Armenia’s Existential Decision: Militarization

The fourth installment of a multi-part series, this article was originally published in Armenian by Mediamax, on June 18, 2022.

Avetik Chalabyan’s legal representatives have published the co-founder of ARAR Foundation’s article penned at the Armavir Penitentiary Institution, where he is currently being held under trumped up charges.

Avetik Chalabyan

In the previous articles, I have tried to outline the prospects of the two key pillars of Armenia’s fateful choice, the regathering of Armenians and modernization, and to present concrete ideas for their implementation. In this article, I will concentrate on the third, and perhaps the most difficult pillar, militarization, as it has garnered the most resistance among different segments of our society. It has also caused the regathering and modernization of Armenians to not gain the desired momentum in the past, given its association with war.

Prior to Nikol Pashinyan’s rise to power, Armenia was quite a militarized country based on some criteria (such as army to population ratio), where it was among the five most militarized countries in the world, and for years and decades the entire society bore that burden. Despite such militarization, Armenia lost the catastrophic 44-day war, and the shock of that defeat led many to question both the existing defense model and the need for militarization in general.

It is not accidental that the obviously false and vain idea about the “peace era” put into circulation by Pashinyan in the beginning found such a positive response in broad segments of the society. Having survived two large-scale wars for three decades, being in the midst of chronic hostilities around them, not having a real sense of security, Armenian society needs more than a sense of peace and minimal security, and that is fair.

But is peace possible through demilitarization, becoming safe for our hostile neighbors, as Pashinyan presents, or should we do the exact opposite?

This is probably our biggest disagreement with Pashinyan, and this disagreement has a deep, historical nature, and each side has its arguments which require honest analysis.

Pashinyan’s “doctrine of peace” is based on the fact that our two Turkish neighbors, compared to us, have large military and geopolitical resources, and confrontation with them will ultimately lead to the defeat and continuous losses of the Armenian side, as evidenced by historical experience. Therefore, in the long run, the Armenian state should not try to compete with our arch-enemies in the military sphere, but by satisfying their “reasonable” demands, find a stable and peaceful model of coexistence, presumably under the auspices of the European Union.

Let us analyze these assertions one by one. First of all, there is no doubt that the Turkish tandem has more resources, but it does not follow that it is able to use those resources freely against the Armenian state, if the latter enjoys relevant alliance agreements. The best evidence of that are the years 1991-1994. It was the first Artsakh war, when Turkey, being constrained not only by Russia but also by the United States, during the three years of the war could not be directly involved in hostilities, having to be satisfied only by regular threats. Second, although this force is large, its use in offensive operations, especially against densely populated areas, also has limitations. It is no coincidence that in 1918, the Ottoman army, which was three times larger than the Armenian forces, advanced through the deserted territory of Western Armenia without difficulty and reached the outskirts of Yerevan in three months, yet it faced significant resistance by people defending their homes motivated to fight to death.

Third, modern history has many interesting examples when small countries, being militarized and ready for war, have successfully resisted large countries. The best example of this is Israel, which in the 25 years since its creation fought four times with Egypt (and its allies) and won every time. Examples include the heroic resistance of little Finland against the Soviet Union in 1940, the widespread mobilization of Switzerland in 1941, which prevented Nazi Germany from invading, Vietnam’s resistance to the US invasion, and a number of similar examples that show a simple balance of power in modern warfare. It can still predetermine the outcome of a war if one side, albeit a small one, is super-militarized and super-motivated, thus creating an insurmountable obstacle for the strong side.

Pashinyan’s last argument is that there is no need to militarize if it is possible to find the key to peace with the Turkish tandem and have the same coexistence with them as we have with our other neighbors, Iran and Georgia.

