azerbaijan accounted for fully 13 percent of all of Europe's arms imports over the last five years, SIPRI reported, behind only the U.K. (The report doesn't list dollar values for the imports.)
While overall arms imports have been decreasing across Europe, Azerbaijan is bucking the trend: its imports of weaponry increased 249 percent in the period 2010-2014 when compared to the previous five-year period, 2005-2009.
SIPRI also tabulated the world trade in drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles" in military-speak) and Azerbaijan also ended up near the top of that list, as the fourth-largest importer of drones in the world since 1985, trailing only the U.K., India, and Italy. It also scored impressively in another SIPRI survey from last year, tallying the second-largest increase in defense budgets in the world over the past ten years.
Among the most eye-popping numbers from the newest report: 85 percent of Azerbaijan's arms imports came from Russia. Russian sales of arms to Azerbaijan has been a sore subject in Armenia, which is bracing for renewed conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh and which is supposed to be Russia's closest ally in the region. Recently even Armenia's pro-Russian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian complained about Russian arms sales to Baku.
But Azerbaijan also imports weapons from other countries like Israel, Turkey, and Belarus. That Russia dwarfs all of these is somewhat surprising, and illustrates just how strong Russia's ties to the militaries of the post-Soviet states are, even in a country like Azerbaijan that's not particularly closely allied to Moscow.