Saturday, 22 September

Movses Hakobyan: “Our army is capable of maintaining the ceasefire in the conflict zone”

An interview with NKR Defense Minister General-Lieutenant Movses Hakobyan

- Mr. Hakobyan, I’d first like to congratulate you on the anniversary of the liberation of Shushi and my first question relates to it. What was the significance of Shushi’s liberation for Karabakh?

- Thanks for the congratulations. As for the significance of the liberation of Shushi in terms of Karabakh we can look at the issue from several angles. As a commander in the military services of the republic I would single out only two factors. First, the victory won in Shushi restored Armenians with the belief that they could rely on their own strengths and lead them to take solace in one overriding truth. That is if you wish to command the respect and esteem of others first see to it that you can defend yourself and that you master the skills to neutralize the threat posed by the enemy, when the need arises. Secondly, the operation involving the liberation of Shushi showed that victory is inevitable if you have a leadership force and an army with all its prerequisite structures in place. Yes, these were the two important lessons that Armenians learned on May 9, 1992 and served as the core of their future dazzling victories.

- The Azeri military budget grows yearly. Won’t this upset the balance of power? What steps are being taken to maintain the balance?

- Lately, I’ve answered this question on several occasions and I must confess that the yearly increase in the Azeri military budget is of concern and only goes to show the aggressive intentions of Baku. Let me add however that in the final analysis every military budget gets its final evaluation on the battlefield. In passing I should also note that during the war itself the Azeri military budget outstripped our battle expenses many fold but as it turned out Baku couldn’t translate this superiority into victory. I don’t believe that it is possible to obtain an advantage or upset the relation of forces merely through additional military expenditures. Success is achieved not so much through the growth of the military budget but rather as a result of the more efficient and targeted utilization of the resources at hand. And I can assure you that we’re accomplishing this otherwise Azerbaijan wouldn’t have tolerated the ceasefire for fourteen straight years.

- Lately American-Armenian analyst Richard Giragosian stated in an article that the military preparedness of the Azeri army was less than its military expenditures would indicate. Do you agree with this evaluation?

- If I wasn’t an army commander but still possessed all the information regarding the Azeri armed forces that I do know, perhaps I’d agree with Mr. Giragosian. But my responsible position within the government obligates me to overestimate the resources of our potential opponent.  It is incorrect to underestimate the enemy and we cannot afford to make such a mistake.

- According to several studies the south Caucasus region is the most militarized in all of Europe. Do you agree with this viewpoint? In general, is the arms race a danger or a guarantor of security today?

- Given that there are still a number of unresolved conflicts in our region the arms build-up is perhaps inevitable. We are thus forced to view the process as both a threat to and a guarantor of security. This is the situation confronting us today and we must take it into account in all our decision-making. 

- The NKR army is considered to be the most fighting-ready force in the Transcaucasus. Is this still the case today?

- I am not the person to talk about this...There are higher bodies that periodically evaluate what we have accomplished. But it remains an indisputable fact that for many consecutive years our army has succeeded in maintaining the ceasefire in the conflict zone and ensuring the peaceful livelihood of our people without the intervention of a third force. All this speaks to the high level of our army’s military preparedness. Those high marks given to our army from time to time, rather than lull us into a false sense of satisfaction, serve to make us work even harder. As to the comparison regarding various armies in the region, as always, I’d rather hear about that from others than myself.

- The Karabakh war is included in the curriculum being taught in military academies in Russia. What was it about the Karabakh War that has made it required subject matter in Russian military instruction?

- Generally, the study of the lessons derived from various wars is vital in establishing a top-level school of military science. It is not by accident that 2007 was declared to be the “Year to reassess our army’s track record and to appreciate our best traditions”, during which the main emphasis was placed on those military operations that took place in the Artsakh liberation war that can garner the interest of any given specialist in the field of the military arts, with their uniqueness and operational characteristics. Of particular interest are the operations conducted by small detachments, their quick redeployment from one battle front to another, the characteristics inherent in creating army structures parallel to carrying out military operations, etc. Naturally, these are narrow specialist issues whose study and dissemination require more time. I am convinced that many others will study the lessons culled from our war as well in the future.

-What’s your evaluation of the negotiation process?

- I am convinced that the negotiations taking place under the auspices of the OSCE constitute the only avenue leading to the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

- In your estimation what’s the probability that Azerbaijan will resume military operations or do you think those bellicose declarations were merely pre-election campaign rhetoric?

- Regardless of whether those statements reflect a willingness on the part of Azerbaijan to resume military operations or not, our forces are always in the necessary state of military preparedness and will effectively confront any military challenge whenever the need arises. As to the probability that warfare might resume I must tell you that, given my official position, I am obliged to confront such an eventuality at any moment, even right now as we speak...

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