This would be correct if Turkey and Azerbaijan were the same as Iran and Georgia, that is, they did not have large-scale appetites for Armenia and their other neighbors. The reality, however, is the exact opposite. To this day, Turkey continues to insist on restoring the former glory and power of the Ottoman Empire, at the very least restoring all its Turkic-speaking parts. By that logic, Turkish troops are in northern Syria (and are preparing to expand their sphere of control), regularly invading northern Iraq, having territorial disputes with Greece in the Aegean Sea and carrying out active economic expansion in Georgia, already swallowing Adjara. If Turkey was satisfied with a “cold” war in Armenia by 2020, the 44-day war made its intentions clear given its direct involvement and the decisive role in ensuring the outcome of that war. To assume that Turkey will be satisfied with that if it has a weak and demilitarized Armenia by its side is naïve at best, especially in light of Turkey’s growing imperial aspirations.

However, while Turkey at least tries to hide these aspirations under diplomatic rhetoric, its younger brother, Azerbaijan, is quite vocal about its territorial ambitions towards Armenia. Azerbaijan considers that the modern Republic of Armenia was established in 1918 on the territories of former Azerbaijani “khanats” (principalities). Back in 1920, in the map of territorial claims submitted to the League of Nations, the Republic of Azerbaijan claimed not only Artsakh and Nakhichevan, but also Syunik, Vayots Dzor, the eastern part of Gegharkunik, and most of Tavush and Ararat regions. With that map, only half of today’s Armenia will remain in Armenia.

Even today, Azerbaijan does not hide these ambitions and is well aware that a weak and demilitarized Armenia will not be able to defend its territories, especially in sparsely-populated areas such as Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Gegharkunik. Azerbaijan already tested local invasions in the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia in 2021, and even in the conditions of the peace agreement, it will continue to strengthen its presence in the territory of Armenia by that and other means. Azerbaijan will try the same in Artsakh, taking advantage of the existence of a number of vulnerable points and the weakness or tolerance of the peacekeeping troops there.

Therefore, no matter how much Pashinyan insists that he is determined to open an “era of peace” with our Turkish neighbors/enemies, it will be at best an era of peaceful absorption and Turkification of Armenia (following the example of Adjara), and at worst it may be accompanied by massacres and mass deportations, as already demonstrated in Hadrut and Shushi.

The reality is that Armenia is doomed without militarization, but militarization itself is not a sustainable solution using the model used by the previous authorities which led to waste of resources without the desired security outcome.

The militarization of Armenia needs a well-thought-out, systemic model, the main elements of which I will present below, hoping to further develop this topic in the future.

First, let’s start with the fact that militarization does not mean just a large army, but refers to all aspects of state organization.

In a militarized state, all public and private sector structures must have clear plans for strengthening peacetime defense capabilities and carrying out missions in hostilities. Any economic, social or residential object must also have a military significance, and in case of war it must be able to serve the purposes of defending the country. The people of the country must be prepared for its defense from an early age, whether it is in the training of their spirit, physical training, technical knowledge, and finally, combat training, leading to the nation having large combat resources at its disposal at any given time.

All this should be managed by the state, but private structures should also be actively involved in solving these problems.

In a militarized society, the special services must be able to perform the functions of informing the military-political leadership of the country, conducting military-technical intelligence, effectively combating the operations of foreign special services, and, if necessary, carrying out specific tasks outside Armenia. The tasks of cyber security and hybrid warfare in the economic, political, social and media spheres must be solved, and done so by the entire society.

In a militarized country, the military industry is of primary importance; it must be able to create complex systems and be able to readily use them on the battlefield. It must not only meet the needs of its own army, but also become globally competitive and provide export revenues to the country (for comparison, in 2021, Israel’s military exports exceeded the total gross output of the Armenian economy).

The role of the military is also changing in a militarized state. First, it becomes the key structure of the state (as it was in Armenia in its first decade of independence), receives its continued support, and military professions become more powerful in the state system, potentially competing with the private sector. This is possible only if the military is rapidly technologically equipped, where the profession begins to be associated with high technology as opposed to blood and sweat, and moves continuously down the path of development and acquisition of universal capabilities, which can also be effectively used in the private sector after demobilization. Moreover, private sector companies need to create demand for ex-servicemen in the labor market, further guaranteeing that they will not only be in demand after demobilization, but will also be able to capitalize on their knowledge and experience (a practice widely used in the US and Israel, where many retired servicemen are involved in the military industry, politics and business sectors).

