Armenia is facing a severe problem: it cannot satisfactorily protect itself. This collective failure in defense and security policy, unequivocally, is the byproduct of the three decades of underdevelopment, mismanagement, systemic corruption and depletion of resources. The recent border incursions by Azerbaijan are symptomatic of this precise decay in Armenia’s security architecture. While these incursions, from an analytical perspective, appear to be tactical moves designed by Baku to exert maximum pressure on the demarcation negotiations, this still does not detract from the security dilemma facing Armenia proper. What has been an open secret for decades can no longer be concealed: Armenia’s security architecture has been defined by negligence and attempts of freeloading on Russia. As negligence and incompetence became normalized, the false assumption was that Russia will provide the safety net for our own failures. A combination of willful ignorance and self-deception led us to believe that Russia will save us from ourselves, from our own ineptness and from our own dereliction of duty. We are now suffering the consequences.
The security infrastructure of the Armenian Republic requires a robust defense doctrine, a reconfiguration of the country’s security architecture, expansive military reforms, rearticulation of Armenia’s geopolitical and geostrategic realities, closing the gap in power disparity with regional actors and competent institutional structures. Recognizing the institutional, infrastructural and material limitations facing the Republic of Armenia, a set of broad ranging policies must be developed to alleviate, mitigate and begin the process of addressing the shortcomings in the Republic’s existing security and defense policies.
Armenia’s Security Architecture
The political economy of Armenia’s security architecture must utilize and develop its security alliance with Russia, formulating a mechanism of burden-sharing through which Russia’s geopolitical interests are aligned with Armenia’s security interests. In this formulation, Russia assumes a healthy portion of the costs (not limited to monetary costs, but also in manpower, military resources, logistics and resource-allocation) for Armenia’s security architecture, justified through a policy of burden-sharing and mutual adjustment of interests. The prevailing logic of this policy presupposes that, by concentrating and allocating much of the state’s resources to domestic and economic development, and thus curtailing the degree of resource-allocation toward physical security, the partner state (Armenia) may exponentially speed up growth and development. The presumed payoff is the abdication of regional influence by one strategic partner to the other (Russia). However, considering the alignment of regional interests between Armenia and Russia, the process is not so much an abnegation, but rather a reification of the geopolitical realities.
Reforming and Developing
For the last 25 years, Armenia’s security policies were driven more by ideational boasting than the facts on the ground; more by regime security than national security; and more by falsely convincing the population of its military strength than actually having developed such strength. These failed policies produced more insecurity by creating a false sense of security. The solutions to these shortcomings are singular: robust institutional and structural reforms within Armenia’s security apparatus.
This, of course, brings about a very important question: How can Armenia implement institutional reforms in its security apparatus when it is consistently at a war footing and thus lacks the political will and the material means to do so? The answers are multi-layered and require extensive policy development in the following spheres:
1. Research and Development: Utilizing the country’s and it’s Diaspora’s scientific and technological experts, along with joint investment ventures in state operated enterprises (SOE), Armenia must spearhead an expansive military research and development project.
2. Development of a Military-Industrial Complex: Investing and developing joint SOE ventures through which the infrastructure for production of military hardware and technology is aligned with the state’s research and development programs. The synchronization of intellectual and research capabilities on one hand, and industrial capabilities on the other, remain at the core of developing a robust security policy.
3. Professionalized and Highly-Efficient Military: This fundamentally requires broad and expansive institutional and infrastructural reforms that will jump-start the modernization of the Armenian Armed Forces. These modernization reforms must include, but are not limited to, the following: improving the combat readiness of the Armed Forces in which all military units are permanently combat ready; enhancing mobilization capabilities; restructuring military units, from divisions and regiments to brigades as the standard combat unit; developing rapid-response forces at the operational unit level; expanding the size and operational scope of special forces units; and reducing the number of senior officers but increasing the number of junior officers.
