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Hrant Gadarigian

Pashinyan Decries Slow Pace of Military Reforms; Says Draft Evasion Conspiracy Exists

Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan, during his address at an event in Yerevan marking the thirty second anniversary of the formation of Armenia’s army, confessed that the pace of reforms within the military needs to be quickened to ensure the country’s future security.

Pashinyan pointed to several issues that needed immediate work during his speech to top military brass and government officials attending the event at Yerevan’s Karen Demirchyan Sport and Concert Complex.

He underscored his administration’s policy to establish a professional army instead of the current draft version. Those drafted into the army would be offered the chance to become contract soldiers at high monthly salaries and to live at home while serving at the nearest military unit.

Pashinyan ridiculed the tradition of many who offer “cheap toasts” of the army while neglecting a score of underlying problems in the military.

He noted that less than half of those now subject to military conscription are drafted, alleging that there is a corrupt conspiracy between the medical community and some in the military to issue fraudulent draft waivers. 

“If this is the case, and there is such a possibility, this is an alliance that destroys the state, and it is our duty to break the backbone of that alliance, because that alliance calls into question the right of our state to exist,” Pashinyan said according to an official transcript of his speech.

He pointed to his administration’s policy to allow women to serve in the military on a voluntary basis. Women will be able to serve for a period of six months, after which they will have the option to switch to a five-year contract. 

Now, women serve in the Armenian military on a contract basis only. Military service in Armenia is compulsory for men aged between 18 and 27 for a period of two years. The first female soldier to be conscripted under the new system was sworn in at the event.

Pashinyan said having a “combat-ready reserve force” is next on his list of priorities.

He stressed the need to improve relations between soldiers and officers in the army, and vaguely referred to “attempts and factors” seeking to turn the army into an “open or semi-open penitentiary”. 

Armenia’s military has been plagued with incidents of bullying and non-combat deaths. (A January 2023 fire at a Gegharkunik military barracks killed fifteen army soldiers.)

Pashinyan underscored the need to diversify Armenia’s security relations, claiming his government has signed contracts worth billions of dollars to purchase modern weapons. He said some contracts have been signed with domestic arms manufacturers. 

Pashinyan, in a reference to Azerbaijan, said that while Armenia is committed to the peace agenda ajnd has no territorial claims on others, “having a strong and capable army is the sovereign right of every country and no one can question our right.”

 He said Armenia is ready to sign a nonaggression pact with Azerbaijan and has proposed the demilitarization of its border with Azerbaijan to spur the achievement of a peace treaty with Baku.

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