Compulsory military service in a militarized country must be re-oriented on combat readiness and self-development, achieved through intensive training, not only in the improvement of combat capabilities, but also the acquisition of related knowledge required in peace time. This primarily applies to mathematics and foreign languages, to which programming languages ​​and managerial knowledge can be selectively added, which will allow servicemen not only to effectively perform their immediate combat tasks, but also to integrate quickly into peace time life after service. This will also be facilitated by the one-time bonuses paid by the state after demobilization (depending on the efficiency of the service), which will allow the demobilized to have an adaptation period before starting work or starting new studies. The main combat force of the military should be the contract servicemen recruited on a voluntary basis, signed with the conscripts after the first year of their service, based on their efficiency for long-term military service. A year later, the sergeants must be selected from the same staff, and the best of them must, after some time, undergo officer training to become an officer (this is the practice in Israel). All contract servicemen must regularly participate in military exercises and train, acquiring new combat equipment and operational tactics. Expenditures on these exercises should be significantly increased.

Conscripts who are demobilized must form into reservists, enlist in specific military units (usually where they served), and participate in annual mobilizations. This is an additional burden for the private sector, but in a militarized state it is a necessity and an additional security guarantee for the same private sector.

The active reserve must be separated by the reserve force on a voluntary basis. Active reservists are the most efficient part, where they receive additional salaries from the state, have attached weapons and participate in mobilizations with several times more intensity, and if necessary, they are the first to replenish the military ranks.

In a militarized state, the role of women in the military is equally important. In many modern military professions, women are on par with men, and in some cases even exceed their efficiency. Therefore, the military must actively recruit women and provide effective conditions for combat training and service. That process has already started in Armenia and should gain new momentum. The respect and reputation of female employees must continue to grow, and the state must provide additional social guarantees for them, especially in cases of having and raising children.

Although the modernization of the military and the organization of military affairs are the subject of a separate article (see a previously published article “How to increase Armenia’s military power“), I would like to simply mention here that the future Armenian army does not have to be large, but it must be highly technological. The number of the army of the Republic of Armenia may be in the range of 50,000 servicemen, and another 10-12,000 servicemen should be in Artsakh (mainly locals), but that military must have a significantly different structure from today. Two-thirds of today’s army is the infantry, mainly involved in combat protection. The tasks of combat protection in the future military must be widely automated, and the personnel involved in it must be reduced.

Moreover, automation, the creation of a centralized network management system using artificial intelligence, the transformation of the army into a unified but at the same time very flexible reconnaissance strike system, must become a new way of conducting combat operations on the ground and in the air. At the same time, decentralization methods should be used in the management of troops, in which case each tactical unit should be able to perform the task independently.

Soldiers must be trained in both operational and tactical terms and at the level of individual fighters to conduct both defensive and offensive operations. But, of course, there must be units with specific specialization. Within the framework of the above-mentioned unified system, the problem of multi-layered air protection must be solved, both through pilot aviation and unmanned aerial systems, including concepts from lone wolf or herd animal approaches.

The experience of recent wars shows that the technology of wars is irreversibly changing. This means aircraft (including drones), long-range and precision-guided means of attack, specially trained and equipped infantry in offensive operations, and the implementation of echeloned fortifications, that drastically reduce the effectiveness of various enemy means of attack, in defensive operations. Multi-layer air defense is also important. In this sense, the future Armenian military must find an optimal balance in the development of defensive and offensive means, depending on the general resources at its disposal and the specifics of the terrain, in each case emphasizing the imperative of effective defense of Armenian territories.

If you have reached this point, you will have a question about the means by which all this should be implemented, because each proposed idea has a price tag. Today, Armenia already spends about 4.5 percent of its gross product on defensive needs, which is fairly high by international standards (Russia and Turkey spend about the same proportion). The militarization of Armenia is also a difficult choice, as it will require a steady increase in defense spending, presumably by up to seven percent of GDP in the long run, which is about 50 percent higher than today.

