10, 2017

President Serzh Sargsyan’s lecture at the National Defense Research University

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Generals and Officers,

I am glad to be at the National Defense Research University. Decades ago as our volunteer militants in the battlefield fought for Homeland, when the provision of uniform and even simplest weaponry was a problem, no one thought that one day we would have three military universities instead of one. No one could even imagine that the then platoon and battalion commanders might grow into Colonels and Generals.

Today the pilot training course for commissioned officers and the senior staff of civilian special service is taking off. This is another step towards the formation of a fully-fledged national military education system. It is clear that this is just the outset, and there is still a way to turn this course into full-time academic training. As the saying goes, any journey starts with the first step.

Our army was born in war fires. Many Armenian officers of the Soviet Army joined the volunteer detachments which were being formed spontaneously. Among today’s generals there are officers who used to serve in the former Soviet Army, as well as representatives of the liberation movement. Thus, ever since its birth, our army has been and remains a popular army.

Our newborn army was able to cope with the task set in the war, which was imposed on us; they were as much successful in addressing the challenges that emerged during the past few years.

Our hero comrades protected Artsakh and Armenia at the cost of their lives and, at the same time, laid the foundations of the Armenian victorious army. The time has come to make a new and remarkable step forward.

Dear attendees,

Today we have a strong and well-organized army, capable of fulfilling its tasks. But this does not mean that our armed forces should not be further improved and developed.

We are setting today a new and incomparably higher standard. The drastic modernization of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia is a requirement of time. It is also dictated by emerging challenges.

I set a task to develop a new seven-year program for army modernization in 2018-2025. This program should be realized jointly – I, as commander-in-chief, the Defense Minister, the commanding staff of the armed forces, our soldiers and the whole society.

I instruct the Minister to report on his work in this direction within a two-month period. After discussions and amendments, we will approve the program on January 28, 2018, that is, on the Army Day. The program should be one of the main tasks of our State at this stage, if not the most important. Seven years later, the already active army must come to a new exceptional level.

The first important vector of modernization is the smooth transition to a new management system in the armed forces just as specified in the constitutional amendments. The draft law On Defense, which is being discussed in the National Assembly, addresses the first key component - the legal formulation of the problem. It will then call for elaboration and enforcement of sub-legislative acts and the implementation of practical steps in the prescribed manner.

Army modernization refers to both the organizational level and the whole range of armament and military-social issues, that is, army-related issues. We have always been engaged in this process, but now we have the task of accelerating it in order to provide for drastic forward development. We must move forward at a progressive pace.

As you may know, the next year’s State budget envisages a dramatic increase in military spending. The increase, however, will not be limited to a single year; it should be continued ahead. You are well aware that our weaponry has dramatically improved in quantity and quality over the last few years. Efforts will continue in this direction. Year after year, we will have new and significant achievements in this field.

Dear Colleagues,

We all have to clearly realize that the army can not develop independently and alone, so the whole State system must keep up with the time.

We must have one of the most modernized armies in the world. In other words, we must have a continually improving State, thanks to the army shall be modernized, too. That is possible, and we will reach that goal together with you, along with our entire society.

The conditions for military service should be improved for everyone, from the soldier standing in the front line up to the commander.

There are no minor issues and should not be here. Everything is important, from uniforms to officers’ quarters. The social guarantees are extremely important in this matter.

Discipline must be at the highest level. Parents raise their children, send them to the army and, therefore, they must be sure that while entering the barracks, their children find themselves in a new caring family.

The officer and the commander should be older brothers and parents for recruits. Non-statutory relations and negligence should be completely excluded. For this reason, we should not have losses, inappropriate losses.

Particular attention should be given to the problems of medical care. We must raise work in this sphere to a new level.

A few months later, the Yerevan Medical University will open its doors along with the most up-to-date rehabilitation center in the region for military invalids. It should become a one-stop-shop venue for treatment, social protection and reintegration of the military invalids.

Serious progress has been recorded in terms of medical centers, both in Yerevan and in the regions. Unfortunately, the Central Hospital of our Armed Forces is no longer considered to be up-to-date as compared to other state-of-the-art medical institutions.

There is no doubt that the medical institution serving the officer, military man and his family should be one of the best in the country. I instructed the Minister of Defense to complete work on the development of the Hospital’s terms of reference and design. I am confident that in the foreseeable future we will proceed with the construction of such a hospital.

Dear attendees,

We have taken the first important step on the way to attracting our best personnel to the military profession. Today we have the military-sports school after Monte Melkonyan in the most picturesque place of Armenia, which boasts modern conditions. In a few days, we will be celebrating the 60th birth anniversary of our comrade-in-arms. The time has come to seriously consider the modernization of Vazgen Sargsyan Military University and Marshal Armenak Khanfryants Military Aviation University.

Each link of the whole chain, from the front line on the border to the largest medical facility in the rear must act flexibly, coordinately and quickly, without any failures whatsoever. Each link should operate as efficiently as possible.

