Interviews and press conferences

Prime Minister Pashinyan's interview to the "Security Environment" program of the Public Radio of Armenia


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Public Radio - Hello, dear radio listeners, I also welcome our followers of the Facebook platform and website of the Public Radio of Armenia. "Security Environment" is on the air, I am Baregham Ghukasyan.

Dear friends, the core of the discussion today is the key conceptual issues of Armenia's security environment, the security challenges facing us, and ways to solve them. In this context, today we will talk, in particular, about the amendment of the Constitution, the peace agenda, the "Crossroads of Peace" and other topics. Today we have the honor to host the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.

Hello, Mr. Prime Minister. If I'm not mistaken, this is your second visit to the Public Radio Company of Armenia after the revolution, maybe the first big interview, if we don't count that you had a small interview with “News” program a year after the revolution. In short, today we will have a big interview, for which I thank you again for being hosted at the Public Radio of Armenia.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you for the invitation.

Public Radio - Let's get straight to the important issues. Mr. Prime Minister, you recently spoke about legitimacy, an important factor in ensuring Armenia's external security. What does it imply, what is the legitimacy on which the government's strategy should be based?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Thank you. Of course, the topic of the daily work of any government, and even more so the head of the government, is how to ensure security, how to ensure the security of the country, the state, moreover, in the period we live, this question is practically urgent, if not for all, at least for many countries, due to the existing international situation. Naturally, the first answer to this question is to reform the army, strengthen the army and have a combat-ready army capable of solving problems.

The second tool for ensuring security, as I said the other day in the speech dedicated to our Army Day, is foreign relations, and I think there is nothing new in these two notes. I mean this has always been said before, and this topic - army and diplomacy - there is nothing new here.

Now the issue of legitimacy, I really consider it important to add it to these two components. Why? Because both in foreign relations and in the context of building an army, it is very important to have legitimate goals. What do I mean by saying legitimate goals? Legitimate, I also emphasized in my speech, from the point of view of international perception, not so much and not only from the point of view of internal perception, but from the international point of view.

Public Radio – You mean understandable to the outside world?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, understandable for the outside world, and the problem here is, in fact, if there is dissonance between our internal perception and external perception, the security threat is generated in that dissonance. And to address the security threat, that crack between external perception and internal perception, legitimate expectation and legitimate policy must be filled.

Public Radio - Essentially, balancing internal perceptions of legitimacy with external world perceptions so that there is no rupture between the two.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, prevent the rupture, and prevent the negative energy that leads to a security threat and its implementation in the room of that rupture. Now where do we see or where do you see the limit of that legitimacy, because this is also important, legitimacy is legitimacy, but what does that mean in practice? And in the context of the issue we are discussing, I see legitimacy in the internationally recognized border of Armenia. And on this basis, I want to comment on the relationship with the previous two concepts. Look, first we emphasize and it is the legitimate right of every country to have a strong and capable army. But this issue needs further discussion, because if you have a strong and capable army to achieve legitimate goals, no one can tell you why you are strengthening your army. If you set a goal, the legitimacy of which can be questioned externally and internationally, many problems arise here.

Now, to be more clear, I am saying that we must strengthen our army, make it combat-ready in order to protect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence and territory of our country. And here the question arises: what is the territorial integrity of our country? The territorial integrity of our country, as I have mentioned, is the identical territorial integrity of the territory of the Armenian SSR. And now, when we say that we are strengthening our army to ensure the security of this area, no one can ask we are doing this. But if we formulate the task of strengthening the army in the following way, that we are strengthening it in order, for example, to restore historical justice, a very simple question arises: why should others allow that army to become stronger for, conditionally speaking, solving an issue of historical justice. Clearly, it is at least not wise to allow that army to grow so strong to deal with that strengthened army later on.

