Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
by Ashot Safaryan
The latest reports of RFE/RL Armenia Service on acquisition of Chinese AR1A multiple launch rocket systems by Armenia has evidently awakened the local mass media, particularly anti-Russian media outlets, giving them a fresh impetus to again call for refusal from Russian weapons and diversification of the suppliers of up-to-date weapons and military equipment.
Actually, Armenia buys weapons and military hardware mostly from Russia. Representatives of the Defense Ministry and other structures supervising the field used to say that Armenia acquires weapons from Russia at preferential prices, but they avoid speaking of the quality of the acquired weaponry. On the other hand, Armenia shows growing interest in up-to-date solutions of the leading European countries in the field. Yet in August 2012, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan said after a press conference with his Italian counterpart that Armenia is interested in Italy’s experience in the field of military industry. Cooperation with Italy like with many other countries is promising for Armenia. Poland, for instance, is taking more tangible but still timid steps to enter the Armenian market. In April 2013, Poland and Armenia signed an agreement to set up a joint venture of Lubawa Group, Poland and Charentsavan machine- building plant, Armenia. The company LUBAWA Armenia is expected to produce multiscale optical camouflage nets (87% of turnover), T-72 mock-ups (10% of turnover) and tents (3% of the turnover). These and other examples clearly demonstrate the Armenian leadership’s efforts to certainly diversify weaponry suppliers. Unfortunately, these efforts have not produced any tangible results in the view of some factors. Firstly, Armenia has political dependence on Russia and feels shortage or seeming shortage of funds. In the meanwhile, diversification could become a serious background for not only and not so much modernization of the armed forces, but for better maneuvering on the foreign political arena. Concealing their concern over delivery of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan and trying to ‘protect’ the Russians from the righteous anger, the military leadership of Armenia are well aware that "if you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” This dramatic principle is relevant to our neighbor as never before considering its huge military budget that is equal to Armenia’s state budget. However, extreme dependence on Moscow restricts Yerevan. What we can do now is to stay aside and look at how our strategic ally equips the army of our enemy.
In the meanwhile, diversification could make those deals transparent. It would be naïve to hope for transparent fulfillment of a contract given the corrupt Russian military-industrial complex and unhealthy state procurement system in Armenia full of “kickbacks and curve-outs.” It is hardly possible to apply such methods dealing with Western partners.
Hopefully, the Chinese AR1A multiple launch rocket systems will not become the only example of diversification in the field. It would be good if the country used the diversified military-industrial complex of Israel, one of the world’s leading arms manufacturers and exporters. Military cooperation with Israel would be quite effective for the Armed Forces of Armenia, but it requires close political cooperation of the countries. Such scenario seems impossible amid deep Armenian-Iranian interaction and Israeli-Azerbaijani relations, but in such fast-changing region where once strong allies Israel and Turkey are now on the opposite sides of the barricades, a change of geopolitical landmarks and preferences is just paperwork. It helps to remember that developing relations with Iran Armenia simultaneously receives tangible economic aid from the USA - Iran’s geopolitical enemy number one.
Talks on inexpensive, relatively accessible Russian weapons are wide open to criticism. Their goal is to justify the extremely inefficient military spending. Throw a glace at the car fleet of the Defense Ministry that consists of offroaders as big as armored vehicles, at the luxurious offices and mansions of military officials worth millions of dollars, to see that there is no shortage of funds. Effective management of the budget funds and a true fight against corruption would lay a good foundation for searching new weaponry suppliers.