Local opposition experts believe that Pashinyan is playing a cunning game to adjust the army to himself, that is, his vertical of power, and that the prime minister’s office is playing along with him, declaring the need for reforms of a hopelessly outdated structure. However, it is possible that Armenia’s preparations for a new war with Azerbaijan are motivated by “reforms” in the defence industry.
Germany was punished twice for its military aggression in the last century – following the results of the First and Second World Wars – it was forbidden to have its own army until Germany joined NATO and other military resources, and in 1945 it was vigilantly taken under control by the victorious countries. Armenia has not signed such obligations on paper, but if Yerevan exhausts its limit of confidence in Baku and continues to arm itself and provoke military actions, the capitulating country may be forced to make this decision. Meanwhile, Baku is observing and analysing.
So, the Armenian parliament adopted in the second, final reading a package of draft laws on amendments and additions to the law “On Defence” and the submitted regulations.
The package redefines the government’s powers in the defence sphere: the powers in the field of mobilisation, training, and mobilisation are established separately, and a number of Security Council-adopted plans and programmes are included in the republic’s defence plan, the terms of authority of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the Defence Ministry, as well as the defence minister himself, are edited and clarified. The Defence Ministry receives all material and technical means in the process of providing the Armed Forces, including warehouse management and the organisation of centralised cargo transportation, as well as the entire range of purchases for the Armed Forces’ needs. There is also a decision to merge two important military institutes, the Khanperyants Military Aviation University and the Sargsyan Military University, and to establish a military academy on their foundation.
“The package of changes is aimed at improving the efficiency of management in the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces, the management vertical is very important here, which will lead to the fact that we will be able to receive first-hand information about the results of our civilian control,” Defence Minister Suren Papikyan said.
The main reason for the changes is interesting: the position of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces is fixed as the first deputy defence minister, who, however, is not a substitute official for the minister.
And here it is worth speculating and thinking, asking the question: what would all this mean?
On the one hand, it is obvious that there is a crisis of power in the military sphere in Armenia. During the 44-day war, the army command showed its complete incapacity. An even more important reason, apparently, and motivating Pashinyan is the threat of a coup and the removal of the country’s leadership by the military elite. As almost happened in February 2021, when the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces demanded Pashinyan’s resignation from the prime minister post.
Then Pashinyan dismissed his chief Onik Gasparyan from the leadership of the General Staff, who demanded the resignation of the prime minister along with 40 other high-ranking officers. And then the repression of the discontented began.
As a result, according to a number of Armenian experts, the current reform is simply Pashinyan’s attempt to reassign the General Staff and other structures to himself, thereby securing his power from the threat of a new military coup. And all of the other solutions are just a distraction from the main task.
In any case, an MP from the I have Honor faction, security expert Tigran Abrahamyan, on his Facebook page claims that this is the case.
“The authorities have presented a package of legislative initiatives, the sole purpose of which is to make the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces the first deputy defence minister. I have repeatedly analysed this topic from various points of view, therefore I will not refer to it again. This involved technical changes in several laws at once. We have been talking about this for four to five months, about four months ago we even submitted written proposals – observations to the Defence Ministry, and the General Staff, but for the authorities, this is a political decision, period. Therefore, they did not even answer,” the MP said indignantly.
And military expert Karen Vrtanesyan said in general that he does not see any sense in the reform.
“I don’t expect anything good, considering who is at the helm of power today. I do not think that the team in power, in general, seeks to change something for the better in the army, on the contrary, all their actions lead to the dismantling of the army. This is actually a reform developed before 2018 and planned by [former] Defence Minister Vigen Sargsyan, which has now been implemented with a delay of four years,” Karen Vrtanesyan said.
Meanwhile, despite these assessments, Baku should be on high alert. Yerevan continues to keep hordes of armed separatists in Karabakh and organises border provocations on a regular basis. Not to mention that Pashinyan attempted to negotiate the supply of new weapons with Moscow. His mission, however, was a colossal failure, and Moscow even made it clear to Yerevan that it was unlikely to provide Armenia with weapons in the near future, even for free or at a significant discount. It is obvious, of course, that the large-scale armament of Armenia’s troops is not exactly shining yet, but another thing is also clear – it does not give up trying to build up its army to such a state when it will be possible to try to unleash a new war against Azerbaijan. But Baku remains vigilant and does not relax for a minute, which, in particular, is indicated by the build-up of the military budget.