The heavy defeat suffered by the Armenian side during the 44-day war, will be subject to discussion for a long time to come. New details are slowly emerging and the real culprits, whose indifference and neglect of the armed forces plunged the nation into such a disaster, are being exposed.
Information released last week by the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), sheds light on the fact that for decades, the arming and supply of modern weapons to the Armenian Armed Forces, had not received adequate attention and failed to correspond with the state of war the country was facing. According to the latest data released by the SIPRI, between 2011 and 2020, Baku imported $3.274 billion worth of weaponry, while Armenia imported $398 million. The bulk of it, $248 million in arms imports were made in 2019, after the 2018 Velvet Revolution.
Following the four-day war in April 2018, President Serzh Sargsyan announced that the Armenian Army was fighting with weapons from the 1980s and many assumed that he was using that example as a metaphor. It is now clear that before and after 2016, the capabilities of the Armenian Army, did not see significant changes and no meaningful steps were taken to restore the military balance with Azerbaijan.
During the period of 2011 to 2018, $150 million was spent to modernize the Armenian Army. This amount is equivalent to about $20 million a year and it is barely enough to build two or three mansions in Yerevan, which the former government officials were busy doing. Rather than increasing the defense budget, they were engaged in looting the state treasury and depriving the soldiers of proper resources and defense mechanisms.
Si vis pacem, para bellum is a Latin adage translated to: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The former leaders of the country, completely ignoring the latter of this principle, have relied on the erroneous logic that the great powers would never allow the destabilization of the region, and even if the war resumes, Russia will intervene and stop it in few days, as it did in 2016. However, all these assumptions proved to be false.
The publication of the SIPRI report brings to light decades of neglect and mismanagement and will help us better understand the real causes of the defeat suffered by Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) during the recent war. Why the former Armenian government neglected the country’s army for so long, is a question that remains unanswered. Ironically, these same forces are now campaigning for the snap parliamentary elections and are accusing the current government of being “defeatists” who “capitulated” to the enemy.
Nonetheless, the Armenians in the homeland are more intelligent than some may believe. They can correctly assess the share of responsibility of each of the parties involved and express their views at the ballot box on June 20th.
The problem is worse now as Turkey will play a larger active role in the inevitable next war, so Armenia needs to spend, on UAVs crucially, and modern materiel. It also needs to train its army to be much fitter physically and it also needs at least 80,000 reservists. They need to look to China for materiel if Putin continues to play hard to get.