The Armenian Defense Ministry has called for the creation of a nationwide militia that would reinforce Armenia’s armed forces in times of war.
A bill drafted by the ministry cites the need to expand Armenians’ involvement in national defense, which has until now mainly taken the form of compulsory military service performed by male citizens and call-ups of army reservists.
Under the bill, the new auxiliary force would be formed on a territorial basis in Yerevan and towns and villages across the country and consist of units commanded by deputy heads of relevant local governments. It would be subordinate to the Armenian army command.
One of the proposed amendments to several Armenian laws lists the tasks to be performed by the militia. In particular, the latter would have to “confront, neutralize and destroy” enemy special forces trying to strike key military and civilian facilities “deep inside the country’s territory.” The auxiliaries could also be deployed at “endangered sections” of Armenia’s borders or “line of contact with the adversary.”
The Defense Ministry bill posted on a government website on Tuesday has not yet been discussed and approved by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet. Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and other military officials have not publicly commented on it so far.
The bill was praised and endorsed on Wednesday by Sasun Mikaelian, an influential lawmaker affiliated with Pashinian’s My Step bloc and a prominent veteran of the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mikaelian said the Armenian military needs such a volunteer militia because “we are surrounded by enemies.” He also spoke of an increased threat of Turkey’s direct military intervention in the Karabakh conflict on Azerbaijan’s side.
“The militia must have at least 100,000 members,” Mikaelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There could be a sudden enemy attack at any moment and we must be prepared for it.”
The proposed volunteer force would not be a substitute for a possible wartime mobilization of Armenian army reservists. The army called up tens of thousands of such reservists during what it described as “strategic” military exercises held in Armenia and Karabakh in September 2019.
Mikaelian also heads the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans. Many of its members as well as thousands of other Armenian volunteers joined Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army in April 2016 during large-scale hostilities that nearly escalated into an all-out Armenian-Azerbaijani war.