As the current state budget is already tight (although there are some savings opportunities, in particular through the optimization of the state apparatus and the police), the increase in military spending is possible from three sources:

  1. Increase in state revenues, moreover, for targeted defense expenditures (today’s mandatory payments to the Servicemen’s Insurance Fund are a good example of that)
  2. Attracting targeted funds from the Diaspora in the form of investments, as well as through various paid services for citizenship (for example, the right to participate in elections in their country of residence).
  3. Free or preferential assistance from Allied States. It is important to expand the circle of allies and deepen military-technical cooperation.

If all this is done in a systematic and united manner with long-term strategic logic, if a mutually beneficial dialogue is built with all our partners where our goals are clear to them, then sooner or later we will be able to achieve the necessary level of resource mobilization, as was the case in Israel (another effective example is South Korea). The good news is that all this has already been tested on a small scale. The Diaspora is already actively investing in the Armenian military industry; the countries that are friendly to us regularly provide military-technical assistance; and both the population of Armenia and the Armenians living abroad provide massive support to the military during hostilities. There are already a number of military-patriotic organizations in Armenia today, which also receive support from businesses, and a number of charitable foundations support the modernization of the military, and so on.

As in the case of education, many mechanisms have already been tested and are working. The task of the next stage is to scale them and bring them together in a systemic manner. For that, a new government must be formed in Armenia, which will renounce the Nikolist “peace-loving” illusions and will start the militarization of the nation.

I urge you to think about what you personally are doing today to increase the protection of our country, and what you can do in the future from the extensive list presented in this article, which is much more extensive in real life, providing each of us the opportunity to defend our right to a free life in our own country.

Ara Nazarian, PhD

Ara Nazarian, PhD

Ara Nazarian is an associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a degree in mechanical engineering, followed by graduate degrees from Boston University, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He has been involved in the Armenian community for over a decade, having served in a variety of capacities at the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center, Armenian National Committee of America, St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

9 Comments

  1. What a shame. A brilliant, in depth analysis over four parts of our catastrophic predicament and, thus far, only two comments. I suppose that people truly have become disengaged. Can’t say that I blame them.

  2. Mr. Nazarian,
    Armenians must choose their friends carefully and their enemies much much more carefully.

    For any strategy to be successful two necessary condions are economy and demography, Armenians unfortunately lack both. The best option for Armenians might be peaceful co-existance.

    • Mehmet, I am not sure Armenia ‘chose’ its enemies, just as Armenia didn’t choose it’s geographic location. And if you read the article, you’d understand that peaceful coexistence is impossible while Aliyev/Erdogan duo are in power.

  3. “Prior to Nikol Pashinyan’s rise to power, Armenia was quite a militarized country based on some criteria (such as army to population ratio), where it was among the five most militarized countries in the world, and for years and decades the entire society bore that burden. Despite such militarization, Armenia lost the catastrophic 44-day war, and the shock of that defeat led many to question both the existing defense model and the need for militarization in general.”

    I have a hard time believing any of that.

    What I do believe is that the 2020 “war” proved that this so-called “Armenia” is full of traitors, which have not been held to account for their traitorous actions, and an idiotic segment of that society which enables them and who has no clue about anything going on in Armenia, much less the world, and who think that they know everything and they are better than every body else.

    All this talk about the future of the nation is futile and a waste of time, given the society that we have there and the idiotic and inept “leadership” it produces at every “election”. The diaspora has had or was capable of producing brilliant ideas for the nation for the past 30 years. Did we ever get an invite to bolster the security and prosperity of the nation together using diaspora resources and Armenia’s patriotic segment? All we saw was “give us the money we will take care of the rest”. Right, take care of the rest as in sell 75% of Artsakh to Azeris after causing the death of an entire generation of Artsakh youth who wanted to protect their (and our) nation, a very important part of it.

    And speaking of Armenia’s “military”, are we unique in this department as well? I say unique, not in a good way. Unique as in the only idiotic military in the world which doesn’t actually know what a military is. Or perhaps we don’t have a military at all, just a side, second-rate arm of Russia’s military.