Public Radio - But now we don't send such messages to the world, do we?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I say that we should not send such messages to the world, but you know what, I don't want this conversation to be between us and the world. I want this conversation to be between us, because now I am not talking to the world, I am talking to you and the audience of the Public Radio and the citizens of the Republic of Armenia through you. This is a very important nuance, by the way, I will also emphasize a very important nuance in terms of legitimacy. We also need to identify the discourses of inner and outer world or inner and outer talk, because here too when a crack occurs, energy is generated in that crack, which creates a problem for our external security. And so, answering your first question, I said what I mean by legitimacy. I mean legitimacy, referring to the security of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, territorial integrity, independence of the Republic of Armenia and ensuring normal conditions for development.

And the next fact is that this should be the foundation of our strategic vision of security. What does this mean? This means that we must align everything, all policies, all discourses, with this strategy, so that there is no gap between this declared strategy and the realities, because the gaps are where the energy is generated unnoticed by us, posing threat to the security of Armenia.

Public Radio - Mr. Prime Minister, revolutions are usually followed by the new Constitution, the main law of which is, so to speak, the contract between society and the state. Is the new Constitution necessary to ensure the legitimacy we talked about?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - First of all, let's record that even after the revolution, the popular, non-violent, velvet revolution of 2018, even after the 44-day war of 2020, and regardless of all these, the topic of the Constitution has always been alive in the Republic of Armenia on various occasions. I want to remind that after the 2018 revolution, there were voices and opinions that the Constitution should be changed and we should return to the semi-presidential system of government. I didn't share that idea.

After the war, the idea came up again that if we had a semi-presidential system, maybe things wouldn't have worked out that way. To be honest, immediately during that war period I also thought that maybe those arguments were correct and maybe I underestimated that circumstance myself, because according to our current Constitution, Supreme Commander, army, etc., when and how these relations work, and there are cracks in the vertical as well, which, of course, expressed themselves during the 44-day war. But in general, recently and now it is being discussed very widely, I have talked about the need to have a new Constitution, and if you ask me what is the reason for the new Constitution, I have also recently been talking a lot about the relationship between the concepts of homeland and state, I am talking a lot about the need to strengthen institutions. I talk a lot and have talked a lot, and by and large, the popular, non-violent, velvet revolution of 2018 is also about citizen-state relations, social, labor relations.

And I have always recorded this, but of course it was later that the perception of its importance became complete for me. We have a gap between the citizen and the state. How is that gap expressed? That gap is expressed again with legitimacy, because the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, which was adopted in 1995 and has been amended several times, that Constitution was never adopted in the conditions and environment where the citizen of the Republic of Armenia would say to himself: I went, voted and adopted the Constitution. That is, I went and fixed my agreement with other citizens and the state that we relate to each other this way and live this way. Today, there are many terms that we use, and analysts and intellectuals very often talk about the fact that we are not a people’s state, we have been a nation without a state for a long time and have not yet become a people’s state, etc., and so on. There is this talk, but I don't want to go into the details of it, to say whether it is true or not, because in a way it is, in a way it is not, but I want to fix something else. Which is the point, what is the moment when we rise from non-state people to people’s state? That moment is the Constitutional Referendum, when a person goes with his own free will, without coercion, without fraud, without election fraud, without manipulation and reaches an agreement.

You know, it is generally accepted to record the agreement with a handshake. When we open the ballot boxes, we see that the required number of citizens have voted for it, so many citizens have voted, how many people have voted for it, or even participated and voted against it, I shake hands with so many people at the same time, I reach an agreement. I say: we live with each other like this, we live as a state, that is my line, where the people of the state, the nation become the people. The difference between the nation and the people is that nation is an ethnic perception, and the people are the constitution makers.

Public Radio – You mean constitutional entity?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes, the people is a constitutional subject.

Public Radio - Essentially, did I understand correctly, maybe it is the ruptures of the current Constitution that creates the necessity to fill in the gap between the state and the society?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You know, in this respect, not in general, but in terms of what I said, it is not essential what is written in the Constitution, of course, what is written is essential, but in this context, it is not essential what is written in the Constitution, it is essential, to what extent that Constitution has an organic connection with the people. The organic connection with the people is not only expressed that we have to discuss, understand all the nuances, define all the formulations. The text of the Constitution, you know, is mostly a matter of wording for professional discussion to serve political guidelines, but the genetic link with the state, the genetic link with the people is formed from the moment when the people accept, confirm that condition, first recording that from now on they are a people’s state and it records that within the borders of this state we will relate to each other according to these rules.

