Interview with Saro Saroyan on NATO-Armenia cooperation, expert of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies
What are your thoughts on the current level of relations between Armenia and NATO? Is NATO viewed as a guarantor of security?
The tight schedule of Serzh Sargsyan’s latest visit to Brussels and the mutual interest in the meetings prove the high dynamics of development of relations. As an expert, I assess the dynamics positively though it is early to talk about assessments yet.
As a guarantor of security, we must distinguish who makes the assessment. NATO is not presented widely in the Armenian society in terms of security. It is rather seen as an abstract structure. Our society does not perceive even the CSTO as a guarantor of security considering exclusively Moscow as such. But in the narrow political circles, NATO plays a fairly important role in terms of preserving the regional balance.
Why do the Armenians see Russia as the security guarantor? Is it connected with Armenia’s aspiration to NATO?
For the last two centuries, the imperial Russia has played the role of the security guarantor. In this, of course, plays an important role the Russian state propaganda, especially after 1920, when for the purpose of concealing its role in the dismemberment of Armenia, Russia made current the idea on the inevitability of Russia as the savior of the Armenians. It works like a force of tradition, and immaturity of social and political thought, and most importantly, a significant presence of Russia in the security system of Armenia.
But only the general instinct of self-preservation keeps Armenia back from membership to NATO. First of all, the request for membership to NATO will surely influence the relations with Russia. The negative consequences that may be in the Karabakh peace process and in relations with Iran are also understood. Thus, Armenia is aware that such a request is premature. But in a medium or long-term perspective, depending on the future of Russia and Iran, the issue could appear on the political agenda of Armenia.
A few days ago the minister of defense of Armenia Seyran Ohanyan met with NATO Deputy Secretary General and discussed issues relating to reforms in the Armenian army. How can NATO promote reforms in Armenia? Is this just a formality?
The Western community has worked out a general principle of interaction with the post-Soviet countries. In fact, they understand the formality of commitments by the regimes. But they ignore it and refer to each step as progress. In supporting the Armenian reforms, NATO is guided by the same principle, and the reforms are informal in the sense that concrete tasks are achieved, such as transition from military service in units to civil service.
Is Armenia found to be playing a double game with CSTO and NATO?
Has the Armenian establishment (by and large the society) ever not played double games with the powers of the world?
Do we always lose for this reason?
Not always. But it is better to find out where the lack of alternative to the double game comes from. It is connected with our regional position. Dwelling on defeats, it is necessary to recognize that our political knowledge and will lost. In other cases, the possibility of a double game was perceived as a chance or challenge. By the way, the essence of this game is understood by the regime, the question is whether it is able to move forward, whether they will have enough knowledge, experience and will.