By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian announced on Thursday the impending completion of defense reforms that are meant to bring the Armenian military into greater conformity with Western standards and practices.
The reforms were launched in 2005 as Armenia stepped up its cooperation with NATO under an “individual partnership action plan,” or IPAP. They envisaged, among other things, greater civilian control over the military and a so-called “civilianization” of the Armenian Defense Ministry.
The ministry’s organizational structure has until now mirrored that of the formerly Soviet and now Russian armed forces, with army officers holding just about every ministerial position and facing little civilian oversight. The Armenian government pushed through parliament recently a law that allows the Defense Ministry to hire civilian personnel.
In what appears to be a follow-up measure, the government approved on Thursday the new statutes and structures of the ministry and the Armenian army’s General Staff. Sarkisian personally chaired the cabinet session to underline the significance of the changes. He said Armenia is “nearing the completion of the reforms in the defense sphere” which will “further reinforce the defense capability of our state.”
“A few more days, and we will finally have the [new] structures of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff,” Sarkisian told ministers. “Their functions will be completely delineated, and our Defense Ministry will operate in new conditions.”
As part of the reforms, the government adopted last year Armenia’s national security strategy and military doctrine. Both documents state that Armenia will increasingly cooperate with the armed forces of the United States and other NATO member states in reforming its military and contributing to international security.
More specifically, they commit Yerevan to expanding its involvement in Western-led peace-keeping operations abroad. The Armenian military has already deployed troops in Kosovo and Iraq and is considering joining the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan.
The doctrine at the same time makes clear that “strategic partnership” with Russia will remain the bedrock of Armenia’s defense policy. It says the two countries will continue to maintain close military ties both on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.