In other words, according to my understanding and conviction, the need to have a new Constitution is due to this genetic link with our people and our state, the genetic link to fill that gap, because our public perception is that the people never went and voted for it...

Public Radio - Which will further legitimize the relations we talked about, is it about the relations between the state and the people?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Yes. Legitimacy is very important in all relationships in general. Legitimacy is very important in the relationship between two citizens, because what is a legitimate relationship? A legitimate relationship is: what do I expect from you and what do you expect from me? The part of your expectations I am willing to meet is the legitimate basis of our relationship, and what rightful expectation you have from me, because it is not everything that one can expect from me. Legitimacy is the creation of an acceptable framework in our relationships where we are free to interact with each other.

Public Radio - Mr. Prime Minister, that is, the Third Republic was formed on the basis of the Declaration of Independence, and you propose a new Constitution for the new Fourth Republic?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I want to remind you, because now there is a lot of talk about that the government is changing the Constitution, the government will do this, the government will do that. The government cannot do anything in this regard, the government cannot change the Constitution. The government can propose to the people, the government can talk to the people, the government can present its explanations to the people, and only the people can make that decision. Moreover, I now also see certain speculations, which are unacceptable. Now some people have already started to say that the government will falsify the vote. You know, we have held dozens of elections in Armenia after the revolution of 2018, let them show a case, at the local government level, at the national level, the legitimacy of our elections were recognized internationally, international observers are not always present at the local government level, there were cases when we, the "Civil Contract" party won, there were times when we lost. Let them show us a case when we raised a question about a single ballot paper, or there was a fraud, because to go that way would mean destroying our own political identity. It is impossible.

Public Radio - By the way, there are accusations from the opposition circles that you are being pressured by the outside world to adopt a new Constitution. What is your reaction to this?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - My reaction to that is as follows. they say very directly, they say that the amendments to this Constitution are related to the pressures of Azerbaijan. I have to tell you the following, I have to go back to the very beginning of our conversation, because any government must analyze and understand on the basis of which concept it will ensure the security of the country and must locate and identify the problems and points that give rise to external security threat. Now I will return to the idea related to the army, see, when I said that the army is to operate in the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, to prepare and serve the sovereign territory, to ensure security, and this is important not only internally, but also externally, because you are essentially declaring to the outside world what you want to do, you are declaring your intentions. When you declare your intentions, others declare their intentions, and it is in the process of these declarations that conflicts arise. We know that we are in an aggressive environment, now what is our task? Our task is to understand why our environment is aggressive towards us. I will give a very rough example, very rough, with all due respect to all countries. Just in the logic of speaking in the language of a parable, imagine that we are walking together on the same road and we have to go from point A to point B. We know where we want to go together, we walk that way and see bulls standing on both sides of the road, and we look at each other and see that we are dressed in red.

Public Radio - Both of us?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Both of us. Moreover, we are in red dresses from head to toe and we have to make a decision. Moreover, that red dress was made for me by my beloved grandmother, who is no longer alive, may God enlighten her soul, and that dress has accompanied me all my life in some sense, it is a talisman for me in some sense. And your cloths were made by one of your relatives. That dress warms you in your trip. We just have to walk that way.

Public Radio - It's a difficult road.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - It is not an easy road.

Public Radio - We are already dressed in red, and the bulls are standing in front of us.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - The bulls are lined up along the road. We have to discuss with each other and make a decision. We can have two formulas for two decisions. I can say, you know, it's so precious to me, I have to go with this dress. And by the way, let me tell you, I, you, and we all have said that and are saying that, do you understand? We said that and we say that. I used to say that when I was in the opposition, when I was prime minister. And we have to go that way, and this discussion will determine whether we go that way or not, because if we change that red cloth, give it up, wrap it up as something symbolic, as something very dear and sacred, but take it out of circulation, out of use, perceive it as a part of our history, our past and dress up according to the environment in which we are able to operate. I'll tell you something else, in this red dress version, I can 100 percent guarantee that we will not pass that road. With the dress-change option, I can't 100 percent guarantee that we'll pass that road.