4. Independent Truth Commission: The limitations, shortcomings, and collective failures of the 2020 Artsakh War, which are the culmination of failed security and defense policies of the last three decades must be empirically, objectively and non-politically investigated.
5. Reform Czar: The findings of the Truth Commission will trigger the subsequent stage of the reforms process, spearheaded by a Reform Czar, which will allow for the implementation of expansive institutional reforms. The institutional and infrastructural reforms of Armenia’s security architecture require several sets of sector-specific and technically-specific sub-policies, which will require the coordination and cooperation of experts from Armenia’s partner countries and international organizations.
6. Structural Reforms Within the Army: The institution of the army must undertake, at minimum, the following reforms: organizational structure; chain of command infrastructure; logistical and operational capabilities; technological advancement; modern armament; reforming military academies and implementing rigorous training for the military brass; and a rearticulation of Armenia’s outdated military doctrines.
Strategic Policy Areas in Enhancing Armenia’s Security Architecture
The current security situation that the Republic of Armenia finds itself in, along with the potential concerns of security for the Republic of Artsakh in the near future, stipulates the necessity of expansive reforms, structural changes, and broad enhancements that will allow for the systemic and wide-ranging improvement of Armenia’s security infrastructure, as well as the sustainability of this infrastructure for the dynamic changes in regional and geopolitical configurations. Aside from undertaking broad doctrinal changes, Armenia’s security and defense policies must specifically target the following strategic policy areas:
1. Enhancing Deterrence Capabilities – The general defense and security doctrine of Armenia until the Four Day War of 2016 relied on the concept of “mutually assured devastation,” contending that Armenia’s deterrence capabilities were sufficient to make any aggression by Azerbaijan too costly. This policy failed in 2016, and provided Azerbaijan with sufficient data to conclude that Armenia lacked the deterrence capabilities necessary to rebuff or counter Azerbaijan’s aggression. The consequences of the 2020 Artsakh War clearly demonstrated this. The outdated military doctrine of the Armenian Armed forces, and the underdeveloped defense policies that shaped Armenia’s security architecture demonstrated that Armenia’s deterrence capabilities failed. One of the most important precepts that Armenia’s defense doctrine must recognize is that geopolitical posturing, brinkmanship and the regional arms race primarily revolve around developing deterrence capabilities. With Armenia’s deterrence capabilities mainly depleted after the 2020 Artsakh War, one of the most important doctrinal changes that needs to be undertaken is the establishment of an enhanced deterrence capability. Considering the irredentist claims by the Azerbaijani leadership, primarily its incoherent position on Syunik, border demarcations and Armenia’s southern security belt, the enhancement of robust deterrence capabilities remains crucial to Armenia’s defense and security policy.
2. Increasing Military Budget – The doctrine of enhancing Armenia’s deterrence capabilities is a systemic approach designed to strengthen Armenia’s security architecture. This necessitates increases in funding for the state’s defense and security systems, the specifics of which include the broad range of reforms, from research and development, to establishment of a military-industrial complex, to modernization, to advanced armament. The increase in the military budget also stipulates the strategic allocation of such funding to important parts of a new security policy, as opposed to the traditional procurement and spending system. Considering Russia’s inclusion into the security architecture, and the enhancement of Russia’s role in providing physical security, cost-sharing and resource-allocation mechanisms will also need to be altered. Increase in the military budget, in this context, will contribute to reforms, improvements and modernization. Further, considering the fact that the increase in the military budget will result in mechanisms of investing in various sectors of the country’s security architecture, this will contribute to both broader economic growth as well as job creation. Noting that Armenia’s current military budget stands at approximately $635 million for fiscal year 2020, spending for reforms and modernization policies stipulate an initial annual increase of 20% for fiscal year 2021, followed by continuous and incremental increases of 10% per year until the modernization reforms are finalized. In the approximate 5 year range that the modernization and reforms process is approximated to take, it is stipulated that Armenia’s annual military budget must stand at approximately $1 billion by 2025.
