YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a New Year address to the nation on Wednesday, Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian pledged to continue military cooperation with NATO and the CSTO in the coming year.
Armenia has modernized its armed forces and stepped up military cooperation with both Russia and NATO over the past year, Ohanian said.
According to Ohanian, Armenia’s active participation in the Russian-led CSTO and its NATO-inspired defense reforms, along with a series of military exercises, training programs and new arms acquisitions, have made the Armenian army stronger.
“As a result of all this, the interoperability of various army detachments and the degree of their combat-readiness rose considerably,” he said. “The year 2010 also saw considerable progress in the development of the domestic military-industrial complex. The army’s weaponry and other equipment was modernized and enhanced.”
“Military cooperation with member states of both the [Russian-led] CSTO and NATO was expanded,” added Ohanian. He pointed to Armenian participation in CSTO military exercises and the ongoing NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Armenia’s ties with the Western alliance have been developing under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched in 2005. A revised version of that plan publicized in June reaffirms Yerevan’s intention to “draw closer” to NATO and calls for a more far-reaching reform of its armed forces.
In particular, it commits the Armenian authorities to ensuring “maximum transparency” in defense planning and budgeting as well as an “adequate mix” of civilian and military personnel within the Defense Ministry. The authorities are also supposed to “review” the Armenian military’s chain of command and control procedures along the lines of NATO standards.
The updated IPAP was made public just two months before Armenia and Russia signed a new defense pact prolonging and upgrading Russian military presence in the South Caucasus republic. NATO officials have said that it will not hamper closer ties between the alliance and Armenia.
In his address, Ohanian said the reforms have already introduced “advanced standards” into the armed forces and will continue in 2011. Their results will be “visible to the society,” he said.
The minister made little mention of recent months’ spate of non-combat deaths of servicemen that have sparked a barrage of public criticism of the Armenian army command. Dozens of military personnel have been prosecuted, fired or demoted in connection with those incidents highlighting chronic abuses within the army ranks.
Ohanian has repeatedly pledged a tougher crackdown on army crime. Critics, among them human rights activists, say that the Armenian military is still not doing enough to tackle the problem in earnest.
The defense chief, who played a major role in the liberation of Karabakh, insisted that the army has become “more open and transparent” of late. “It is commendable that both positive and negative phenomena that happened in the armed forces were actively discussed in various public circles and the media,” he said.