On 12 June 2014, the Regional Studies Center (RCS) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) convened a special public discussion/seminar entitled “NATO: Challenges and Visions.” The event was held in the Marriott Hotel on Thursday, 12 June 2014 from 16:00-18:00, and included presentations by Dr. Karl A. Lamers, the Vice-President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Deputy Chairman of the Defence Committee of the German Bundestag, and Mr. Koryun Nahapetyan, the Head of the Armenian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Chairman of the Committee on Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs of the Armenian National Assembly..
As the latest in our regular “Yerevan Dialogue” series of public discussions of critical issues of national importance, the Regional Studies Center (RSC) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) held an interesting public event focusing on the challenges facing the NATO Alliance in the wake of the new, post-Ukraine crisis security environment and offered insightful perspectives on Armenian-NATO relations. Moreover, the event was an opportunity for public education on this important issue, which will also address the prospects for the future course of deepening Armenia-NATO relations in advance of the NATO Summit in September 2014.
Similar to earlier joint Regional Studies Center (RSC)/Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) events (held in February, June and September 2013 and May 2014), this event provided a public arena for a more professional discussion and neutral debate of an important critical issue. More specifically, the event objective was to provide a neutral platform to examine the issues facing the NATO Alliance in the wake of the new, post-Ukraine crisis security environment and offered insightful perspectives on Armenian-NATO relations. Other related objectives include offering an opportunity for public education and debate over this important issues, which despite a flurry of media coverage, was never publicly discussed in such a format.
The event was opened by Dr. Canan Atilgan, the Regional Program Director for the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS). In her remarks, she noted that the event was aimed at “trying to set a platform for debates on various issues, trying to cover the international themes which are important for Armenia. In general, KAS tries to develop democracy in Armenia, at the same time contributing to the international dialogue. We try to promote the rule of law, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, peace and other core values in Armenia,” she added.
Following the opening remarks, Richard Giragosian the Director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), an independent think tank in Yerevan and co-sponsor of the event, introduced the speakers and explained the format. He then framed the debate by outlining the background of the issue noting that as an independent “think tank,” the Regional Studies Center (RSC) offers a regular series of similar events and briefings, aimed at providing an alternative source of objective analysis and information covering a wide range of issues.
He went on to say that this event offered a neutral platform to examine “Armenia’s significant role as a partner of the NATO alliance. In the phase of changing security environment Armenia’s national defense and national security is in need of even deeper reform. We hope that Armenia’s Western style reform, military education and acceleration as a contributor to regional security and stability will only continue.”
He noted that “Armenia poses a threat to no one in the region. We have reached complementarity and balance in the sphere of security and defense. The deepening ties with the NATO can’t be a threat to the Armenia-Russia relations in terms of joining the Customs Union. Armenia as a host of the Russian military base won’t change the Russian-Armenian bilateral relations. At the same time, hopefully, the western style reforms will continue.”
The first speaker, Dr. Karl A. Lamers, noted that “first of all, I would like to answer the most important question, which is: “What is the NATO and what it does”. NATO is a security organization which promotes democracy, peace, liberty, human rights, etc.”
He went to presents the “challenges for NATO in 2014,” including:
The developments in Ukraine changed the geopolitical relations in the region. NATO had set the frameworks of friendship with Russia in the post Cold war world. However, currently we should talk again about the dividing lines in the European continent. The independent states lost the chance to choose which organizations they would like to join. Illegal annexation of the Crimea shows that Russia tends to pursuit his own geopolitical goals ignoring the others. This crisis is a geopolitical game with all its consequences. Now we face a new paradigm. This is the most serious crisis since the cold war. Russia’s steps can be only considered as acts of aggression and violation of its international commitments.
After the elections in Ukraine we all agreed that these elections were fair and free. This was a clear signal that Ukraine can decide its own future. Currently we devote 80% of our time to deal with the issues in Ukraine.
We can also analyze the developments in NATO in the context of its own priorities, which are: 1. Collective defense, 2. Cooperative security, 3. Crisis management.
