Armenia: The Year in Review, and Outlook for 2017
Armenian News Network / Groong
December 25, 2016
By Grigor Hakobyan
The highlights of 2016 for Armenia (if we can call them “high” lights) would be
the Four Day War in April, the popular and violent acts of discontent in July,
and the change of ruling government in September. For 2017 the outlook for the
country may be grim as well, but hopeful as the newly formed cabinet lead by
Karen Karapetyan makes efforts to reduce the corruption in the government,
improve the nation’s defense capabilities and raise economic living standards
for the populace.
2016 was a challenging year for Armenia. The Four Day War in April, resulting
in major losses of human life, in conjunction with the loss of territories,
revealed a scale of corruption within the Armenian military that had
significantly undermined its military readiness. The war also revealed the
resilience of the Armenian people, including the diaspora, to self-organize and
take up arms in defense of their Fatherland, support the families of the fallen
soldiers and rebuild devastated border villages through worldwide collective
efforts despite disagreements with the government. The war and its subsequent
consequences showed the wisdom of the Armenian nation to distinguish between
the country of their origins that is everlasting and the government that runs
it for a brief period of time in terms of historical time scale.
The bloody crisis in July associated with hostage taking and armed occupation
of a police precinct in Yerevan by a group of armed men, including former
veterans of the Artsakh liberation war revealed the extent of public anger and
resentment toward the ruling regime in Armenia which had lost a lot of
legitimacy and goodwill in the eyes of the public, thus prompting the
dissolution of the previous cabinet and creation of a new government headed by
a new Prime Minister albeit with the same President.
Since the Four Day War in April, Armenia’s military capabilities have been
rapidly augmented with the acquisition of a number of Iskander-E ballistic
missile systems, Smerch MLRS wheeled artillery pieces, various electronic
warfare systems, night vision and thermal vision optics, high end surveillance
cameras, upgraded T-72 battle tanks, Tigr armored combat transportation
vehicles, a number of various anti-tank weapon systems including new handheld
RPGs and latest MPADS. New class of UAVs commonly referred to as “kamikaze
drones” was quickly developed in Armenia along with new anti-drone systems.
As Azerbaijan inked new weapons deals with Pakistan to the tune of five hundred
million dollars and acquired latest Israeli air and missile defense systems
knowns as Iron Dome and Barak-8, Armenia deepened its cooperation with Russia
by forming a collective army unit under unified Armenian-Russian military
command. Further moves by Azerbaijan aimed at forming political and military
alliances with Pakistan and Israel were countered by counterbalancing Armenian
moves aimed at developing closer relations with military establishments of
India and Iran.
Additionally, to break the economic isolation imposed by the decades-old
Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, Armenia and Iran discussed building a
regional railroad for improving trade and increasing cargo transportation
between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf that will go through the Armenian
territory. Additional large economic projects between Armenia and Iran are
expected to be agreed upon and implemented within the next few years.
Armenia’s outlook for 2017 may be grim in the short term, but hopeful in mid to
long term. Continuous emigration of people from Armenia seeking better economic
opportunities, and repeated attempts by Aliyev’s government in Azerbaijan to
forcefully subjugate Armenians to his will by occupying Artsakh through means
of warfare and low to mid intensity violence on the front line, will continue
unabated. In the meantime efforts lead by Karen Karapetian, the new Prime
Minister of Armenia, to improve the nation’s defense capabilities,
significantly reduce corruption in the government, and improve the living
standards of all Armenians, may be the key to changing the country around
toward a better and hopeful future for Armenia.
Happy New Year, and merry Christmas!
Շնորհաւոր նոր տարի եւ սուրբ ծնունդ.
Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in
Phoenix, AZ, and a former ANCA Fellow in Washington D.C. He is the
founder of a virtual think tank called Ararat Institute for Near Eastern
Studies. He was also a freelance writer for the Central Asia-Caucasus
Institute of John Hopkins University and has interned in Congress for Rep.
Brad Sherman, researching ethnic conflicts and terrorism in Russia,
Caucasus and Central Asia. Grigor also completed an internship at the
International Center for Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute for
Policy Studies where he researched international terrorist networks
operating in the Caucasus and Central Asia, preparing congressional
briefings for the Director of ICTS on WMDs. Grigor holds a B.A. in
Political Science from Arizona State University.
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