By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian signed on Wednesday Armenia’s official military doctrine that describes Azerbaijan’s pledges to win back Nagorno-Karabakh as a key threat to national security and asserts Yerevan’s right to launch pre-emptive military strikes against potential aggressors.
“In the event of an immediate threat of armed aggression, the Republic of Armenia reserves itself the right to take military actions aimed at neutralizing it,” reads the doctrine approved by Kocharian’s National Security Council on Friday.
The 18-page document was drawn up by a special commission of the Armenian Defense Ministry in collaboration with local and foreign experts. Its main points are in tune a separate “national security strategy” that was signed by the president in February.
Both documents were developed as a result of Armenia’s decision three years ago to deepen its defense and security links with NATO and other Western security structures. The Armenian government has since upgraded its participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program by negotiating an “individual partnership action plan,” or IPAP, with the U.S.-led alliance.
Accordingly, the military doctrine states that Armenia will increasingly cooperate with the armed forces of NATO member states and the United States in particular in reforming its military and contributing to international security. It specifically commits Yerevan to expanding its involvement in Western-led peace-keeping operations abroad. The Armenian military already has small contingents deployed in Kosovo and Iraq and is considering joining the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan.
The doctrine makes it clear at the same 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.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s persistent threats to resolve it by force are high on the list of “external threats” to Armenia’s security contained in the document. “The Republic of Armenia is the guarantor and supporter of the security of the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and their chosen path of development,” it says. Among other perceived security threats is Turkey’s “strategic alliance” with Azerbaijan and continuing economic blockade of Armenia.
The doctrine also lists internal security challenges such as attempts to change the country’s “constitutional order,” set up “illegal armed groups” and “discredit” the Armenian Armed Forces. The latter are to play the central role in meeting all these challenges. The government, for its part, undertakes to make the army more combat-ready by supplying it with modern weaponry and boosting the morale of military personnel.
The doctrine reaffirms the government’s commitment to defense reforms that are meant to bring the Armenian military into greater conformity with NATO standards and practices. The government undertook to implement such reforms three years ago and plans to complete them by 2015. If implemented, they will lead to greater civilian control over the military and a so-called “civilianization” of the Armenian Defense Ministry. The ministry’s current organizational structure essentially mirrors 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 doctrine further envisages that the proportion of contractual personnel in Armenia’s conscription-based army will grow significantly in the coming years.
(Photolur photo: Kocharian inspects an Armenian army unit.)