Public Radio - But there's a chance we can pass.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - But if there is a way to go, it is this second way, because what does the talk about the red cloth actually mean? It means that we are moving from a non-state mentality to a state mentality, because we understand that the issue is not just inside us. The issue is our responsibility to our next generation.

Public Radio - Mr. Prime Minister, after the 44-day war in 2020 and especially the Azerbaijani aggression in September 2022, Armenia is actively trying to ensure its security through active diplomatic work, and in general, is diplomacy in the current unstable world a safe tool to ensure security?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Diplomacy itself is a tool, as you said, this computer in front of you is also a tool. It is very important what program is installed in it and what program we use. I mean diplomacy is just a computer, the rest depends on what program we put in. Is that program Excel, Word or Windows or something else, is that Windows licensed or unlicensed? And diplomacy actually is packaging and presenting to the outside world what we talk about and agree on.

Now look, I will try to give you a practical answer regarding diplomacy, which will be related to our previous question. I seem to have missed that part, lest I avoid answering that question. For example, what does Azerbaijan have to do with this story? Is it related or unrelated? This is internal talk, but the point is that your environment and the people with whom you have friendly or hostile relations are always part of your consciousness. For example, our anthem is our most important text that we should and can have. For example, in our anthem there is the word foe "The foe shall perish by its grace, Armenia shall progress!." What does this mean, does this mean that the perception of the enemy is the most important part of our perception, our perception of the world?

Public Radio - Is there a mine for legitimacy here too?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - No. No. I am speaking about something else. In this sense, whatever we do or don't do, our enemy is always present. It doesn't matter if we announce it or not. And that is in the logic of global relations. By the way, I want to draw attention to one fact, for example, 90 percent of the worldview that is being formed in Azerbaijan today is filled by us, the Armenians, the Republic of Armenia.

Public Radio - What are we filling with?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Because they perceive their statehood and public relations based on the influences received from Armenia, pushed from Armenia. How Armenia affects them and how both Armenia and Armenia's perceptions affect their own perceptions. And this is a reciprocal process. But I'm saying something else, look, you briefly talked about the Declaration as well. What are the provisions of our Declaration? There are three cornerstone provisions. The Declaration is what we declare we are creating a state for, because the declaration is about us starting the process of having an independent state. And we set three landmarks, one is historical justice, the other is the wishes of the Armenian people, and the third is the decisions of the Nagorno-Karabakh National Council and the Supreme Council of Armenia on reunification. For example, we always look from Azerbaijan's point of view, but why don't we look at how our other neighbors perceive it? How do they perceive this thing that we are saying: we are creating a state to restore historical justice? What does it mean to restore historical justice? Let's just imagine that we are not on the air, how do you, as a citizen, perceive historical justice, or I'm sorry, I won't put you in a difficult situation, it's not even important how we perceive, how our environment perceives historical justice. We say that the Republic of Armenia, in fact, declares independence on the territory of the Armenian SSR and says that we must restore historical justice, or maybe the wording of the Declaration is slightly different.

Public Radio - Aiming to have a state.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - But how does our environment perceive our messages? And I say again: we constantly think how Azerbaijan perceives, how Turkey perceives, but why don't we think how Georgia perceives? Why don't we ask ourselves the question: why does Georgia have deep defense relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey and not with Armenia? Could this have anything to do with the messages that we have sent, that we have laid out at the foundation of our state?