3. Reforming Armenia’s Military Education System – Armenian military academies remain outdated, limited in resources, insufficient in quality instructors, and lacking in scholarly research and military academics. Similar to the extensive reforms that are required of Armenia’s public education system, such reforms are also necessary for its military education system. The three military academies that Armenia has lack state-of-the-art military facilities, academic training, advanced strategic and tactical training, preeminent experts and instructors and quality research. Due to the relative low-quality of Armenia’s military academies, the junior officer corps and military planners and strategists that this education system produces remains inconsistent and deficient to the needs of Armenia’s security architecture. Armenia’s military education system needs to be reformed and modeled off of advanced military academies, including rigor in research and military science, policy development and enhanced training in strategic command.
4. Joint Strategic Command with Russia – Russia’s overarching regional security role must also be intertwined with Armenia’s operational security, as the example of the integrated air defense system between the two allies demonstrates. New security and defense policies must also envision further strategic integration between Russian and Armenian forces at the operational level. Three developments are highly recommended: formation of joint mini-military bases in strategic regions of the country; joint special forces training and operations in strategic areas; and the development of high-tech combat-stimulating training centers within joint Armenian-Russian military bases.
5. Border Security – As the introductory comments of this article noted, the enhancement of Armenia’s border security, specifically within the regions of Syunik, Tavush and Gegharkunik, remains one of the most important components of Armenia’s territorial security policy. A new security and defense policy must utilize the following four methods of addressing limitations with respect to border security. First, the physical security of the borders must be reinforced with expansive construction and engineering projects, thus enhancing the physical security architecture in strategic border towns and villages in Syunik, Tavush and Gegharkunik. Second, consistent with the policy of Joint Strategic Command with Russia, joint mini-military posts will need to be established in strategic border areas, with integrated Armenian-Russian rapid-response forces supplementing units protecting the borders. Third, the air defense systems of the three regions must be enhanced, with localized sub-divisions of the integrated air defense units present in all three regions. And fourth, the technological and military modernization processes must first be utilized within the three regions, especially the construction and application of enhanced surveillance technologies supplemented by advanced reconnaissance capabilities.
6. Cybersecurity – The development of a comprehensive cyber security policy, and the enhancement of Armenia’s cyber security architecture, remain one of the cornerstones in strengthening Armenia’s overall security and defense policy. Armenia’s new security and defense doctrine must address the following factors: a) developing strategic defensive cyber security policies to provide adequate security for the country’s critical infrastructure; b) a systemic, nationwide policy on cyber sector management and coordination between different agencies of the state; c) advancing Armenia’s cyber security offensive capabilities, and formulating contingency plans in undertaking cyber attacks against enemy targets; d) improve and streamline Armenia’s Digitalization Strategy; and e) formation of a cyber army that operate as multi-level units both in the armed forces as well as civilian intelligence infrastructures.
7. Asymmetrical and Hybrid Warfare – The relative power disparity between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not only specific to distribution of material resources and symmetrical warfare. For the last 10 years, Azerbaijan has been improving its asymmetrical and hybrid warfare capabilities, while Armenia has been lagging behind within this security sphere. While Azerbaijan’s hybrid war doctrine is underdeveloped, and their operational capabilities in asymmetrical warfare unimpressive, they still proved more effective than that of Armenia’s, which was, to a large extent, nonexistent. In this context, one of the more important reforms required in Armenia’s defense and security policy is the development of a robust hybrid warfare doctrine, based on the principles of asymmetrical warfare as defined by military science. An important doctrinal change in Armenia’s defense policy must stipulate the importance of nonlinear warfare as a crucial instrument in the arsenal of the Armenian security doctrine. Strategies of nonlinear warfare must be developed that utilize economic, political, psychological and cyber assaults against enemy threats or targets. The weaponization of information remains a serious deficiency in both the defensive and offensive arsenal of the Armenian state, and the development of a strong asymmetrical and hybrid warfare doctrine is crucial to the security architecture of the Republic.
