Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian reaffirmed on Friday Armenia’s commitment to close cooperation with NATO, saying that it is drawing no objections from Russia or other ex-Soviet states aligned in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Ohanian said deepening ties with NATO are helping Armenia to not only “modernize” its armed forces but also act as a bridge between the U.S.-led alliance and the CSTO.
“We are given an opportunity to be on the border between these two organizations while cooperating with the CSTO,” he told university students in Yerevan. “And we are making full use of that border status so that there is an exchange of experience from one organization to the other.”
“In terms of these issues, both sides show understanding for us,” he claimed.
President Serzh Sarkisian underscored Yerevan’s desire to continue cooperating with NATO when he attended last week a NATO summit for the first time in more than five years. The summit took place in Wales amid the West’s deepening confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
Nikolay Bordyuzha, the CSTO secretary general, stated in April that the Russian-led alliance of six ex-Soviet states is freezing contacts with NATO because of that standoff. The Armenian authorities made clear, however, their own contacts with NATO will continue as planned. Ohanian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian visited he NATO headquarters in Brussels in May for an annual meeting with the alliance’s executive body.
Armenia’s relations with NATO have been developing under an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched a decade ago and repeatedly updated since then. The document envisages, among other things, NATO support for reforms of the Armenian army.
Later on Friday, Ohanian met with a team of U.S. and British experts advising the Armenian Defense Ministry and other government agencies on their ongoing “strategic defense review.” The British ambassador in Yerevan, Katherine Leach, was also present at the meeting.
A ministry statement said the visiting experts have spent the past five years meeting various Armenian officials and presenting them with proposals on national defense planning. The Armenian side, for its part, briefed them on the ongoing expansion of the Armenian army’s non-commissioned officer corps serving on a contractual basis. Many of those sergeants have already been trained by U.S. and British military instructors.
Ohanian also had a separate meeting with Leach.