Next issue. We really need to settle our relations with the Declaration today. Now the question is whether our state policy should be directed to it and whether our state policies should be guided by that message and should be based on the decision of the National Council of Nagorno Karabakh and the Supreme Council of Armenia on the reunification of Karabakh and Armenia. This is a matter of political choice. If so, this means we will never have peace. Moreover, this means that we will now have a war, because I say again, look how well the economy is growing, now we will strengthen our army, and obviously everyone can see that we are spending very serious resources on the transformation of the army. In other words, we declare, we say that now we are strengthening the army and plan to implement the provisions of our Declaration. If we say this, what does this mean? This means that our neighbors will form an alliance to destroy us because we have declared that at least we have an unresolved issue with them. The second nuance - will the development and perception of this narrative mentioned by me among the people strengthen or weaken Armenia? Definitely, Armenia will strengthen, because if we rely on this narrative and choose this as a long-term strategy, we will not have problems, or we will have little problems, or we will have little problems when we import weapons, because everyone will realize that we don't bring these weapons to use against them.

Public Radio - To attack them.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Can you imagine if we bring weapons through someone else's territory, they will think: well, if I let this weapon pass, they are planning to attack me, why should I allow it? We constantly look at everything from the logic of Azerbaijan and Turkey. There is a problem with the model of patriotism, because it seems to us that only we, Turkey and Azerbaijan exist in the world. It is a very interesting thing: we are always in that triangle, in the past we perceived the Soviet Union as “we”, now we are the Republic of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, and there is no other country in the world. I am talking about these nuances.

Next, something also very important. Will our state be strengthened or weakened if this proposed discourse is implemented? It will definitely get stronger. And, I'm sorry, does Azerbaijan want our state to become stronger? Of course, it doesn't want to, because it has a deep feeling of enmity towards us and wants to take revenge on us in addition to strategic and other things. And now, when it sees that a discourse is being formed in Armenia, which is possible to be implemented and as a result of which the Republic of Armenia will become stronger, it should do everything so that this discourse, on the contrary, becomes the reason for the weakening of Armenia. And what should it say? It should make a hint, say: well, they are doing all this at our request. Why was I saying that we are talking together, this is our internal conversation, Azerbaijan will always want to sit around our conversation table so that our conversation with ourselves does not take place. Especially given that it is understandable that there are forces in Armenia, one part sincerely, objectively, the other part being directed, which do not want this content to be perceived, they want to say that what this government is doing, it is doing at the request of Azerbaijan, for Azerbaijan, it pushes forward Azerbaijan's agenda. I just remembered, there are things in this logic that, I'm amazed even at myself, how I didn't notice this myself after thinking and talking about all this for so long. Recently, the emblem of our Army Day caught my eye, and then I remembered that we all do not say the Army of the Republic of Armenia, we say the Armenian Army. And we don't notice it, it is such a usual thing for us.

Public Radio – Like Armenian history and history of the Republic of Armenia.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - But what is the difference? It's not a problem for us, that's how it should be for us. But let's look from another side, let's say for a minute, why doesn't the Republic of Armenia call its army the Army of the Republic of Armenia, but the Armenian Army, the Army of Armenians? But, sorry, there are Armenians everywhere. there are Armenians in Turkey, there are Armenians in Iran, there are Armenians in Georgia, everywhere. I mean, wait a minute, this army is the army of those Armenians, why do those Armenians need an army? Okay, let me name the farthest country, so that it doesn't matter, why do the Armenians of the United States of America need the army? Do you understand, there are institutional levels of perception, when countries perceive words, discourse, actions, gestures at an institutional level. And what do I mean? What I am saying is that we need to manage the aggression that exists towards us, but first we need to understand the cause of that aggression, because if I were you, I would say, wait a minute, have you seen what Azerbaijan is saying? Have you seen Azerbaijan saying "West Azerbaijan", "Zangezur Corridor", "Yerevan is an Azerbaijani city" and so on? Yes, I have seen and understandably, it is an integral part of our agenda, but I say, let us talk to ourselves and about ourselves, because when we manage to put the conversation with and about ourselves on the right path, our ability and tools to manage those threats will get bigger. In other words, we need to solve the issue of that red cloth, but by changing the red cloth with a cloth of another color, we do not get a guarantee, while with a red cloth we get a negative guarantee, with the other cloth we get a chance, but no guarantee. And if we act competently, we will turn that chance into a guarantee.