    There is here one thing the current weak, inept and ridiculous clown show regime of Nikole is right about: we are weak now not because of our current politics but because of the “nakhkins”. Of course they stop at uncle Levon Ter Petrosian due to family ties, Armenia’s number one traitor who should have been given a military farewell for high treason a long time ago.

    So now let’s ask, did Armenia ever have a real military? If it did, there are two charges that I can definitely make: 1. That military is not/was not of Armenia, and for Armenia’s interests, and 2. A traitor organization which worked with the Pashinyan regime to sell Artsakh to the enemy.

    In a real military structure for any given nation, a traitor like Pashinyan and his gang of sheep would not have mattered for one second. His first act of treason against the Armenian nation would have been his last, and a military rule would then be imposed on the country. The fact that Bozo Nikole told the nation “What do we need Shushi for? It’s useless” – and lived to give away more lands – is proof enough for me that they are all working together. This means there is a gigantic number of ‘Armenians’ in Armenia who need to be dealt with, legally or otherwise and be charged with high treason. Armenia has a better chance of surviving a full scale Turkish invasion than to continue existing with its traitors from within.

    • I truly agree with you plus the fact that Russia doesn’t give a f**k about armenia. We keep on saying that we lack resources but our greatest resource is our diaspora, the idiot nigol just has no clue and so did the previous batch of 3 idiots. We will prevail again but this time the cost will be higher than 1990-1994. Let us not lose hope and let us work individually to help armenia and artsakh. The idiot has already lost his clout but still he has a few morons who support him

  4. The terroristic war imposed on the Armenians in 2020 was not a war solely between the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis of the artificial Azerbaijan republic invented on occupied Armenian territories about a century ago by criminal Soviets in collaboration with genocidal Turkey. This was the terrorist Turkish proxy war on the Armenians using Azerbaijani armed forces. This was a preplanned war and it was no coincidence that terrorist Turkey’s defense ministry had become the mouthpiece for artificial Azerbaijan in the weeks leading up to the war. It was also no coincidence that terrorist Turkey’s foreign minister Cavusoglu, who recently flipped the fascist and ultra-nationalist grey wolves’ sign at Armenian protestors, has openly claimed he is not just terrorist Turkey’s foreign minister but criminal Azerbaijan’s as well.

    In addition, half dozen other terrorist states and entities, directly or otherwise, participated in this war. Among them, terrorist Pakistan, Syrian ISIS terrorist paid-mercenaries recruited by terrorist Turkey and paid for by criminal Azerbaijani petrodollars, military assistance by some of the CSTO member states which pathetically Armenia itself is a member, AND the hypocritical and morally-bankrupt state of Israel which sold over five billion dollars’ worth of missiles and kamikaze UAVs (drones) to the enemy. To make matters even worse, the so-called Armenian military and strategic “ally” Russia turned a blind eye on our enemies and let this war take place.

    Given all these facts, we can therefore never say or assume that Armenia lost this war to artificial Azerbaijan for if the two sides were left alone to fight their own fights, I have no doubt Azerbaijan would have suffered yet another defeat despite all its wealth, resources and all military purchases and that is because they don’t have the military know-how to do much and that is where NATO member terrorist Turkey comes in. Turkish terrorists with 70 years of NATO membership since 1952 under their belts, planned, provoked, conducted and dictated this war on criminal Azerbaijan’s behalf. If artificial Azerbaijan with all its might, using same weapons more or less, not only could not even put a dent on the Armenians only a few years prior to this war in the 4-day April “rehearsal” war of 2016 but suffered massive losses that set in motion a potential civil war in that terrorist cesspool soon after then how is it that same incompetent army could do what happened in 2020 war? That was not possible without terrorist Turkey’s direct military intervention. Armenia’s fake “ally” Russia played a major role in this as well. Given how this war came about and how different it was from the 2016 4-day war, I can’t help but to believe Russia was in on this. Think about it, how can Russia invade a “brotherly” country of Ukraine with nearly a quarter million force and turn this country into ruins with nothing untouched under the claim of NATO encroachment on its territory by way of absorbing Ukraine WHILE remaining deaf and mute when NATO member terrorist Turkish military was not only conducting joint military exercises with criminal Azerbaijan in enemy-occupied ancient Armenian province of Nakhijevan only 45 kilometers from the Armenian capital but had practically moved into South Caucasus and set up bases there? It makes no sense. Why this double standard? I think because Russia’s KGB leader Putin always considered all 15 former Soviet republics as Russian territory and by doing nothing, and by making pro-enemy statements in some cases, was trying to bring the 1994 Armenian-Liberated territories back under enemy control which they themselves had seized from the Armenians and handed over to the enemy in the first place. For Putin, the restoration of the Russian empire, aka now-defunct Soviet Union, required the preservation of inter-state artificial boundaries.

