ArmInfo’s Interview with Leader of National Revival Party, ex-Defense Minister, Lieut. Gen. Vagharshak Harutyunyan
by David Stepanyan
Here is the first and the most popular question in Armenia today. What is the goal of Russia’s up-to-date military hardware supplies to Azerbaijan?
Military and technical cooperation is a part of the foreign political activity of the states and it helps attain foreign political goals, enhance the defensive ability and security. Military and technical cooperation makes direct or indirect impact on the state and development of the military and political situation, as well as on conflicts. Article 3 of the Law “On Military and Technical Cooperation” says that the key goal of Russia’s military and technical cooperation with foreign states is to strengthen the military and political positions of Russia in different regions of the world.
Why does Moscow seek to make Azerbaijan dependent on Russia?
Azerbaijan is gaining an important role in the geo-political fight for the South Caucasus. Turkey needs Azerbaijan as a conductor of its Neo-Ottomanism ideology and is therefore attempting to bring NATO to that country. This is a threat for Russia. So, the Russians are trying to curb these attempts. For Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh it would be good if Azerbaijan depended on Russia rather than Turkey. But I don't think that the Turks will let the Azeris join the Customs Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced creation of a joint air defense system with participation of Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russia has already a joint air defense system with Armenia. What goals will this new initiative have and what will it be directed against?
Putin's initiative to create a joint air defense system is a response to the Customs Union's enlargement. This system is just supposed to ensure the security of the Union. I don't agree with those claiming that this system will deprive Armenia of sovereignty.
Russia is strengthening the 102nd military base. It is also going to take Erebouni Airport on lease. The impression is that our allies are strengthening their presence, not Armenia. What for is it being done? How does it meet Armenia’s interests?
The enlargement of the Russian air force in Armenia comes from the treaty on the Russian military base prolonged in 2010. Before 2010 the base was obliged to guard Armenia's borders with Turkey and Iran. Now it will have to also guard the border with Azerbaijan.
Why does Moscow keep controlling the balance of forces between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
Presence in the region helps Russia to fight for the region. Russia's military doctrine says that all conflicts near its borders pose a threat to its security. And Nagorno-Karabakh is one of such threats. Russia does not want this conflict to resume as it is the only great power having a common border with this region. As regards Russia's supplying arms to Azerbaijan, unless the Russians do it, the Israelis and the Ukrainians will take their place and they will lose their control over Azerbaijan. I don't think that this will be good for Armenia, will it?
What impact does the “reset” of relations between the United States and Russia make on Armenia’s role given the deal on Syria between Washington and Moscow and the new role Iran has assumed following the Geneva Agreement with P5+1?
Armenia's role in the region will certainly change after the latest developments – the US-Russian deal on Syria and the Geneva agreement on Iran. Our control of Nagorno-Karabakh is a strong proof of our big role in the region. Russia's military base in Armenia is not only a guarantee of our security, but also a means for the Russians to enhance their influence in the region. As regards the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, Russia has never let Armenia down in this matter, and its further position here will depend on Armenia's policy.
May there be an agreement where Iran agrees to stop enriching uranium to 20% in exchange for the mediators' promise to force Israel to join the Nonproliferation Treaty?
Israel and Iran are the key rivals in the region, and a nuclear weapon would certainly be helpful in this rivalry. But the key factor that caused P5+1 to sign the Geneva Agreement was the position of Russia, China and Iran. It was a kind of a counterbalance to the policy of Turkey and the United States to pressure Iran by changing the regime in its ally, Syria. So, Israel's negative response to the agreement was natural. The agreement has given Iran a respite, and this cannot but worry Israel.
When the “cold war” was over, Turkey lost its role of the advanced guard in NATO and tried to control the processes in the Middle East. The impression is that the treaties on Syria and Iran have crossed out Turkey’s regional ambitions…
In the very beginning of Ahmet Davutoglu’s "zero problems with neighbors" policy directed at strengthening of Turkey through dissemination of Neo-Ottomanism, it was clear that the task exceeds Ankara's ability. They did not have enough political, military and economic resources for that. As a result, today Turkey has ended up with nothing. Its relations with all the countries of the region - Israel, Egypt, Armenia and Syria - have worsened. And today's jactitation of Turkey from Europe to the East are evidence of an extremely hard geo-political situation in the country thanks to the political adventurism of Ankara.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have a treaty on mutual military support. Can it be considered legitimate given that Ankara needs NATO’s consent to provide military aid to Azerbaijan?
Certainly, Turkey has got an opportunity to show military aid to Azerbaijan within the frames of the treaty on mutual military support and despite being a NATO member. No international treaty, including the CSTO, limits any country to show aid to its partner. NATO and CSTO were set up to protect from aggression directed only against their members. Actually, Turkey cannot but consult in the matter of showing aid to Azerbaijan, if this aid threatens NATO member-states.
In other words, will the developments of 1993, when Turkish armed forces came closer to the border of Armenia, occur again?
Actually, they will. At that time the Turks said about their intention to enter the Karabakh conflict, if the Armenians did not abandon the attacking operations in Karabakh. Marshal Shaposhnikov declared that Turkey's interference in the Karabakh conflict would result in the third World War. This statement was followed by the talk of Russia's defence minister Pavel Grachev with the Turkish president in Istanbul, and everything ended.
Given the analysis of the current situation, would you assess the possibility and prospects of new Azerbaijani aggression against Karabakh?
The possibility of the new war in Karabakh has sharply declined because of the following factors: rising of Russia's role in the world and in the region, liquidation of the threat of war against Iran and sale of the Russian armament to Azerbaijan, that allows Moscow to keep Baku under control. As for Armenia's joining the Customs Union and later the Eurasian Union, it will reduce the possibility of the war even more taking into consideration the interest of Russia in Armenia, and the fact that Azerbaijan is beyond these processes. The moral and psychological climate in the Azerbaijani army is much lower than that in the Armenian army. The material acquisition by Azerbaijan should ensure its security in three directions: Armenia, Turkmenistan and Iran. This requires forces and funds. Therefore this material acquisition should be divided into three parts. Meanwhile, by its doctrine Armenia is a guarantor of the NKR security, and all the strategic facilities and targets of Azerbaijan are within the reach of the Armenian firing means. As for Armenia, it is a protecting zone thanks to the treaties with CSTO and a direct contract with Russia. Finally, the most important is that Azerbaijan is not ready for war. For this reason, today to start a new war is equal to death for Azerbaijan. They cannot do that physically even irrespective of the military and political situation.