Public Radio - We have a number of important issues to discuss. Mr. Prime Minister, everything we talked about is about ensuring security, by and large, using soft power, soft measures before talking about hard power. The 2020 war changed our entire security architecture. We talked about that. To what extent our security strategy was suitable and can we say today that we have an operational strategy that is already capable of ensuring our security in today's uncertain world, and also dealing with these security challenges we face? Let's talk about this too.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - No, the national security strategy we have today does not address the issues that exist. By the way, let me tell you, I remember the discussions of the national security strategy and my feelings when adopting that strategy. What we talked about, at that time this feeling, this tension was boiling in our thoughts, in our consciousness. But it is obvious that we must have a new national security strategy and our new national security strategy must express what I said, express the scope of the legitimate territorial integrity of the state and the logic of protecting interests.

Recently, we have constantly been talking a lot about the state and state interest. By the way, there is this contrast, which is expressed most sharply due to our language of thought: national interest and state interest, nation and people. You know what, we discussed this all the time, it was expressed in the consciousness of the people, but we are also not attentive to the expressions of our people. For example, back in the day, I remember, I don't know if people use it now, in the 90s, people used to say: this nation has fallen into trap of this people, or this people has fallen into trap of this nation. How do people come up with such expressions? You see, it actually has a lot to do with the topic of today's discussion. But it is interesting, who and how created this expression, which is perceived as a joke, but actually brings very serious psychological and political layers.

And, recently, I have had occasions to speak about it publicly several times. For example, look, we say: we must be guided by the state interest. And what is the state interest? My comment, that is, from the point of view of the Prime Minister, having gone through all these disasters, I am not sure or will not pretend to be the bearer of absolute truth, but I suggest that we discuss this topic. I have come to the conviction that Armenia's state interest is Armenia's economic development and development in general, because what we are talking about: army, education, border security, these are specific public expenditures.

Public Radio - The economy is one of the most important security components that can ensure the security of other industries.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - You are saying in a broader context, because yes, the economy is very important in the same war situation, right?

Public Radio – The more money you can earn...

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - But in a state of war, apart from money at that moment, because there is a problem that the infrastructures are damaged, you have to be able to more or less provide people, the normal activities of the rear, the rear has to produce some things for the front, starting with clothes, ending with healthcare, drugs, food, etc. But in today's situation, economic development is the interest of Armenia, because it is with economic development that you have infrastructure and public resources. For example, we raise the salaries of the military. At what expense will it be raised? If there is no budget revenue, you cannot raise the salary of the military and anyone else, you cannot purchase weapons and ammunition, you cannot finance education so that the military, the officer, the doctor, others have a proper education.

Public Radio - In general, 2020 revised our existential concept, didn’t it, forcing us to think about building our defense and security system based on our own capabilities? In this regard, do you have your concept of the security formula, your approach?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - If what you said were not true, we would not be discussing these issues today. That's what this whole conversation is really about, because look, there are components here. What is the core of the core of these components? The core of the core of those components, to formulate it as politically correct as possible, is as follows: we are a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Nagorno Karabakh problem is an internationally recognized conflict, and we do not have a problem in terms of the security of Armenia, and therefore we must focus on ensuring the security of Nagorno Karabakh. In fact, the concept was this deep in our mentality, even if it wasn't declared, it wasn't announced, it was like this. And this was the case not just in the theoretical level, this was the case at the level of provability.

But it turned out that the Collective Security Treaty Organization is not only not going to take responsibility for ensuring Armenia's security, but at a crucial moment, the Collective Security Treaty Organization is saying: look, solve your problems on your own. This has something to do with this whole conversation, because ultimately, if you ask, what is this about, what is this that we're talking about? We are discussing the formula for existing and being, specifically in our region, in our environment, with the need to receive as little outside help as possible. This is what we are discussing. In other words, if I interpret what I said now according to the logic of your question, I am saying the following: Let's create a formula that will enable us to live as independently as possible here, in this environment, in these conditions, and provide as much independent security as possible.