    Despite the fact that all our problems facing us today began not a few years or a decade ago but that they started with our liberation of enemy-occupied Armenian territories and victory in 1994 in the sense that instead of forcing our will onto the weak and defeated enemy and reuniting liberated territories with Armenia, our short-sighted leaders settled on a fragile ceasefire which gave the enemy a chance to get back on its feet and fight another day, every single post-Soviet Armenian leader, in one way or another, has contributed to what happened in 2020 either by not doing anything such as by not upgrading the military with state-of-the-art weaponry, leaving this entire conflict resolution to the double-talking spineless Europeans heavily invested in Caspian oil & gas and therefore unreliable, involving in the theft of the country’s precious wealth and resources for personal gains AND handing over the government to an unpatriotic, dysfunctional, incompetent and treasonous leadership. Today, given the nature of the despicable and racist leadership of the artificial Azerbaijan, a gas station disguised as a country, a leadership that openly considers as enemies all Armenians regardless of their place of origin and birth, rest-assured this opportunist coward enemy, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, is not interested in any peace deal and more so now that they have the full backing of terrorist Turkey. They want the destruction of the Armenian statehood. After all, what do our two Turkish and pseudo-Turkish criminal enemies mean when they falsely claim themselves as “two states, one nation” when they have absolutely nothing in common other than a common Armenian enemy? A false anti-Armenian slogan deliberately coined to brainwash their politically-ignorant gullible populations and to send a message to us that the two are one of the same when it comes to anti-Armenian criminal activities. You have to be mentally-handicapped not to realize that slogan is nothing but a euphemism for the elimination of the Armenian statehood.

    What Armenia needs today is a TRUE patriotic leader. One who will conduct effective pro-Armenian foreign policy both with friends and foes while fully militarizing the country. Our enemies only understand the language of force and must be approached and dealt with accordingly. You don’t sit around a table and talk peace with leaders who want your destruction. You dictate peace to them with force. All criminal and despotic leaders are bunch of bullies. The more you appease them the more belligerent they will become. You must hold your ground and punch the bully in the face to get his attention and respect. That’s the only way and if there is a will there is a way. I personally and strongly believe that Armenia at this point needs to militarize the entire nation, worldwide and not just Armenia, and acquire nuclear weapons. We are a small nation with limited resources living in a bad neighborhood and therefore we need ways to compensate for that. Weapons that will make our enemies shiver seems to be the best solution. Look at North Korea, a poor country with limited resources where people are practically starving yet they manage to scare the living hell out of just about all nations and why? Because they have a massive army and they are nuclear-capable. We must put the fear of God in the hearts of our enemies!

  5. Pashinyan is a weak and inept leader. He is willing to give away Artsakh and will most likely accept the current border with Turkey thus giving up all of our rightfull claims to Western Armenia. It is BS that Armenia cannot defend itself. Israel has managed to remain strong even when surrounded by hostile neighbors. And as previously mentioned in the comments, N. Korea, a decrepit country has the means to defend itself against all hostile forces. The Azeri will attack again. And next time they will take Armenian lands. Our country needs a president that understands that only with military might will we be able to protect our country. I wrote an article on this after the loss of the last war..
    https://www.asbarez.com/we-as-a-nation-need-a-comprehensive-defense-plan/

  6. Let us hope that under the facade of peaceful coexistence with our enemy neighbours we arm ourselves ready for another encounter or to give us some clout when we sit in meetings with our neighbours. Nobody will help us that’s for sure.

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