Former Defense Minister of Armenia, Lieutenant-General Vagharshak Harutyunyan in his interview to ArmInfo shares his vision of the effectiveness of Armenia's national security architecture. He talks about ways to level out the challenges and threats of Armenian statehood, comments on the latest impulses, the role of the US and Russia in the Middle East and global politics.
To what extent, in your opinion, is the current architecture of Armenia's national security consistent with existing and recurring new challenges?
Talking about the strategy of ensuring national security of Armenia, we must proceed from the possible options of its architecture. A separate issue is the matter how it is formed from the existing regional security. The second issue is Armenia's opportunities and scenarios for its provision. The main threat to the security of Armenia is Azerbaijan plus Turkey, since, according to my deepest conviction, these two union countries should be viewed solely as a single, integral threat. To divide these countries into two different threats means to misunderstand and, accordingly, to assess and parry the threats to our security. These two countries are bound by the relevant agreement, the experience of the joint war in Karabakh and in general they clearly knowingly characterize themselves as "one nation, two states". The same countries jointly and step by step implement the concept of neo-Ottomanism in the region. Another question is that today they do not have the political, military and economic resources sufficient to finally implement this concept. However, at the same time, it should be recognized that since the collapse of the Soviet Union to date, they have made a tremendous leap forward on this path. Given the economic and military potential of Armenia, taking into account all other resources, it is obvious that we can neutralize the Azerbaijani threat. However, we do not have enough to neutralize the Azerbaijani-Turkish threat of resources. Now let's try to assess the situation from the point of view of regional policy, Armenia and international agreements. Option A - Armenia's accession to NATO. Life showed that refusing to set a similar task, we were unequivocally right. The states that set such a goal, for example, Georgia and Ukraine, have not yet joined NATO.
Recently NATO recognized Georgia and Ukraine as something like "postgraduate countries" ...
Practically that means nothing. Such "postgraduate studies" by no means presuppose NATO's commitment to protect Georgia and Ukraine from external aggression. And in 2008 it became absolutely clear when the US and NATO brought Georgians in support of water and something else like that. On warships. Therefore, in Tbilisi and Kiev, in parallel with the planning of joining NATO in its time, probably worth trying to predict the possible behavior of neighboring countries - Iran and Russia and not only neighboring countries. Thus, it can be stated that the states that entered the path to NATO did not receive even legal guarantees of their own security in case of aggression, not to mention preferential military-technical cooperation. We should also be perfectly aware that, even if you are in NATO, Armenia will not be able to somehow influence the decisions taken there by consensus. But Turkey will be able to see what we see perfectly on the example of the Council of Europe. Therefore, for Armenia there was only option B - joining the CSTO, which we used. And this was done not at the will of some people, but on the basis of an analysis of the real situation, as a result of which, thanks to its foreign policy, Armenia compensated the lack of own resources and won in Karabakh, continues to ensure the security of the two Armenian republics today. And the constant high combat readiness of the Armenian Armed Forces is also largely maintained through cooperation with Russia. One training of our personnel in Russia allows us to save hundreds of millions of dollars. And this must be understood. Therefore, if in 1991 we had to think, forecast and choose the most correct version of the Armenian national security architecture, today all these years, life itself has shown the correctness of our choice. The existing national security architecture of Armenia seems to be the most optimal, working and possible of all existing. At the same time, nothing prevents Armenia from successfully cooperating with NATO within the framework of the same programs as Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The delivery of Russian complexes Iskander in Armenia has confirmed the exactness of the analysis and forecasting of the situation in 1991?
Certainly. The appearance of "Iskander" complexes in Armenia was another confirmation of the correctness of our foreign security policy. Today, the "procurers" solve the main task of deterring the enemy, which prior to their supply was solved by Scud complexes. In many ways, these funds will allow Armenia to undermine its economic and military potential in the event of another Azeri aggression. Thanks to the Scud and Iskander complexes, all targets on the territory of Azerbaijan are guaranteed-reachable both for the Armed Forces of Armenia and for the NKR Defense Army.
Please estimate the military-technical capabilities of Azerbaijan on the Nakhchivan direction, from which several tens of kilometers to Yerevan.
From the military-technical point of view, Azerbaijanis are able to hit Yerevan from the territory of Nakhchivan even with means of small and medium range: "Smerch", "Point U", Turkish systems of volley fire. However, in practice it is almost impossible. From the military-political point of view, any shot on our territory will mean aggression against Armenia and will lead to the entry into force of the Armenian-Russian agreement, the CSTO agreement. Armenia and Azerbaijan do not and can not have sufficiently effective anti-missile defense systems, however, they are in the territory of Armenia at the 102nd RVB and it should be specially noted that these systems are on permanent alert duty. In addition, I want to note the constant process of bringing the Armenian Armed Forces to the highest possible level of combat capability as capable of ensuring a regional balance of power and, as a consequence, preventing a war.
In addition to the CSTO and NATO, there is one another major factor of at least regional security - Iran - literally at the side of Armenia. Do not you think that setting up a closer military-technical cooperation with Tehran would make the sources of ensuring Armenia's national security no longer so uncontested?
With respect to Iran everything possible is done and is being done both on the military-political and economic lines. And the current format of relations seems to be the most optimal one. We can not expand it for the same reason, for which we can not buy very conditional cheap gas and fuel there. In other words, it's not just about our desire, it's about bilateral relations. Here we should highlight and emphasize the very balanced policy of Iran in relation to Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Armenia refers to Iran as a friendly state, that Iran has proved its balanced and stabilized situation, the policy in the years of the Karabakh war.
The actual destruction of the "Islamic state" in the territory of Syria led not to peace, but to the aggravation of the war this time between Turkey and the Kurds with attempts to involve Russia there. Is there a threat of projection of Syrian instability on smoldering Karabakh, from which to Syria a few hundred kilometers?
We are really divided from Syria being friendly for Armenia with only about four hundred kilometers. There is indeed a threat for us now, but it would have been much greater in the event of the overthrow of Bashar Assad and as a result of the complete destruction of the Syrian state. Turkey aspired to this and continues to strive, so the goals have not changed, opportunities have changed. The goals of the "Islamic state", with which Turkey acted, and the goals of the neo-Ottoman project being cherished by her, are unequivocally identical. And all these general plans of ISIS and Ankara were destroyed only by Russia's interference. However, these goals not only remained, but also acquired greater relevance after posing a serious threat to Turkey, a referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and a sharp strengthening of the Kurdish factor in Syria. Thus, the destruction of ISiS forced Turkey to act against Syria and the Syrian Kurds with their own hands. In my opinion, Turkey today, on the basis of the same ideology of neo-Ottomanism, is gradually transforming ISIS into a kind of Turkish Caliphate. For Armenia, the very prospect of creating such a caliphate, especially in the Azerbaijani direction, poses a serious threat.
In the news bulletins of Armenian media, the abbreviation of the National Security Service of Armenia is increasingly mentioned in conjunction with the word anti-terror. Do you see today the threat of penetration into our territory of certain penetration of international terrorism, for example, from the same Middle East?
We must understand that the common task of the tandem of Turkey-Azerbaijan to weaken and eliminate Armenia today has not disappeared. Terrorism today still remains a means of implementing geopolitical interests in the hands of various states. The use of special services by terrorists at some stage for some purpose is very convenient, cheap and less harmful to international relations. Providing its own national security through its own army, an alliance with Russia and the CSTO, Armenia deprives Turkey-Azerbaijan ties of the possibility of a direct military invasion. In this light, the use of terrorists by Turkish and Azeri special services to undermine internal stability and weaken Armenia seems to be uncontested. We must always be ready for this, we must know that such a threat to the security of Armenia always exists, especially in the context of hybrid wars.
The aggravation of the Russia-West confrontation after the change of the US administration demonstrated, at a minimum, the absence of differences in the foreign policy of the Democrats and Republicans. All the declared reasons for confrontation are known, could we talk about real?
The logic of Russia versus US and West can change depending on the rise and designaion of certain politicians. Therefore, all the same, political goals determining that logic are more important. Back in April last year, I said (by the way exactly to you) it was you that Obama administration sought to withdraw Iran from the ranks of its opponents peacefully through negotiations, leaving Russia alone with the United States. And the Trump administration is trying to achieve the same through pressure. Thus, the American tactics of providing leadership are changing through hard or soft power. Tactics, but not strategy. At the heart of strategy and tactics lies the fundamental concept - geopolitics. And the goals that global players set for themselves: the US, the EU, China and Russia are also determined by geopolitics. Accordingly, the logic of the confrontation between the US and Russia lies in the attempt to retain Washington, ensuring the economic welfare of the United States, world political, military and economic leadership. Americans perfectly see the displacement of the political, military and main economic center of gravity from the West, where it was the last 600 years, to Asia, mainly China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has for quite a long time tried to go in the wake of the West-US and to take its place in the world system of coordinates. However, this only led to the fact that Russia was pushed into the backyard of this system. And as soon as Russia expressed this disagreement with that , it began to defend her own interests, it was immediately recorded in the relevant doctrine as a military threat. The United States offers Russia only a secondary role, and this role is fraught with the loss of its own sovereignty in future. As a result, this led to the actual formation of two blocs with opposing interests: the US-European Union and Russia-China. And in the vanguard of this confrontation today is precisely Russia, which the United States is trying with all its might to deprive of power, since militarily Russia is capable of defying the whole West. Therefore, the "cold war" in reality never ended, it simply took various forms. During the Soviet Union, the United States conditioned the "cold war" with rejection of communist ideology, but then it is unclear why they did not like tsarist Russia, for example. Accordingly, having in their basis not ideological differences, but geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic interests, it cannot be completed at least simply by default.