By Grigor Hakobyan
Nation-Army (Azg Banak in Arm.) program launched by Armenia’s Ministry of Defense soon after the Four Day War in April of 2016 is a step in the right direction towards optimizing Armenia’s defense capacity and building an unbreakable bond between civilian life and military life for the citizens of Armenia. Despite any shortcomings that the program may have it is necessary for Armenia to have such a program in order to secure its national sovereignty for many years to come. Unfortunately, the program hasn’t gone far enough to also incorporate the resources of diaspora in defense of Armenia. Unquestionably, any attack against Armenia must be considered as an attack against all Armenians around the world and therefore will require a global Armenian response.
Nation-Army program is meant to utilize all available resources in Armenia including financial, industrial, human capital, scientific, educational, political, etc. to serve the needs of Armenia’s military. Additionally, the implementation of the program entailed levying of an additional income tax on all citizens of Armenia. It is specifically designed to raise funds for the needs of Armenian military. This type of national mobilization effort could be compared to English efforts during WW-1 and WW-2 as well as Israeli experience of securing their statehood which helped them to emerge victorious in a series of wars that followed the establishment of Israeli state in 1948. Analogues comparison could be made with Swiss efforts of maintaining strong, self-sufficient active military and military reserves. The system that they have in place allows them to mobilize hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers within a matter of days.
Since the implementation of Nation-Army program in Armenia vast financial and human resources have been allocated for the needs of Armenia’s military. As such all military positions along the Line of Contact have been significantly reinforced with new fortifications and military equipment such as long distance surveillance cameras, mobile night and thermal vision cameras, surveillance drones, automated fire control systems, latest MANPADS such as Igla-S and Verba, and a range of defense systems that are very effective against modern tanks and armored vehicles such as RPG 29, RPG 30, MILANS (significantly modified in Armenia), SPG-9 and others. Additionally, secured roads for carrying troops and supplies, mobile showers, drinking water and electricity became a permanent fixture in frontline positions that were not so readily available before. In some cases housing units were built in border villages to host families of Armenian officers and contract soldiers serving nearby.
The program allows residents of border villages to become contract soldiers and serve in nearby military installations found in their hometowns and/or villages neighboring them. Recent legislature passed in Armenian Parliament will allow war veterans, officers and contract soldiers to receive a number of public benefits that were not available before including free or low cost housing, vocational training, high quality medical care and college education that is either affordable or free. Furthermore, new patriotic youth and sport organizations were set up for volunteers and other civilians to train them in hand to hand combat, basic survival skills, emergency and first aid, guerilla warfare, orienteering, rock climbing, map reading and so forth. A number of indoor and outdoors shooting ranges were set up to offer additional weapons training to those who desire. Moreover, Nation-Army program allocates resources for promoting homegrown military industrial complex to meet the needs of Armenia’s military.
A similar program must be organized and implemented in diaspora where a variety of resources available to Armenian communities abroad could be inventoried and organized in a manner that could be quickly called upon and effectively utilized by community based organizations in support of Armenia’s security when the next round of hostilities breaks out again in the region. Where legally permissible diaspora based contingents of volunteer fighters and support personnel should be organized and trained in all aspect of military art. Additionally socio-economic structures to support diaspora based volunteer fighters need to be set up by community based organizations independent of state structures in Armenia. A diaspora based rapid response network of volunteer doctors, firefighters and rescue workers needs to be set up in anticipation of such needs arising during the next round of Azerbaijani military aggression against republics of Armenia and Artsakh.
The Armenian diaspora must proactively contribute to Armenia’s national security by supplementing state efforts with those of its own. Anticipating needs of Armenia in time of war and preparing to meet them effectively before called upon requires planning and active work months and years in advance. In the meantime, it is upon the government of Armenia to engage diaspora in the affairs of the state by offering greater government transparency, accountability and a say on matters of national importance. Giving diaspora chance to become a real stakeholder in Armenia’s political life and economic development by eliminating corruption and favoritism while actively facilitating positive interactions between the state and global Armenian diaspora will only help Armenia to better prepare itself against various challenges to its national security both presently and in the future. Arguably, this program should have been conceived and implemented both in Armenia and diaspora soon after the 1994 ceasefire agreement. Perhaps implementation of such a program earlier could have helped to end the war in less time and with fewer losses.