Public Radio - Let's talk about one of the formulas. It is about the concept of comprehensive defense and security. We have repeatedly discussed the topic of comprehensive defense with various experts during our programs. One question: am I correctly informed that you have approved the concept authored by public institutions, and at what procedural stage is it?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Not only me, but it was discussed also in the Security Council and it was approved in the Security Council. It is about that every citizen, every state and private organization should know what to do in case of necessity, what to do to ensure the country's defense capability? It is a very interesting concept in itself, and it is practiced in several countries.

Public Radio - You talked about one of them at the press conference, it's about the Swiss model.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - If you ask me what should be our first step on the way to implementing that strategy, I must say that we must overcome the deception.

Public Radio - What deception are you talking about?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – Recently, I touched upon it in connection with Army Day. Look, the comprehensive security and defense system says that on voluntary basis, the entire society should contribute to security. But in the conditions when less than half of the people of the age group eligible for military service are drafted into the army, we are not sincere when we say that we can implement such a strategy without solving the problem of this deception. We faced this problem also in 2020. When sitting in such comfortable studios or at tables, we are ready to do everything for the sake of the defense of our country, but when the moment comes, it turns out that very small part is ready. Our Constitution says that every citizen is obliged to contribute to the defense. It is said in the Constitution, but do you understand that this does not happen?

Public Radio - How to consolidate the people over this matter?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We need to talk to people. I'm sorry, I hope it won't sound immodest, for example, how did we carry out revolution in Armenia in 2018? By talking to people. I always say this to my party friends in our political meetings. We should record what problem our political opponents wanted to solve after 2018, before the war in 2020, and especially after the war. They wanted to create a situation where we would be unable to talk to the people, because talking to the people is our only tool, we have no other tool.

Today Armenia is a democratic country, today you cannot force anything on a citizen of the Republic of Armenia. Our only tool to communicate to the people, to have influence, so to speak, is to speak to them. We need to talk and that's why I made a decision that we should talk about everything with the people. We say that we are talking to each other, we are talking here, but it is clear that the outside world will also listen to this broadcast. However, this is our internal conversation, we must not let outsiders interfere in this conversation, because they will want to interfere.

I am saying this because if this conversation will lead us to increasing our resilience, they will do everything to prevent this conversation from taking place. They know our weak points, don't they, what should Azerbaijan say, it should say I won, it's my iron fist, now I'm imposing this or that on Armenia, so that opposition arises within us and we remain in that stalemate. What problem will it solve? Just as we have a problem of legitimacy, Azerbaijan also has a problem of legitimizing its potential aggression towards us. And it needs that legitimacy to be complete, and if it has aggressive considerations, and it appears that it has aggressive ambitions, in order to realize those aggressive ambitions, it needs us to give it that legitimacy.

That is why Azerbaijan will do everything to prevent this discourse from taking place in Armenia, for the opposite discourse to take place in Armenia, so that to show from time to time, which they named revanchism, that there are forces in Armenia, even within the government and even in different places, which threaten their security, in order to legitimize its aggression in the eyes of the outside world and the domestic audience. And who says that the people of Azerbaijan want war? No nation wants war, but if there are aggressive plans, what should they do? If there are such plans, the government should convince its people that if we don't do aggression, then we will become victims of aggression.

Public Radio - Mr. Prime Minister, I want to talk about another topic, from the expert to the amateur level, a public consensus seems to be gradually forming in the public discourse about the need for radical institutional changes in the state system and, in particular, in the field of defense and security. Does the Government think the same way? You also spoke about it in your speech on Army Day.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I think it’s the government who formulated that agenda. It is not so easy to say such words, if you think it is easy to say it in the presence of our military and government bodies on the occasion of Army Day, is it easy to say such words in public? To go and stand on the stage on the occasion of Army Day and publicly say that the army should not be an object of cheap toasts. If you think that it is easy to say, it is difficult to say. To go and make the holiday gloomy with this kind of emphasis. To go and say that the medical and military representatives have formed an anti-state alliance and are contributing to the disintegration of the state. Don't think that it is easy to go and say all this, it is not easy for various reasons. We brought that agenda, we say: people, instead of toasting, let's record that the standards we had in our army in 1996 may have been normal back then, but we continued to remain in the standards of 1996 in the 2000s, and they are desperately outdated.

