YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s armed forces should play a greater role in the county’s social and economic life, the newly appointed Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan said on Wednesday.
Sargsyan, who managed the Armenian presidential staff until this week, made a case for building a “nation-army” in his first public comments made in the new capacity.
“Given the environment our state is in, the region, the existing political challenges, it’s obvious that a large army will remain part of our reality,” he told the Armenian parliament. “Therefore, we need to understand two important things. First, how to ensure that the army…turns from being a very heavy burden on our state and economy into a leader and locomotive of that state and economy?”
“That means the entire population, not just those who serve in the armed forces, should have many scientific, economic, industrial or other projects related to the army,” he said. “In that sense, the army can become a solution, rather than a problem.”
“And the second important component is that the army must turn from a mere mirror of the society into a school and workshop of the society. That is, a soldier demobilized from the army should be much more patriotic, better educated, stronger and combat-ready than those young people who are called up by the armed forces,” Sargsyan added during the Armenian government’s question-and-answer session in the National Assembly.
The U.S.-educated minister did not give further details of the transformation advocated by him. He said only that both President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian agree with his vision for national defense.
Sargsian, 41, was named Defense Minister on Monday as part of a government reshuffle that followed the September 8 resignation of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. Introducing him to Armenian Defense Ministry staff, Sarkisian said the new minister will have to focus on a broader range of tasks, including “military-political diplomacy,” military education and social security of military personnel.
“The defense minister must deal very little with day-to-day activities of troops,” the president said.