1. The collective defense is the number one priority for the Alliance. The validity of article 5 is unbreakable. It’s the fundament and cornerstone of the alliance. The principle is simple: 28 for 28. NATO is one family. In current world the defense also includes missile and cyber defense.
2. NATO strives to be prepared to intervene whenever there is a situation that can have an impact on the Euro Atlantic security. One of the most important news in this aspect is that the ISAF mission is coming to an end and a new resolution mission will start. NATO will remain in Afghanistan politically and militarily. The whole mission will come to an end in two years only.
3. Currently NATO works towards the burden sharing and SMART defense initiative. However in many cases the social measures are considered to be more important than the weapons and weapon procurement. We are facing a new cycle of individual action plans and also we are in strong need of civil and parliamentary control of our activities.
This year is the 65th anniversary of NATO, that’s the time when the people start to slow down and enjoy the retirement. But this is not the case for the NATO. We don’t get that chance. We will continue to act as a freedom and self determination guarantor. This is what we need to face the global challenges.
The second speaker was Mr. Koryun Nahapetyan, the Head of the Armenian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Chairman of the Committee on Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs of the Armenian National Assembly. Mr. Nahapetyan began by saying that “Armenia is directly involved in the discussion of many issues included in the NATO agenda. In 2014 in the OSCE summit will be the issue of Ukraine and also the role of the peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan. The new developments in Iran and Ukraine are the core issues in current NATO agenda. The expectations are too high now.
No one can question the Armenia-NATO relations. Armenia is involved in peacekeeping operations, has an IPAP, and seeks for deeper cooperation in fields of reforms. Currently a new IPAP was created. However the priorities for Armenia are the same: the rule of law, democratization, protection of human rights, peace, etc. We are also preparing for the next round of military defense reforms. We should also mention that Armenia’s National security doctrine and the Military doctrine were developed in the frameworks of IPAP and with the strong assistance of NATO. President Sargsyan recently announced that we support the reforms in the frameworks of NATO and promote the deepening ties with the latter.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is another structure which is used to raise the efficiency the NATO-Armenia relations. We try to use the Parliamentary assembly to raise or concerns and also to promote our interests. One of the formats that the Parliamentary Assembly uses is the Rose Roth seminars, where Armenia is taking part as a partner country. The next seminar, as you know, is in Baku and Armenia has applied to host the next one. We also deepen our bilateral ties with NATO. We cover the issues of bilateral importance and try to raise the efficiency of the cooperation. The cooperation with NATO will continue and get a new quality, he added.
Discussion and Question & Answer Session
The presentations were then followed by a dynamic discussion and interactive question and answer period for all speakers. The following is a brief summary of the discussion period:
David Shahnazaryan, RSC Senior Analyst
I hope Armenia will be present at the next Rose Roth seminar, as the questions that are planned to be discussed there are very crucial for Armenia. We appreciate NATO’s desire to continue deepening ties with Armenia. That’s important not only for Armenia, but also for the region as such. Please let us know the NATO plans for our region for the coming years taking into account that Russia is a threat to the European security in general and more specifically to the regional security. Some experts think that Russia’s next target is the South Caucasus. Will Georgia get a membership action plan in the coming years? We know that they want a Membership Action Plan, but first of all they want the Article 5.
As for the NATO’s role in the South Caucasus, we should say that this issue is still being discussed. Georgia has chosen the Euro Atlantic integration path and there is no alternative to that. NATO has referred to Georgia’s membership many times. There are many challenges and many obstacles for the final membership. First of all NATO wouldn’t like to have a countries among its members which have conflicts with their neighbors. During the coming summit NATO will make it clear what criteria Georgia and other candidates should meet to become a member. Despite the fact what kind of stance Georgia would have we’ll maintain our relations with our neighbor and continue the enhanced cooperation.
