Interview with Arthur Sakunts, chair of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor office, member of Army in Reality Initiative, on Armenia-NATO relations
Mr. Sakunts, the Armenian programs implemented with NATO, according to the Defense Minister of Armenia, are of systemic nature and are related to the military reforms in Armenia. Are these reforms realistic?
This is the only chance in the process of implementation of reforms in the Armed Forces of Armenia since there is no other possibility of fulfilling reforms. The CSTO is built on the Russian military model and has nothing to propose even to its country of origin – Russia. There are a lot of concerns over the plight – numerous deaths and corruption – in the Russian army. In this sense, it cannot be an alternative, this is just the continuation of the Soviet model. In this sense, NATO is the only alternative, the only chance. For example, the model of participation of NATO International Peace Forces mission which is the result of the internal military atmosphere, the behavior and mission.
Seyran Ohanyan has recently met with the NATO leadership and discussed the reforms in the Armed Forces of Armenia. Have you noticed progress in this sphere? Is there a wish to carry out reforms or are they formalities?
The defense minister’s considerations on reforms are only words. They are not translated into action. Everything is more complicated now, and there is no progress towards meeting the challenges which I’ve publicly spoken about, namely ensuring the contingent, respect for disciplinary rules, law enforcement, reduction of the rate of death and violations of field manuals. Stating that reforms are implemented is a diplomatic statement rather than the reality. In the long run, in terms of military planning, NATO supposes a very transparent planning, while here we have no idea of the criteria for the number of the contingent and equipment. NATO has clear measurements, while we are unable to resolve issues relating to the field manuals. They have been pledging for two years but they have not been adopted so far, even human rights or protection of soldiers’ rights and human treatment are not observed. This is a tough hierarchic subordination which is enforced by a government decree. In other words, the minister of defense cannot present an argument proving that reforms are being carried out, while statements that reforms are necessary mean nothing unless the reforms are carried out.
Does membership to CSTO give us any security guarantees? Is it right to refuse it?
CSTO will give us nothing, CSTO will give nothing even to the Russian army. You can see that all the CSTO member states are authoritarian. We saw the use of the army in domestic affairs. Now they are even discussing the deployment of the CSTO forces to manage crises in member states. It means that the CSTO has nothing to offer in terms of democracy and security, it only guarantees the authoritarian governments. It is not aimed at peace or global challenges, but to strengthening of mechanisms to resolve internal political issues. In this sense, Armenia needs to become liberal and integrate with NATO since it is the most important security guarantee for Armenia.
NATO is an example of resolution of global issues. Therefore I think NATO is the main guarantor of security.