Agency WPS
April 21, 2006 Friday


by Aleksei Ventslovsky

An interview with Defense Minister of Armenia Serzh Sarkisjan.

Question: Successful development of military and military-technical
cooperation between our countries is common knowledge. Could you
please say a few words on the subject?

Serzh Sarkisjan: I'd like to emphasize that the level of relations
between us is fairly high. This cooperation encompasses a broad
spectrum of issues. My Russian colleague Sergei Ivanov visited us in
January. We discussed prospects of the Armenian-Russian relations
that are viewed in both countries as extremely promising.

The 102nd Russian Military Base established in Armenia on our
suggestion is playing a special part in the relations.

Question: Where development of contacts between the national armies
is concerned... Do you think trainees from Russian military colleges
may ever come to Armenia for field training at mountainous testing
sites and shooting ranges of the Armenian Defense Ministry?

Serzh Sarkisjan: Why not? Russia only has to ask, and we will be glad
to receive them here. Hundreds of Armenian servicemen including
officers and generals are trained in Russia and this sort of
cooperation is like a two-way street, you know.

Question: The Armenian national army is being reorganized. What are
these reforms about? What problems does the Defense Ministry

Serzh Sarkisjan: The Armenian Armed Forces consist of motorized
infantry and Air Force now. We do not have branches or high commands
as such. There is only one headquarters running all of the Armed
Forces that comprise five corps formations, artillery unit, and
antiaircraft defense brigades. All in all, 45,000 men or so. All of
the population of Armenia amounts to 3 million only, and the army we
have is somewhat larger than we would prefer. In the meantime, we are
compelled to keep an army of this size because of the lack of
stability in the southern part of the Caucasus and because of
conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Generally speaking,
our Armed Forces have a lot of problems - just like armies of other
countries I presume.

We've set the task to have an army by 2015, that will meet world
standards. I'd like to emphasize that because Russian media outlets
report every now and then that Armenia is after an army by NATO
standards. Not NATO, world standards.

Question: What effect may escalation of conflicts in Abkhazia and
South Ossetia have on the situation in Armenia?

Serzh Sarkisjan: The southern part of the Caucasus is actually a
small region where every country depends on everyone else. The
hostilities will create extremely negative consequences, and Armenia
cannot hope to remain unaffected by them. Armenia does not need any
instability in Georgia because this country is our only connection to
the world. Besides, the hostilities may tempt other countries to
meddle in the conflict.

Question: Reports in the Russian media indicate that a peacekeeping
operation for Nagorno-Karabakh under the OSCE is being charted in
Brussels. Your Russian opposite number Ivanov also said once that
Russian peacekeepers could be deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh, in

Serzh Sarkisjan: I doubt that someone is really working on a
peacekeeping operation. The warring sides' consent is needed for it
or at least some contours of the future accord. It will become a
possibility only when the sides in the conflict reached an agreement.
That's when peacekeepers may come in handy. Unfortunately, we do not
have an agreement with Azerbaijan. Peacekeepers are not on the agenda

Question: And what is the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh nowadays?

Serzh Sarkisjan: The matter is constantly brought up in Azerbaijan in
attempts to solve other domestic problems in this manner. You
probably know that the president of Azerbaijan and his defense
minister regularly say that a military solution will be forced on
Baku unless Armenia accepted their terms. Azerbaijan doubled its
military budget. The president of Azerbaijan said he had boosted it
to $1 billion not long ago. That smacks of blackmail, if you ask me.

We do not want a war but we are not frightened by its prospect. An
end was put to hostilities in 1994, with Russia's help. Our troops
have an advantage nowadays. We've fortified the positions this last
12 years. Not even billions of dollars will help Azerbaijan.

Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, April 19, 2006, p. 1

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress