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December 1, 2005

ACNIS Examines Military and Civil Relationships

Yerevan—The study of military and public relations is a new domain not only in Armenia but in the post-Soviet and Eastern European countries as well. Considering the tremendous role played by the armed forces in the spheres of defense and security, and the military elite’s impact on the political and economic processes in the country, military affairs, which traditionally are considered to be undemocratic, cause numerous problems for the authorities on the one hand, and civil society on the other. And the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a policy roundtable in order to discuss the development of military and civil relationships in Armenia, the political function of the army, the democratic oversight of defense, and other matters. The meeting brought together individuals who are currently and were formerly in charge of this realm, social and political observers, experts, and media representatives.

ACNIS director of research Stiopa Safarian greeted the audience with opening remarks. “The watershed that existed between the society and the military has become a thing of the past in democratic countries. But here, when the military now enjoys a fairly large influence on the political and social life after the heroic battle of Artsakh, we have an even greater issue at hand: to ‘convey’ civil awareness to the once warlords and guarantee social control over the armed forces,” Safarian mentioned.

During his policy intervention on the certain theoretic elements of military and civic relations and their peculiarities in Armenia, director Aghasi Yenokian of the Armenian Center for Political and International Research underlined that there is a substantive difference between military and liberal thinking, and the balance between them ought to be found. “The most important uniqueness of Armenia is the low level legitimacy of the authorities and for that reason it is difficult to speak about objective oversight. Armenia’s distinctiveness in this domain is dependent on historical factors as well. In contrast with many CIS countries, the army was created in Armenia under war conditions, when it was not easy to separate it from the internal troops and the police force,” Yenokian accentuated. According to the analyst, in order to improve the military and civil relationships in Armenia, first and foremost, the Karabagh war must come to an end, a regulatory law must be approved, and social control over security must be increased.

In his address, Armenia’s former Deputy Minister of Defense Vahan Shirkhanian pointed out that this question must be examined from the international, regional, and domestic political aspect. Shirkhanian spoke about the correlation between the authorities and the army since the declaration of Armenia’s independence, their role in external and internal policy, the ruling out of the army in resolving domestic political matters, and other issues. “The armed forces have always been one of the utmost factors that shapes internal and foreign policy. At least, that was the case in Armenia,” Shirkhanian noted.

In her talk, ACNIS analyst Alvard Barkhudarian explored the role of the media in military and civil relationships. “According to the popular view, television, which is the electronic information field of Armenia, is under complete state control, whereas, the print media and the online information network are more free and depict a more colorful representation of the defense sphere,” Barkhudarian noted. In her words, the topics which are tackled more often in Armenia’s print media today include the military involvement in politics, the function of the organizations that are close to the military, the ethical and psychological problems in the army, and the judiciary field which pertains to the armed forces, such as military crimes, court proceedings etc.

The participants in the ensuing discussion included Major General Arkadiy Ter-Tadevosian, chairman of the Central Council of Armenia’s Defensive Military-Technical Social Association; defense minister’s press secretary Colonel Seiran Shahsuvarian; member of “Armat” Center and former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Ara Sahakian; ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian; International Center for Human Development director Tevan Poghosian; “Region” Analytical Center director Laura Baghdasarian; Dashink Party’s press secretary Garegin Ghazarian; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2005, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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