James Stavridis, a retired U.S. admiral who was NATO’s supreme allied commander from 2009-2013, met President Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Thursday when he visited Armenia in his capacity as dean of a leading U.S. international relations school.
Stavridis, who runs the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, arrived in Yerevan together with Aso Tavitian, an Armenian-American philanthropist whose Tavitian Foundation charity finances a scholarship program for Armenians at the prestigious Massachusetts-based college. He was also accompanied by two other senior members of the Fletcher School faculty.
One of them, Professor Richard Shultz, gave a lecture on international security for high-ranking Armenian military officials at the Defense Ministry in Yerevan. According to a ministry statement, Shultz then answered questions asked by some of them.
Stavridis wrote on his Twitter page that he is “in Armenia to speak on cyber security.” He did not elaborate, and official Armenian sources did not mention the issue in their press releases on his meetings with Sarkisian and Ohanian.
The Armenian presidential press service said Sarkisian discussed with Stavridis “contemporary international issues and challenges” as well as “regional developments.”
The Armenian military appears to be paying growing attention to cyber security. Under an agreement which Ohanian signed with a visiting senior executive of Microsoft Corporation in May, the U.S. software giant is to help Armenia protect its online databases and resources against hacker attacks. One of Ohanian’s deputies, Ara Nazarian, subsequently visited Microsoft’ Digital Crime Unit in the U.S. state of Washington to discuss details of that assistance.
Both Ohanian and Sarkisian thanked Tavitian for sponsoring a six-month training program for young Armenian diplomats and other government employees at the Fletcher School. More than 250 of them have studied there since the launch of the program in the late 1990s. Tavitian was reported to say that his foundation will continue to finance it in the years to come.