The army is where the rank-and-file and officers should get additional skills and training. The army should be an important venue where servicemen might enjoy continuous growth. Our army should not be merely limited to the defense of the motherland and the fulfillment of the sacred duty before Homeland. Army units should provide military personnel with the necessary conditions for getting broader knowledge.

I want to make a small digression here and say that all those speculations that we can see these days in connection with the transition to a new system and elimination of students’ right to army service deferment are simply nonsense.

At one time, when we tried to switch to this system, I mean 15-16 years ago, there were the same speculations, but then our tasks were somewhat different, and we did not go to the end.

However, at that time, having studied this issue, we saw that two years of service in the army or two, three or four years of employment with another work did not prevent anyone from making highest achievements in science. Therefore, I would ask you to give short answers to speculations like this.

I wish to tell you that I personally interrupted my studies, served two years in the army, then returned and took them up. Honestly, I was one student in the first and second year, at the beginning, and quite another student after the second year. And as I deviated from the topic, I would like to urge you to be proactive in the debate concerning that need to switch over to the professional army based on service by contract, etc.

First of all, people who talk about this are completely unaware that almost two thirds of our army is made up of contract servicemen: officers, sergeants, civil servants. And secondly: these people do not understand at all what defense security means. When we call up the 18-year-olds, it is not just for getting then to protect the border today: we need a mobilization reserve. The failure to call up the 18-year-olds, the recruitment of only those who want to serve would mean that most of our reserve will not have ever seen a weapon and, therefore, will not be able to use it in practice. That is, the two-year service is a process that deals with numerous tasks. I do not even want to talk about these tasks. So, you must be active.

I wonder that the army- and security-related problems are talked about much by people who may be have not even read 5-10 pages in a row, or in practice did not concern themselves with these tasks, while those who have the necessary life experience - I apologize for my word - simply do not feel like talking or arguing with them. But we will mot go that way.

The military-industrial complex is taking serious steps towards modernizing and equipping our armed forces with state-of-the-art technology and weaponry. A program for the development of the military-industrial complex has been drafted, which is very ambitious on the one hand, and evokes great interest, especially among the youth.

It seems to be obvious that by producing resources only for the armed forces, out military-industrial complex will not be competitive. Therefore, I have set the task to fully use our competitive advantages, namely our rich traditions, the availability of internationally competitive scientists and, on this basis, build tomorrow’s military science and industry. Armenia can hold a special place of its own among those countries that produce and export modern technologies.

Dear Colleagues,

Our people highly appreciate the selfless service of their defenders. It is important to ensure that after the service is over, Homeland in turn repays its debt to the military. Yes, I have said and I repeat: our officers are a new and special group of elite of the Armenian intelligentsia. Consequently, our officers must live their life in accordance with this social status. Our officer should have a better salary, living and working conditions; and a decent pension after demobilization.

The draft law On Military Service addresses the housing problem of military officers. Experience shows that the long-running program of apartment quarters, which implies numerous corruption risks, is rather exhausting and obsolete.

Instead, we can try to implement a program of affordable mortgage lending. Although the implementation of this program may put an additional financial burden on the State budget, I instructed to study it in all detail and give a solution to the problem in order to implement the program. And I am almost sure that we will be able to practice this system from this January 1.

We are also ready to find a serious source of co-financing for those officers who wish to join the funded pension program in addition to the existing military pension, in order to form a safety margin for their old age.

Preliminary estimates have shown that by contributing 5 percent of his salary, the military officers after 65 years of age will receive a monthly pension equal to the salary of an officer holding the same position as they did at the time of demobilization.

Since January 1, 2017, the fund for killed and disabled soldiers has started functioning. God grant that this fund were never needed, but the reality is a bit different. With this program we can solve the problem of financial assistance to the families of deceased and disabled soldiers - the most vulnerable group to date. This is the manifestation of a nationwide gratitude to our heroes. The fund operates according to the most transparent and accountable procedure. We should also encourage voluntary donations to this fund.

This year we are completely solving the housing problem of families of deceased servicemen who did not have a dwelling and became 1st group invalids. As you may remember, such a task was set during the well-known meeting. In late December, the Minister of Defense will report that the problem has been completely solved. This policy will continue.

Dear attendees,

We have so far maintained the military balance in the region. We will continue to do so. We will not be drawn into a quantitative race; instead we will resort to quality solutions.

Money is of course important, but not more important than intellect and ability. We will spend money reasonably: we will continue to combine these two factors: money and reason.

We will provide what is necessary for our armed forces, including financial means. We will not spare anything for the army. I promise it

The modern army, however, first of all, it is you, the officers. There can be no army without officers. There may be units formed only of officers, but there can not be units consisting of only soldiers. Everyone should understand this. This does not mean that we underestimate our soldiers. Everyone has to realize that the officer is the one to build the army.

All these reforms will become a reality, if only we ourselves find the opportunity to change and advocate a desire for change. This is also an extremely important circumstance.

Yesterday, during a meeting at the police headquarters, I repeated what I have been stating for many years: if the middle and lower links of any structure, any subdivision, or any institution will see that the leadership of this structure, division, institution is in fact fighting negative phenomena, that these phenomena are unacceptable for leadership, when they see that the leadership is striving for a new, always striving for changes in this rapidly changing world, then things will turn out there. But when the middle links see that there is only a formal demand, and the leadership does not at the same way, nothing will come of it. And it is just me to tell you that, because there is a law in the army: do as I do. If the commander does not know how to shoot, he can not teach the subordinate how to shoot properly. It is obvious.

A law-abiding, patriotic, skillful officer is not only the blacksmith of victory, but also of our everyday life. Therefore, first of all, I urge you to be vigilant in the course of fulfilling your duties, root out any manifestation of corruption, open the way for the advancement of young officers and a smooth change of generations.

Mutual respect and unity-based relations must be deeply rooted in our army. We need a spirit of one family, and the main responsible for this are the commanders of all levels.

Dear Colleagues,

It would be strange if I did not touch on the strategic situation that is being formed around Armenia. I assess the overall situation as stable, but this stability is fragile and full of numerous unpredictable developments. Not so far away from our borders serious military-political processes are unfolding that we keep in focus.

I recently voiced my principal approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly. Now I do not see the need to repeat here again what I said there.

Nevertheless, I want to emphasize a few circumstances.

Firstly, at this stage we do not have a military task to set or challenge in Artsakh. We have already addressed the task of protecting Artsakh’s civilian population from indiscriminate enemy firing. A peaceful settlement of the problem, among other conditions, should absolutely rule out any military threat against the peaceful population of Artsakh.

Secondly, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict precludes a military solution. Consequently, it is impossible to shoot with one hand, and negotiate with the other in order to find a solution. We are either negotiating or shooting. We are ready for both of them.

Negotiations should take place under peaceful conditions and in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Neither side can benefit in the long run by getting a short-term tactical or propaganda advantage. On the contrary, provocations make serious negotiations impossible.

Here I want to make a small digression from the topic and say that, frankly speaking, I have been facing rather a strange situation in the wake of the Geneva talks about as regards the rage with which the Azeri side is trying to emphasize that I have violated some agreements.
Sincerely, it is strange. And I am very much looking forward to our next meeting so that I could ask my colleague what has displeased them. At the same time, the matter is speculated by such people as are supposed to be unaware of our conversation at all, given the fact that we talked in private; if we had an agreement not to tell anyone, then how come an assistants or a deputy turns out to be familiar with the items discussed.

I assure you: I did not say a word out of our conversation. What did I say at the meeting with the Armenian community in Switzerland? I said that no Armenian leader can sign a document that would violate the security of Nagorno-Karabakh. And secondly, I said that Artsakh should be outside Azerbaijan. And thirdly, I said that the President of Azerbaijan is also concerned about the safety of his soldiers. So, what is new in here? I just repeated what I have been saying for 20 years, and what we have been talking about for 25 years now. That fact that we stated after the negotiations in Geneva that the tensions should be eased did not mean at all that Karabakh’s drive for independence should be weakened, too. Frankly speaking, it seems very strange to me.

We have not resorted and will not resort to retaliation or collective punishment. However, every military loss will trigger a counter-action against the opposing side.

Ideology is the third component of what I would like to accent. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not of an ethnic or religious nature. We have no problem either with the Azerbaijani people, or even more so with the Muslim religion. We are sure that people in Azerbaijan want peace; just this desire must be channeled in the right direction.
From the very first day of the Artsakh liberation movement, we did everything within the bounds of the law applicable at that time and in accordance with the international law. We really set ourselves the task of abiding by the then effective laws of the USSR and the international law.

I do not know how much we should be grateful to our older comrades, who could instill in us this correct idea. And it is for this very reason that we can now clearly state that the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, the conflict itself differs from all conflicts in the territory of the former Soviet Union, not only because the origins of these conflicts are different, but primarily because everything has been done in accordance with law and law.

Dear attendees,

In the course of history and in the modern era, we survived amid the most incredible conditions and continued to move ahead. At the initial stage of the war, one foreigner asked me: “What are you hoping for?" I replied that we have many friends, but apart from ourselves and the Lord God, we do not hope for anyone else.

String with this confidence, we continue to build a modern State that will be powerful and competitive, will boast high technologies and ultra-modern weapons. And you have a special role to play in terms of bringing this vision to life.

I want you all to understand that the time you spend on getting knowledge is the most important period for a person, and this period needs to be used effectively, regardless of the quality of the knowledge provider; I do not want to say anything bad to anyone here. But this is the time when you have to accumulate knowledge. There is no progress without knowledge.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you all every success.

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