Karl A. Lamers
NATO will be enhancing the relations with this region, as it is a very important region for us. As for Georgia, it really deserves MAP. MAP is concrete next step for the article 5 and membership. However, the coming summit won’t be an enlargement summit. We should find the correct time for the MAP.
The developments in Ukraine changed the reality. Putin has a real vision and strategy. The Western countries should review their steps. We should first enhance the capabilities of the Georgian army and promote its interoperability. Even if Georgia gets the MAP, it won’t guarantee its further membership in NATO.
Deborah Wild (German journalist)
How much is the NATO reconsidering its military setup after the Crimean crisis?
What are you willing to do as a representative of the Bundestag to support the countries who decide to take the path of EU integration, as we know what happened to Ukraine when it started this path.
Karl A. Lamers
We already reconsidered and made sure to be able to react quicker than before. We have to think if it’s enough what we did during the last months. We have to review what we do, but also think to station more soldiers in this region. If we keep the norms of NATO-Russia pact, we won’t have the permanent soldiers in the region and while Putin is breaching the international pacts, we should be quicker in the deployment of the militaries.
As for the Association Agreement and Customs Union, it was clear that Yanukovich was pressured by Russia not to sign the Agreement. For Ukraine they should continue the cooperation with Russia and also enhance the cooperation with EU. The EU should find a new format for the cooperation.
The question of our support is a matter of a political credibility. It needs time to prevent Russia from the reaction you expect.
Ashot Mirzoyan (Historian)
Russian propaganda is strong but the Western one is not worse. I know that Crimea is for sure a Russian land. Now for NATO leaving the region is a priority. You work only against Russia. The Customs Union is a reality and you can’t do anything against that.
Karl A. Lamers
Crimea was an illegal annexation. Putin’s vision was distorted and that’s why he went to Ukraine and beyond that. We don’t have any alternative other than to react to this.
Armenia has a clear approach to the Ukrainian issue. Armenia would never sign any document where the right of the self determination is somehow violated. We announced about our approach many times in different international organizations.
Margarita Hakobyan (Armenian MoD)
How much of a challenge is the closed borders that Armenia shares with a NATO member country? What do you think NATO can do as an institution to break the negative image of NATO in the society because if this particular member?
Karl A. Lamers
First of all we should try to solve the problem itself. There were some efforts in the past. However that was not enough and we should more. Besides, this is a bilateral issue. We can support and create an atmosphere, but that’s all.
This issue is of course an obstacle to the Armenia-NATO relations. We always urge NATO to assist in solving this issue. Since 1992 we hardly ever remember any NATO official to refer to this issue.
The only time NATO remembered about Armenian-Turkish relations, was after signing the protocols. That’s all.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is more than an alliance, but is itself is a facilitator. Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan have unofficial diplomatic relations in the frameworks of the Parliamentary Assembly. From the Armenian perspective we want partner for peace. Unfortunately we don’t have it neither in terms of Azerbaijan, nor in terms of Turkey. Besides, Armenia is more realistic than Georgia, as we don’t seek for NATO membership now, at the same time deepening ties as a partner.
Tigran Grigoryan (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy)
Now the leadership of the countries now is conditioned not only how the countries protect their national interests, but also with how they protect the justice around the world. In this context, I would like to ask what will the reaction of the NATO be on the 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide? It’s for sure a problem of a global security.
Karl A. Lamers
We should discuss it. There is no possibility to solve this problem in this format. We have to do everything to bring both sides together.
Larisa Alaverdyan (MP)
Azerbaijan aggressive policy continues with the sniper wars on the borders, the threats against the Armenian state and nation, etc. Will you raise this issue in the coming seminar in Baku as a threat to the security of all the nations living in the region?
The Azerbaijani policy will definitely be covered in the Rose Roth seminar. Different aspects of that policy will be discussed in the context of other issue that is included in the agenda.
Karl A. Lamers
We should first of all take steps towards the fulfillment of the Minsk group proposals. There are three concrete steps: 1. No military measures, 2. Self determination and 3. Territorial integrity.