OPINION: Hrachya Arzumanyan: "Armenia cannot afford having weak economy and socially unfair society"

The recent military parades in Baku and Yerevan once again showed that Armenia has been involved in the arms race initiated by Baku. What can it lead to given the fact that both the countries are reluctant to increase their military budgets at the expense of socio-economic development of their countries?

When considering the problems of security and war, one should keep in mind that Armenia is two states - the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - and, in some aspects, also the Diaspora. Arms race is always a blow on the social-economic sector.

But does Armenia have another choice? I think no. We have no alternative: it was not we who started the race but we are forced to react to it despite all negative consequences. Our people are wise enough to understand that we need arms race and to put up with the price we are forced to pay for our independent future. I do not think that arms race and military spending are very painful problems for the Armenian society. We have much bigger threats coming from outside. Arms race is part of Azerbaijan's militarist policy. The Azeris' aspiration to start a new war or to force Armenia to give up by scaring it with high military spending is making Armenia increasingly less secure. Given no international guarantees and security systems in the region, Armenia can rely on its own self only and is forced also to engage in arms race in order to restore the balance. As a result, arms race is becoming an increasingly autonomous process with own logic and may one day go out of control and lead to a new war in the region. This is the most dangerous aspect of this process.

Please, answer the question of principle: are the key threats to the national security of Armenia outside or inside the country?

In terms of security we must put up with the fact that in the next decades we will constantly face the threat of anti- Armenian intentions and actions on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan. We will hardly be able to change their attitudes and policies in the mid- or long-term future. This a threat that will exist always and we must keep it in mind when building our security system. Unlike the external threats the internal ones can be controlled and changed. The current economic stagnation and unfavorable social and psychological situation in Armenia cannot but have a negative impact on the country's security. We have had few opportunities to ensure our security in the past and now that we have some we must not miss them. We cannot afford having weak economy and socially unfair society.

What are the most vulnerable points of the collective security system of the South Caucasus? Do you think that there is such system?

The current system of collective security of the South Caucasus certainly exists. Otherwise the region would be in the state of permanent wars and conflicts. The vulnerability of  the South Caucasus is mostly connected with the artificiality of borders of the given region as a result of the collapse of the USSR. The South Caucasus is part of the Caucasus and Black- Caspian region, which is currently in the focus of geopolitical confrontation of Russia and the West. The South Caucasus is also part of the Greater Middle East being affected by "the Arab spring". Armenia and the other states of the South Caucasus, which were accustomed to look inside themselves and at each other, may find themselves in a situation, in which they may have to respond to foreign threats. As a result, the South Caucasus may just as well face much more serious threats than those it came across before.

Does Armenia fit in the security environment of the 21st century? Do the country’s leadership study long-term trends and perspectives?

Armenia cannot confidently enter security environment of the 21st century, as Armenian statehood is too young. At the same time, the army - the key element of national security system of Armenia, is a great achievement of the people of Armenia. However, further development and enhancing of the national security demands meticulous and long-lasting work, connected with training of personnel, getting experience, etc. To be able to take the long-lasting trends into consideration, one should have the relevant personnel, potential - the school which cannot be established for several years or decades. Unfortunately, today national security system of Armenia is strongly linked with personal factor, when much depends on the fact who enters top military and political leadership of Armenia...Such is the reality and it is impossible to change it by the "revolutionary" methods".  Such a system is extremely vulnerable, if it is headed by weak and inexperienced leaders, which do not strictly imagine what the Armenian society is today. In such conditions we need purposeful steps which would allow Armenia to build in future such a national security system that will less depend on the persons. There are few countries in the world that are able to settle such problems. As for Armenia, we simply have no other way out. We don't have natural allies, which have relevant experience and are ready to share it. To have the right for the future, we should independently create and develop the national security system of Armenia, its theoretical and practical elements.

In one of your items you mention the necessity to put up with opinion of strategists saying that the South Caucasus was and is the region for which the thesis that any complicated problem has a simple, clear and wrong solution is relevant…

The given statement is based on the understanding that the South Caucasus is a complicated region on the crossroad of the East and the West, the North and the South.

Under such conditions, I think that there can be no simple solutions unless the superpowers' resources are behind them, like it was in early XX century, when the USSR was created. Are such "simple" solutions and direct involvement of a certain geopolitical force in the region possible in early XXI century? Today such a scenario seems incredible, however, the recent historical experience should have taught us that sometimes it is the incredible scenarios that come true.

The Armenian-Turkish protocols could not but lead the Armenian-Turkish process to a deadlock given Ankara’s statements linking the normalization with the Karabakh conflict. Is it possible to make any forecasts regarding the Armenian-Turkish process considering the historical, political and military realities of the region?

It is very much difficult...What does Armenia want in the 21-st century?  What are its goals, the national interests and tasks? In the conditions of the calm 2000-2008, we could let ourselves not to form and answer such questions, but at the present conditions of the coming storm, we need to strictly understand the directions which we should develop to. I am sure that in this context it is not so much important what Turkey and other countries think and suppose, than what Armenia and its people want to gain. I am sure that just these issues are the most crucial ones. And the attempts to avoid them may result in the situation when the world processes will overturn Armenian statehood. 

David Stepanyan


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