July 18
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On September 18, 2019, Yerevan hosted George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Alumni conference on “Strengthening Democratic Institutions”. A keynote presentation on the topic “Democratization and National Security Strategy Review in Armenia" was delivered by PhD in History Benyamin Poghosyan, Executive Director of Political Science Association of Armenia. The US Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Christopher Smith made a welcoming speech to the conference. We are publishing the opening address of the Honorary President of Political Science Association of Armenia, retired Lieutenant General, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor Hayk S. Kotanjian.

“The Honorable Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Chris Smith

Dear Marc, Anahit, Colleagues

It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome you at the annual Marshall Center Alumni conference in Yerevan. The Marshall Center has played an indispensable role in capacity building process of Armenian defense security institutions including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Security Council. Hundreds of Armenian state officials have passed through different training programs bringing back to Armenia the most academically and practically innovative knowledge on bridging smart power oriented national, regional and global security through systemic coordination of smart and hard power resources and toolkits of their implementation in geopolitics, geo-economic, cyber security and effective modern defense. In this point of view, Marshall Center is a key pillar in Armenia - US and Armenia – Germany partner relations and we all are grateful to our friends for assisting in promoting stability and development in our volatile region.

This year Alumni conference topic is “Strengthening democratic institutions” and I believe it is not a coincidence that we are discussing issues of democratization here in Yerevan. The last year “Velvet revolution” resulted in peaceful transition power which, unfortunately, is not a common thing in our part of the world.

Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution” of 2018 was a rare non-violent victory of “people power”. Endowed with a legitimacy derived from a free and fair snap parliamentary election in December 2018, the Armenian government has sought to both sustain momentum for reforms and retain its high level of popular support. But the world experience tells us today that while praising the democratic accomplishments we have to be cautious on the risks to the real democracy accompanying nowadays populist revolts. They can create perverse results leading to kakistokracy escorted with repressions and even meritocide. That’s why challenged by a lack of experience and strategic vision, the new government faces one significant problem: the looming threat from unjustified high public expectations.

In order to meet these goals, and as an effective avenue for demonstrating political will, the government has to prioritize the democratic institution building based on the vision of sustainable democratic development and democratically oriented national security strategy, as well as grand security policy.

Looking forward to furthering democratic institutions in Armenia in systemic and farsighted way we have to emphasize the exclusive importance of reviewing the top political document of the state – National Security Strategy as the key path towards new strategic vision and action for Armenia. The process was launched officially this summer and new draft should be submitted to the Government in July 2020. The review process is coordinated by Security Council, which, under the new constitution, has a decisive role in steering Armenia’s defense policy.

Meanwhile, one of the key conditions for success in this process is the efficient involvement of expert community potential. In this context, Political Science Association of Armenia can play a vital role. It unites experts which in last decade were in daily basis involved in assessments of regional and international security and the latest developments in cyber security resources management. They have elaborated both open and classified strategic caliber policy papers for the leadership of Armenia. The intensive trainings in centers of excellence of the Unites States, Russia, Israel and China have broadened their world view and enabled them to bring back to Armenia the methodological innovations.

As an Alumnus of our Alma Mater Marshall Center and President Emeritus of the Association and the person who was an Academic supervisor of the first national security strategy elaboration process in 2005-2006, I am fully confident that Political Science Association of Armenia should play a significant role in the process of national security strategy review. I would like to introduce you Dr. Benymian Poghosyan, the Political Science Association Executive Director as the keynote speaker on “Democratization and National Security Strategy Review in Armenia”.

Let me once more welcome all participants of the conference and express my gratitude to our Great Alma Mater Marshall Center”.