Dr. Arshavir Gundjian

Urgent Demand for National Defense Strategy

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By Dr. Arshavir Gundjian C.M.

We would hardly be unveiling a national secret by announcing that the entire Armenian nation, extending from the motherland of Armenia and wounded Artsakh all the way to the vastly dispersed diaspora, lives today in a deep state of uncertainty and insecurity.

Emboldened by its military success and Turkish collaborators, Azerbaijan does not miss a chance to keep Armenia under the threat of random border attacks, which heighten further the Armenian national anxiety as they remain frustratingly unsanctioned.

The tragic end of the infamous 44 days war of Artsakh has unveiled the weaknesses of our nation, which experienced an obviously unjustified euphoria, initially stimulated by the proclamation of independence in 1991.

Armenians rushed to celebrate but forgot that the independence of 1991, just like the earlier one of 1918, was handed to us as the result of major political developments around Armenia, rather than being the result of any hard-won armed struggle. Independence has been taken for granted rather than treasured as a precious gift to be constantly defended and protected by a vigilant national defense system. As a matter of the highest national priority, such a defense system should have been carefully and constantly improved and maintained at a state of perpetual readiness.

Suddenly and painfully, the 44-day war revealed that all regimes after independence, including the current one, had irresponsibly neglected to implement the vital components of a core national security and defense strategy.

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We cannot escape the urge to make a comparison with Israel, even as we are fully aware of the big differences in the scale of available resources. Even so, it must be noted that compared to Armenia in 1991, Israel was actually in a far worse situation when it became independent in 1948. It had then a meager population of hardly a million Jews in a poor and backward desert land, surrounded by many millions of well-armed sworn enemies, all deeply motivated by the perceived holy purpose of annihilating that fledgling newborn Jewish state.

Today Israel is unquestionably an internationally respected modern and first-rate model country, with a tenfold larger population than at its founding. It has a first-class economy and an industrial and scientific network wherein the defense-dedicated component is at such a high level that it is coveted by the biggest nations of the world. The one obvious lesson to be learned is that from its very first day of existence, Israel wisely made its defense preparedness a top national priority. Its entire population, male and female, is invariably trained and ready at the spur of a moment to take up arms and defend itself and its land against any aggressor. Israeli universities and institutions are prolific providers of the human resources that have turned their defense industry into the envy of the entire world.

Anticipating the usual protest and arguments of Armenian wisemen, every time a comparison of Armenia with Israel is attempted to be made, let us once more admit that Armenia is not Israel and Armenians are not Jews in terms of their numbers in the world as well as their comparative economic potential and resources. On the other hand, with the same concern for fairness, we must admit that Armenia and the Armenians have had, and still have now, enough potential to aspire to reaching at least a respectable fraction of the overall Israeli success.

Yet Armenia today is very distant from attaining even such a modest objective. The mistakes that have been committed, which continue in Armenia today, need to be pointed out loud and clear, and stigmatized, in order to pave the path for immediate effective measures for corrections to be undertaken as urgent national priorities.

In1991, post-Soviet Armenia had a population of over three million living in a fully developed country, inheriting as part of the Soviet world superpower an advanced industry backed by an educational and scientific network of institutions of high international caliber. Thirty years later, as a result of sustained emigration, its population is now reduced to well below its original level, instead of at the least doubling in size. The thirty long years of precious nation-building opportunity after independence was wasted. During that time, the steady plunder of Armenia’s intellectual and material national wealth was permitted and even encouraged.

The disdain shown by independent Armenia’s top leadership towards sciences, research and higher education, coupled with the associated neglect of any planned development of advanced technology and industry, has led to the catastrophic brain drain from Armenia, to the benefit of many advanced countries of the West. Nowadays it is quite common in Europe or in America to come across Armenian names among the top-level personnel of highly respected educational or research institutions and industries. Many of these individuals are immigrants from independent Armenia.

At the same time, we hear laments from the equivalent prestigious institutions in Armenia, rightfully complaining that year after year they are left with unfilled positions for students in advanced studies as well as for young talents in teaching and research.

It is shocking to learn in recent news from Armenia that while we are justifiably so critically concerned about Armenia’s need for a strong national defense system and strategy, particularly in the past two years, even the meager national budget allocated for defense has been “underspent.” Evidently, some substantial fraction of the allocated sums was “returned” in order to be spent on “other needs” of the country!

A true uproar concerning this situation is well justified. It certainly is not necessarily a matter of being for or against one politician or political party or another. It reflects the unpardonably incompetent management of the country’s resources for many years now. This is an unmistakably suicidal calamity for the future of our nation!

Armenians must demand that Armenia’s current authorities proceed rapidly to plan and implement a national security strategy. Such a strategy must be based on an immediate effort to upgrade and finance the institutions of higher learning in all areas, but more specifically in the fields of teaching and research related to advanced defense technologies. Companies involved in the latter must be prioritized and helped in terms of finances, equipment and human resources.

All this implies the ready availability and wise allocation of substantial financial resources. As a starter, resources that are already available should be promptly and wisely used and certainly not returned, ridiculously, for other uses.  Next is the need to structure a targeted nationwide program of financial backing of this vital necessity for the survival of our nation.

Way back in October 2020, in an open letter appropriately addressed and delivered to Prime Minister Pashinyan, I proposed the launch of Armenia Reconstruction Funding Bonds to which all Armenians can contribute as an instrument of real investment in the present and future of their motherland, over and above and beyond any outright donation. Such a program has the potential of raising funds at the needed scale of billions of dollars. It is significant to note that that the Armenian Mirror Spectator article about Armenia Bonds generated at the time a very positive response from all, including even quite unexpected corners of the world. There was only the prominent exception of the office of Mr. Pashinyan, from which no response whatsoever was registered.

Without commenting further on this, today the reconstruction or the prosperity of our motherland is not just a wishful goal. It is a necessity for its very survival.

Beyond all the various diplomatic instruments which must be carefully crafted and maintained, Armenia must immediately develop and implement a world-class, effective self-defense system.

In addition to Armenia and Artsakh, the neglected vast potential of the Armenian diaspora must be wisely organized and used.

Let it be clear, however, that all this is the prime duty of the Armenian authorities themselves.

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