Author: Namig MAYILOV
The Armenian Ministry of Defence brought a project to create a paramilitary militia into public debate. It is expected that the existing Law on Defence will be amended.
"It was necessary to raise the issue of the defence of the Republic of Armenia to a universal and nationwide level, to be able to give a relevant response to any actions of a potential enemy by creating and organising a voluntary militia system," the ministry stated.
According to the document, the militia can be used to defend the borders or dangerous sections of the line of contact with the enemy, in the fight against sabotage or reconnaissance groups attempting to penetrate the Armenian territory, in the protection of objects of special importance, communication routes of troops, and organization of civil defence.
The militia is supposed to operate on a territorial basis, in accordance with the administrative division of the republic. It will consist of paramilitary detachments divided into battalions and brigades. The general management of battalions and brigades will be carried out by the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces with the help of the newly formed militia headquarters.
“Not only the danger of a large-scale war determined the establishment of militia. The intention is to ensure the readiness of the society to respond to various military challenges and threats,” Armenian Defence Minister David Tonoyan said.
He admitted that in the event of a large-scale war, the current resources of the Armenian army might not be enough. At the same time, Mr. Tonoyan linked the likelihood of war with the bellicose statements actively voiced by "separate neighbouring countries".
It is clear that, speaking of a full-scale war, Tonoyan means a war with Azerbaijan, and the minister is right that the resources of the Armenian army will not be enough. According to World Military Strength Rankings for 2020, Azerbaijan is the leader of the South Caucasus in terms of military power – 63rd strongest army out of 138 states, while Armenia is only the 112th.
As for the statements that Tonoyan refers to, Armenian side prefers remaining silent about their context. Azerbaijan is committed to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Nevertheless, it does not exclude a military method of liberating its lands from occupation. This is Azerbaijan’s sovereign right. If Armenia is worried about Baku's militant rhetoric, then it should not gather militias, but leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, as required by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and other international organisations.
It is interesting that Mr. Tonoyan, who is the man behind the formula "new war - new territories", speaks about the defensive nature of the alleged Armenian militias. Just a year ago, he announced that Armenia would increase its offensive units, in particular those that "can transfer military operations to the enemy's territory."
A month ago, Yerevan's attempt to move the military confrontation with Azerbaijan from occupied Karabakh to the state border with the aim of involving third countries in the conflict failed. At the end of August, the Azerbaijani military prevented a sabotage by the Armenian military. As a result, the commander of the reconnaissance unit, Senior Lieutenant Gurgen Alaverdyan, was captured. In the last days of August, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made another illegal visit to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. “We were presented the engineering works to improve the infrastructure at combat positions, to improve the safety and the social conditions of servicemen of personnel, to introduce new technologies for reliable protection of positions. The army was and remains our priority of priorities,” Armenian prime minister wrote on his Facebook page.
Many other facts also prove Armenia's interest in exacerbation of the military-political situation in the region. Instead of preparing its people for compromises in order to achieve peace, the Pashinyan government is going to distribute weapons to the civilian population, knowing well that it is nothing but turning them into cannon fodder. Perhaps the objective is to accuse Azerbaijan of killing civilians.
In fact, Armenia is quite experienced in creating all kinds of armed groups, such as the world famous terrorist organisation ASALA and the Yerkrapah volunteer union. The idea of creating militias may look attractive in the context of the resettlement of Armenian refugees from Syria and Lebanon. But the latest technologies play the main role in modern wars of the 21st century, not the manpower. It is enough to recall the April 2016 war and the recent battles along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border near the region of Tovuz, Azerbaijan. It is unlikely that Armenia will have enough power to support paramilitaries in parallel with the army and train the so-called militias in new military technologies.
Why then does Nikol Pashinyan need old folks with machine guns? Let's try to figure out.
Unlike Azerbaijan, where more than 50,000 people mobilised voluntarily after the Tovuz battles at the call of President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian mothers oppose sending their sons to serve in foreign lands. The Armenian youth is growing up as pragmatic globalists and is absolutely indifferent to the crazy idea of Great Armenia. This is not true for the older generation, who continue to hate anything Turkic. On the other hand, Armenia still experiences the demographic crisis and problems with the supply of the armed forces. As the aide to the President of Azerbaijan noted, the provocations in Tovuz again showed that the Armenian armed forces were unable to recruit their personnel, so they tried to get out of the situation using the units from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and mercenaries from the Middle East: “Armenia continues to deploy mercenaries on the front line. They hide facts of their death in military operations. Since the killed are not registered with the Armenian armed forces, Armenia is trying to present everything as if the Armenian army has no casualties,” Hajiyev said.
What else could have prompted Nikol Pashinyan's government to create a militia? Isn't it the need to secure his own power? First, because the high expectations of the Armenian society from the revolutionary authorities did not come true. Moreover, during the pandemic, Armenia found itself in a deep crisis. Secondly, Pashinyan's desire for sole power mobilized opposition forces against him. And most importantly, the Armenian prime minister does not forget about the threat of confrontation with the criminal Karabakh clan.
Armenian human rights activist Nina Karapetyants, for example, does not exclude that the armed militia can be used in internal political showdowns. “The most important thing is that this does not guarantee that at some point the militias will not try to take part in actions on the streets of Yerevan, in the centre of the city with weapons in their hands, there is no such guarantee. I believe that a state with a regular army does not need additional separate armed units with an incomprehensible status,” Karapetyants said in her interview with radio Azatutyun.
The human rights activist recalls the behaviour in the recent past of a similar structure - the Union of Volunteers Yerkrapah. “Life prompts, and we had such an experience in the person of Yerkrapah, when during certain events people can take one side or the other, suppose they can be used by authorities or some kind of force.”
It is quite possible that the idea of creating a 100,000-strong national militia in Armenia is doomed to failure, as is the concept of Nation-Army put forward by the former Defence Minister Vigen Sargsyan. However, the promotion of such an initiative is a rather dangerous venture, primarily for Armenia itself.