November 17, 2018

A new strategy for Armenia’s defense?

Corneliu Pivariu. Photographer: Ionus Paraschiv.

By Corneliu Pivariu.

Following the military confrontations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which intensity increased in 2016 and which did not stop during 2017 in spite of the international efforts for finding a solution, both sides suffered important losses, as certain data mention a total of around 350 military death on both sides, in an approximate equal proportion. Even after the meeting in Geneva on 16th of October, 2017, between presidents Serzh Sarksyan and Ilham Aliev, fire exchanges continued with losses on both sides.

During the 6th edition of the Armenian diaspora forum in Erevan, between 18-20th of September, 2017, the Armenian foreign minister Eduard Nalbandian refered to the possibility that some of the occupied territories be retroceded to Azerbaidjan in accordance with the already accepted principles by the sides concerning the negotiations for Karabakh, adding that the respective territories “do not represent a threat to Artsakh’s security (the self entitled Republic Nagorno-Karabakh)”, and that stirred vivid emotions and positionings in the Armenian society.

The head of General Staff, General-lt. Movses Hakobian declared that even a non significant territorial alteration of the “security belt (i.e. the Azeri occupied regions)” around Karabakh, may cause dramatic consequences for Artsakh’s security and concluded that “we need new territories for… ensuring (Nagorno-Karabakh’s)security”. The declaration came too on the background of Azerbaijan’s acquiring new weapons systems such as the152 mm DANA-M1 (Czech made) self-propelled gun and the multiple launching rockets system (MLRS) RM-70 Vampir and carrying out important maneuvers with offensive character.

In this framework, on October 24th, president Serzh Sargsyan delivered an important speech at the Defense Security Research University, and underlined the importance of modernizing Republic of Armenia’s armed forces for facing the challenges it may be confronted with in the future. In this regard, he suggested preparing a modernization program of the army for the next eight years (2018-2025) which, after being discussed and improved, will be adopted on January 28th, 2018 that coincides with the army’s day. The draft of the Defense Law, that is debated in the parliament, will secure the new legal framework imposing drawing up a set of laws for its implementation.

Although an important increase of the 2018 defense budged is contemplated (17% as compared to 2017, around 5.5% of the GDP) president Sargsyan emphasized the importance of quantitatively and qualitatively modernizing the army, by a balanced manner of spending the funds. Mention should be made to the fact that Armenia spent for defense during 1992-2016 on average 246.33 million $/year (the biggest sum was 447.4 million $ in 2015, 4.3% of the GDP, with a small decrease in 2016 – to 422.9 million $).

In comparison, Azerbaijan spent during the same period, 1992-2016, an yearly average 1,071.09 million $ (3,020.80 million $, or 5.6% of the GDP in 2015 with a significant decrease to 1,931.90 million $ in 2016 – 3.7% of the GDP).

As it was expected, the Armenian president’s speech of 24th of October included an important part concerning the strategic situation around Armenia, and appreciated that ”the general situation is stable, yet this stability is fragile and full of numerous impredictible developments” . Certainly the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh occupied an important place of this chapter. The president Sargsyan’s remark “it is impossible to shoot with one hand and to negotiate with the other for finding a solution. We either negotiate or shoot. We are ready for both situations” is worth noticing.

Presumably, Armenia’s new defense strategy will give up the soviet style static defense and will adopt a deterrence system, “active deterrence”, to be applied in the conditions when Azerbaijan will continue the operations of  “controlled escalation”.

We noticed in president Sargsyan speech the special attention paid to the quality of military training, to the relations within the military system, the importance of the compulsory military service for having a well trained reserve and the care for an appropriate status for the active and reserve military. Lastly, the attention for developing the national military-industrial complex.


About the author:

Corneliu Pivariu, former first deputy for military intelligence (two stars general) in the Romanian MoD, retired 2003. Member of IISS – London, alumni of Harvard – Kennedy School Executive Education and others international organizations. Founder of INGEPO Consulting, and bimonthly Bulletin, Geostrategic Pulse”. Main areas of expertise – geopolitics, intelligence and security.


Photographer: Ionus Paraschiv.



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