OPINION: Vagharshak Haroutiunyan: "We have changed the geopolitical situation in the region and Armenia's importance is based on this very factor"

ArmInfo's interview with Leader of the National Revival Party, former defense minister of Armenia, Lt.General Vagharshak Haroutiunyan.


Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization visited Armenia in late January. Why, in your opinion, did they visit the country at one and the same time?


The recent visits by the Russian military and political leadership to Yerevan bear no relation to the upcoming presidential election in Armenia. After signing the Agreement extending deployment of the Russian military base in the territory of Armenia in 2010, the tasks of the base have significantly changed. In addition, Russia assumed responsibility to provide the Armenian Armed Forces with up-to-date compatible arms. The Military-Technical Cooperation Agreement to be signed by Russia and Armenia is part of the provisions of the Agreement signed in 2010. In 1995 when the base was established, its task was to provide security and protect the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Iranian borders, as Georgia and Azerbaijan were CIS members then. Nevertheless, now Russia agreed to provide security of Armenia also on the border with Azerbaijan. One should understand what it means.


If you please, I would formulate the question more simply: if tomorrow Azerbaijan starts a war, will Russians troops get on their feet in Noyemberyan, Goris or Ijevan?


Of course, they will. After signing the above Agreement, Russia and Armenia developed a plan of joint use of force. The plan implies use of Armenian and Russian Armed Forces in case of relevant threat, including by Azerbaijan.


One more example: all the units of the 102nd base have an assigned mission in case of a threat on the Armenian-Turkish border. All the exercises Russia conducts in the territory of Armenia in peacetime pursue one scenario - to rebuff aggression and make counter attacks. We have a special air squadron at Erebuni Airport that provides security of Armenia's airspace alongside with the divisions of S-300 air defense systems. These aircrafts are standing alert. If an unknown aircraft approaches the border, the staff will be announced ready automatically. So, in case of a threat by Turkey and Azerbaijan, the command of the base will not have to wait for instructions from Moscow because it has an assigned mission to rebuff any aggression.


There is an opinion that the new military-technical cooperation agreement between Armenia and Russia proves that Russia is turning its face back towards its key ally after having sold S-300 systems to Azerbaijan.


This is a general practice in the world. There have been such cases in the Middle East for example. The Russian S-300 air defense missiles sold by Moscow to Azerbaijan upgrade the combat efficiency of the Azerbaijani army, indeed. Those systems contribute to the offensive capabilities of Azerbaijan. From the political point of view those missile systems increase the probability of another aggression by Azerbaijan. In addition, Azerbaijan has enough funds to acquire similar long-range missile detection systems also from other countries. So, selling S-300 to Azerbaijan Moscow strived to increase its military- political influence on Baku through military-technical cooperation, I think. Sale of S-300 is accompanied with sale of spare parts and retraining of servicemen. I think, the given issue was to be coordinated with Yerevan considering the Collective Security Treaty requires the signatory-states to refrain from any actions that may be directed against other signatories. I don't rule out certain corrupt actions by the Russian Defense Ministry, because the situation at that structure is not good after dismissal of Anatoly Serdyukov. The cost-effectiveness of that acquisition of Azerbaijan against Armenia is not successful.  To fight our aviation Azerbaijan has enough medium-range missile detection systems Osa, Oka and others. So, I think that Baku wasted hundreds of millions of dollars.


Yes, but there is also a missile component...


When it comes to neutralization of our missile potential, the situation is different. S-300 missile systems have various missiles. In order to use the given systems for ballistic-missile defense, Azerbaijan will need special missiles, because the existing ones are not efficient for the given purpose. 


In other words, the S-300 systems will not help Azerbaijan to protect its oil and gas facilities, like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, will they?


No, they will not. To do it, they will need relevant missiles.


What will be the military expediency of the launch of Stepanakert Airport?


To ensure delay-free delivery of military cargoes to the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, both an airport and reliable overland communications are required. An operating airport is a very important factor for military aircrafts in case the Karabakh conflict escalates. In particular, the arrival time is cut and the air efforts in increased. So, we can settle the same task using much less aircrafts, which is very important. besides the given problem, there is another issue on agenda i.e. civil aviation. The population of Nagorno Karabakh cannot wait until Azerbaijan wants to settle the issue that has been protracted for 20 years. Therefore, I am more than sure that the Stepanakert Airport will operate despite threats. No one in the world will understand Azerbaijan if it ventures to hit civil planes.