8. Modern Armament  – The qualitative power disparity in military armament between Armenia and Azerbaijan is staggering, as Azerbaijan, in the last decade, proceeded to advance its purchasing of diverse armaments, while Armenia remained stagnant and unidimensional. Azerbaijan’s quantitative advantage in short-range missiles is further exceeded by its qualitative and quantitative advantage in UAV arsenal, which has fundamentally shifted the balance of power in the South Caucasus. To re-establish the balance of power, enhance Armenia’s deterrence capabilities, and reinforce the modernization of the military’s armaments, five policy recommendations are proposed:
Armenia must qualitatively match and quantitatively surpass Azerbaijan’s short-range and ballistic missile capabilities. Armenia’s small missile inventory approximately includes 30 launchers of various missile systems (primarily Toschka, Iskander, and Scud B), with approximately 100 ballistic missiles in its arsenal. To offset the military imbalance and qualitatively improve potential performance in war, Armenia’s ballistic missile inventory must exceed the 300 range, which will provide a deterrence capability and further offset Azerbaijani aggression.
Azerbaijan’s rocket artillery, especially its procurement of Turkish TRG-300s, and the general quantitative advantage in sheer numbers, places Azerbaijan at an operational advantage in the theater of war. Both the quality and the quantity of Armenia’s rocket artillery inventory must be exponentially increased. Collectively, dual increase in the strategic stockpile of ballistic and rocket artillery capabilities is a necessity in order to create both a deterrence principle vis-a-vis Azerbaijan, as well as allow for maximum operational performance in the theater of war.
The extreme disparity in UAV capabilities diminishes the ability of the Armenian Armed Forces to operate efficiently and methodically in the theater of war. While matching Azerbaijan’s UAV inventory would be overly-expensive and tactically questionable, Armenia must invest in the development and procurement of the next generation of UAVs. The numerical disadvantage must be satisfied with a qualitative solution. The next generation of technologically-advanced weaponry must also include combat robotics, especially considering Armenia’s relative advancement in robotics.
Armenia’s air defense system must exponentially modernize, considering the fact that it consists primarily of obsolete Soviet-era systems (9k33 Osa, 2K12 Kub, 2K11 Krug, and 9k35 Strela-10), which remain incapable in combating Azerbaijan’s UAV capabilities. The Tor-M2KM, Buk and S-300 systems in its arsenal, while excellent against traditional aircraft, are not designed to address the UAV problem in the theater of war. Armenia possesses almost no electronic warfare technology, and the enhancement of Armenia’s air defense system through the procurement of electronic warfare technology is an urgency, especially the need for a large inventory of Krasukha jamming systems and the Polye-21 EW system.
The entire modernization of Armenia’s armament must address the ratio in discrepancy between new and obsolete weapons. In modern militaries, the ratio is 80% new weaponry and 20% obsolete weaponry. Armenia’s armament capabilities are not commensurate with modern military armament doctrines. Domestic research and development, establishment of a military-industrial complex and the procurement of complex systems from allied or friendly states are the crucial mechanisms in holistically addressing the obsolete infrastructure of Armenia’s weapons inventory.
Armenia’s security dilemma has been birthed by a complex mixture of geopolitical nightmares, predatory neighbors, self-inflicted failures and a systemically negligent security architecture. Unless Armenia gets its act together and undertakes expansive and difficult institutional, infrastructural and doctrinal reforms, it will continue to perpetuate the failures of the last three decades. The illusion of peace should not distort the inevitability of war. Armenia embraced this illusion for 30 years, only to have it shattered in 44 days. Whether we want it or not, martial rigor is part of Armenian life, and we must face this reality through the Latin adage: “let him who desires peace prepare for war” (Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum).