By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian has approved Armenia’s comprehensive national security strategy that declares democracy and good governance a top priority and reaffirms the “complementary” foreign policy pursued by his administration.
The presidential press service said on Thursday that Kocharian signed the strategy almost two weeks after it was approved at an unpublicized rare meeting of his National Security Council. The secretary of the council, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, is the head of ad hoc government commission that drew up and unveiled its main points last November.
The 27-page document identifies what its authors see as the threats and challenges facing Armenia and suggests ways of confronting them. It concludes that the “main guarantee” of the country’s sustainable development is a democratization of its political institutions coupled with respect for human rights and a rule of law.
“Conscious of that necessity, the Republic of Armenia shall adopt a strategy of continuous reforms,” reads the document. It calls for specific legal, institutional and socioeconomic reforms that would lead, among other things, to the “formation of a civil society.”
But there is no word on what many see as the number one obstacle to democratic change: the failure by the Armenian authorities to hold elections recognized as free and fair by the international community. Kocharian and Sarkisian are held responsible by their political opponents for a culture of electoral fraud that has taken root in Armenia over the past decade. Both leaders have said that the upcoming parliamentary elections and the presidential ballot next year will meet democratic standards.
Their national security strategy lists the perceived dangers facing the country’s security and territorial integrity, singling out Azerbaijan’s growing threats to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force. Armenia’s strained relations with neighboring Turkey are listed as another security threat. The Kocharian administration, according to the document, believes that international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide is essential for eliminating that threat.
The strategy also makes a case for a continued “complementary” policy of maintaining simultaneously good relations with Russia, the West and other regional players. “The principle of complementarity does not mean maintaining a balance at any cost,” it says.
The document underlines the “strategic character” of the Russian-Armenian relationship and its military component in particular, saying that membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization will become even more important for Armenia in the coming years. It says at the same time that closer ties with NATO, the United States and the European Union are another key guarantee of the country’s security.
The document has separate sections on each of the four neighboring states. Only one of them, Georgia, is described as a “strategic partner,” not least because of its status as Armenia’s main conduit to the outside world. It also points to the existence of a sizable Armenian community in Georgia and its Javakheti region in particular.
“In that regard, any destabilization of the situation in Georgia would be a cause for concern for Armenia,” says the policy guideline. “It would endanger Armenia’s economic and transport communication with the outside world, while inter-ethnic tensions could create anti-Armenian sentiment and threaten the security of the Javakheti Armenians.”
The document goes on to express Yerevan’s concerns about the Georgia’s multimillion-dollar energy and transport projects with Azerbaijan and Turkey, saying that they are contributing to Armenia’s regional isolation.