Public Radio - How do you explain the lack of a reform concept for the Armed Forces of Armenia so far, considering that according to the the Government's decision for 2021-2026, the new bill on "Law on Defense" should have been ready by January 2022.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - In January 2022, that concept was ready, but in the winter of 2022, events took place that made it obvious that we cannot move forward with that concept, and now we must not only have a concept, but also to understand how realistic the implementation of that concept is, including regarding cooperation in the military-technical field. We need to understand with whom we can realistically have military-technical and defense relations. This issue used to be easy in the past because there was no such question and there was no complexity in creating a concept. In the past, 95-97 percent of our defense sector relations were with the Russian Federation, now it cannot be so for both objective and subjective reasons. Now we have to understand what kind of relations we should have with India in this concept.

Public Radio - It's about diversification.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - Diversification is the title. People say: make it more concrete, what does diversification mean? For example, what kind of security relations will we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran, will we have or will we not have? What kind of security relations will we have with Georgia, will we have or will we not have? What security relations will we have with the United States, will we have or will we not have? Will our security relations with Russia change or not, how will they change? Now, do we remain a member of the CSTO or do we not remain a member of the CSTO? What kind of relations are we building with France?

The problem here is that the concept itself has already been declared as a declaration, and we need to formulate such a concept on the implementation of which we have at least agreements, and I think that yes, we should finish this concept during this year. There is a conceptual approach here, it is a theoretical document, which we must accept and understand the ways of its implementation, but it is half theoretical and half practical, the theory of which exists and the practical agreements of which are already confirmed by certain documents and contracts. Look, we said we are transitting to a professional army. "Motherland Defender" is our energy-giving program, which is a great reform, but with all this, the concept must have a political context.

Today we talked about the political context of that concept, what problem does that army have to solve, does that army have a problem to ensure or restore historical justice, or does that army have a problem to ensure the security of the internationally recognized sovereign territory of Armenia and nothing more? And your reaction is also very important, because there is another way for us to formulate what we mean by historical justice. When we say historical justice, we may mean the sovereign territory of Armenia itself, the state, sovereignty, security and independence. There is another problem here, we have to be careful in the sense that, speaking again in the language of allegories, we have to decide whether to change the red cloth or go to explain to the bull why we wore the red cloth. This is also a matter of choice, and what I have to say is that we should consider and discuss issues with this seriousness and in this level, with this depth.

Public Radio - I had many questions to ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, but, unfortunately, our time is running out, however, I will ask you the last question as the conclusion of our interview. How much time is needed to have such a security environment, so that the regional powers think about the threats and losses arising from committing aggression against Armenia for themselves, so to speak?

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - I would suggest that we think differently, not how long it takes. That time is now, because we need to solve this issue now.

Public Radio - We don't have time.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - We have time, that time is today, because we also have that way of thinking that we will do things after January, after the holidays, in the spring, winter... Every moment, every second, every day is that time. We have to work in that direction every day, we have to think about it every day, we have to manage that risk every day and for this there must be an atmosphere, an environment. We should not have the environment in which we would think what my father or my brothers will think, if I take off the cloth knitted by the grandmother? It is necessary to go and talk to the father, the brothers, and the children, and tell them that this is the situation. Do we need to go and be able to come back? That is also a question of choice, such a choice can also take place when the father, children, brothers and sisters say it’s ok, wear that red dress, go, pass, if you pass, that’s good, if you do not pass, we will install a good cross-stone.

Public Radio - Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the very interesting conversation.

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