Many in Armenia stress the need to restart the Abkhazian railway. In what a way can this project be carried out and if carried out won't it change the existing geo-political status quo in the region?


The Abkhazian conflict and closed communications are, first of all, in favor of Turkey, Azerbaijan and the forces not interested in Russia's strengthening and integration of Caucasus and Russia. Hillary Clinton has already made statements confirming that and their motivation is clear. Ankara is currently trying to refocus Georgia and Armenia at Turkey with all its consequences. Closed Abkhazia is in favor of Azerbaijan as well, because that factor weakens Armenia and Georgia. Tbilisi will become directly dependent on the Turkish-Azeri alliance. It is not in favor of Armenia, Russia, Georgia, and Abkhazia.  Unfortunately, because of various ideas countries are not always guided with their own interests when making important decisions.  Ivanishvili made a very important statement announcing an intention to open the road with Abkhazia. If he is consistent in that issue, we will have quite different situation that will be within the interests of Georgia as well.


What is the problem then? It is for Moscow, Tbilisi and Sukhumi to decide, isn't it?


It is senseless for Georgia to keep closed the Abkhazian communications, because Abkhazia has direct sea and overland communication with Russia. Therefore, keeping the railway closed means to get rid of the boat captain by means of drowning him. However, Ankara, Baku and some Western states exert serious pressure on Georgia in the given issue. Therefore, Armenia, Russia and Abkhazia should exert genuine efforts to help Georgia in the issue of opening the railway. I am sure that opening of the Abkhazian section of the railway will change the geopolitical situation in the region with all its consequences. Iran and China are also interested in that. That is, the issue is of global importance.


It seems that the restart of the Abkhazian railway will bring Armenia and even Georgia into the customs and later Eurasian unions...


The talk that it is not promising for Armenia to join the Customs Union for lack of common borders is groundless. For communications with Russia we have ferry in Poti, a short haul distance via Upper Lars, a total of 200km. In the meanwhile the EU member-states are at a distance of thousands of kilometers from Armenia.  So, proceeding from the logic of the people who say that Armenia's joining the Customs Union is unpromising, we should forget about the EU.


Many people in Yerevan believe that Armenia can combine its security partnership with Russia with economic cooperation with the West. Can it?


This is not serious. The military-political cooperation is aimed at protection of economic interests, because there will be no economy without security provision.  Economic development depends on security. It was the army that brought Armenia's biggest achievement in terms of 8,000sq/km territory. These are trillions. We have changed the geopolitical situation in the region and Armenia's importance depends on this very factor.


To forecast is a thankless occupation. Still, what impulses do you expect in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process?


The Karabakh conflict cannot be settled today, as there are no conditions and pre-conditions for that. Armenia is not going to cede Karabakh. For its part, Azerbaijan is not going to recognize Karabakh. The force option will not result in settlement of the Karabakh conflict, taking into consideration the combat effectiveness of our army. Moreover, Russia's presence hinders interference of other countries. Russia's president and foreign minister said about it, as Moscow is not interested in it. The refusal of the Gabali radar station and new obligations taken by Moscow in the context of providing Armenia's security are evidence of the fact that Moscow will not let resolving of the Karabakh conflict by means of force. For this reason, Azerbaijan cannot settle the conflict by means of force. And if Turkey helps, it will lead to CSTO-NATO confrontation. At present it is impossible to involve Nagorno-Karabakh in the conflict around Iran. Such a scenario is possible only after falling of the Asad's regime in Syria.


There are certain defense borders in the military sphere as well as in the sphere of policy. Within the frames of this logic, China and Russia will strongly protect Iran. If in case of Libya there was one approach, and quite another one in case of Syria, in case of Iran, Beijing and Moscow will make quite another steps. Losing of the Iranian oil and gas will deal a strong blow on China's development rates and China will do everything possible to protect its interests. The first step in this direction was a military ship sent by China to Syria's costs. So, one cannot wait for hot phase of the Karabakh conflict from the southern side either. I think that at present not external but internal threats are more dangerous for Armenia. And our ability to confront external threats and our future depend on their effective and fast settlement.


David Stepanyan



Related articles

Editor's choice
Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell tells the European Parliament that the situation in Afghanistan was critical, but the EU will remain engaged

Borrell underlined that the European Union will make every effort to support the peace process and to remain a committed partner to the Afghan people. "Of course, we will have to take into account the evolving situation, but disengagement is not an option.  We are clear on that: there is no alternative to a negotiated political settlement, through inclusive peace talks.