“I am Disappointed with the Leadership of the Ministry of Defense”: Chairman of “ArAr” Foundation”
The “Nation-Army” concept or program still needs crystallization, it is not presented in the form of a single document, and the legislative changes within this concept and the reforms in the armed forces are often presented in a disputable way and create a general negative background.

Avetik Chalabyan, Chairman of the Board of Arar Civilizational Research Foundation, said this during the interview-press conference entitled “Security Issues of Armenia: Effectiveness of Reforms in the Defense Sector”at Media Center on December 1.

At the beginning of the press conference, he states that the term “Nation-Army” is not the idea of the Defense Ministry. “Zhirayr Sefilyan was the first to speak about the term “Nation-Army”, the Chairman of “ArAr” foundation said, who cooperates with the Ministry of Defense in the reforms of the armed forces. He admits that it is difficult to speak of this concept until it is presented as a single document for discussion. “This concept really needs crystallization,” he said.

The speaker notes that the “Nation-Army” concept also loses public consensus because of the low level of trust.

“Today's authorities could have done more serious efforts to ensure public consensus on security issues. But this has not been done, moreover, the debate over the latest law on military service, limiting the army respite, has, unfortunately, turned into the issue of serving in the army or not,” he said stressing that this did not contribute to the army or increase of public trust towards the concept of “nation-state”.

Besides, according to him, questions arise among the society when representatives of the Armed Forces push for reforms, who, as it turns out, do not have the experience of normal military service.

According to him, the April war of 2016 was a good opportunity to implement a large number of reforms and build public consensus, and in this sense he is “disappointed with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense.”

At the same time, Chalabyan is confident that the concept of “Nation-Army” is a necessity for Armenia, which is blocked on both sides and is in danger of resuming war. “We have security threats, so we really need resources mobilization and effective management,” he said, highlighting the formation of a new public alliance and consensus.

In response to the observation that there is already a public alliance with the state in the form of the Constitution, which is often broken up in the form of emigration, Chalabyan replied: “It is about the growth of public trust arising out of good governance.” According to him, today the RA Armed Forces lack the “literate and courageous” officer staff.

“Over the last ten years, the number of those professionals has dropped. Ten years ago, the officer was one of the highest paid and respected professions in the army, and therefore attractive. But the leadership of the country did not pay attention to the problem and their salaries remained the same, and the conditions of the service became complicated,” he said and added that 30% of the victims were Armenian officers during the April war.

“So now being an officer is not only attractive from the point of view of remuneration but is also dangerous. When 10 per cent of the armed forces are the officers but they comprise 30 per cent of the victims it means that they serve on the frontline and have taken the blow,” he said.

Political scientist Armen Grigoryan, who was present at the discussion, raised a concern in the context of the concept of “Nation-Army” about putting the burden on the public rather than the state. “More and more burdens are put on the public, a social welfare fund for military servicemen is created and money is collected from the public. A new law is being passed and the right to respite is strictly limited. In other words, instead of taking steps to improve the situation in the state system, reduce corruption, solve the problems in the army, the burden is transferred on the public,” he noted.

Chalabyan partially agreed with this concern, pointing out that society and the army is more developed in comparison with other circles. The weakest part is the state. According to the expert, the agreement signed between the Republic of Armenia and the EU contains important provisions in state building.

“We really need to manage the limited resources available. Since 2010, Azerbaijan has managed to spend about seven times more real-world resources than Armenia on armament purchase. Over the same seven years, the annual recruiting resource in Armenia has dropped by 40% as a result of a sharp decline in birth rate in 90s and ongoing emigration. But these issues can be resolved by the correct management, so that you can use your resources in the efficiency of one to three or one to four,” he said.

In response to the question whether there is no risk that in the country like Armenia with such a failed party-political system, that the forces will dominate in the political sphere as a result of the implementation of the concept of “Nation-Army”, Chalabyan did not exclude such possibility.

“To say that there is no possibility means not to understand the history. However, Armenia's conditions are different. There is an external threat and our armed forces are not the structures that threaten their citizens, they ensure public security,” he said, bringing Israel's example. “Serving in the army is an important precondition for moving forward in the state system. In addition, the "8200 Division" is engaged in scientific, technological, informational, propaganda and other similar issues. After serving there, a person becomes very competitive in the labor market and employers start competing for them,” he underlined, highlighting the issue of proper and rational use of the recruiting resource.

In this context, he also mentions that he does not agree with the provision of "I have the honor" program that respite will be provided only for the implementation of a three-year officer service in the future. This initially dramatically limits the attractiveness of the program and its practical meaning to potential participants, he added.

“Obviously, the professional education received by many will be substantially depreciated in real terms in these three years and the returnees will be forced to start again, and in that case, those who avoid military service will have an obvious advantage. Therefore, we recommend that after three years of post-retraining education, the service will be re-designated. Those human resources can be a major contribution to the strengthening of the country's defense in other parts of the army,” Avetik Chalabyan said.  

To watch the video, follow the link.  

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email toarshaluismghdesyan@pjc.am.

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