Third President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan gave an interview to ArmNews TV.
- Mr. President, let us discuss the issue of armaments, there is a lot of talk about that. The government talks about it a lot. When the war started, this government was in power for 2.5 years; objectively, it could not acquire large volumes of weapons, operate, serve and maintain them. Do you accept that in your time we could have been armed with much more technological weapons, to be better prepared for this war?
- No, I cannot deny it, because the more we have, the better, but I deny the stupid thesis that until 2018 our army was not efficient, did not have weapons, etc., the soldier did not eat strawberries. If we did not have an army, then, as we can say during the April 2016 war, we forced Azerbaijan to establish a ceasefire, but if we did not have an army at all, you had nothing, why before 2016, 2017 and 2018? Azerbaijan did not start a war. They do not correspond to the reality, the following corresponds to the reality that we have never had much more modern weapons than Azerbaijan: not in 92-94, not in 2016, not in 2020, but in the first two cases it did not prevent us from winning, because “devotees, knowledgeable people dealt with the issue,” people were fully committed to that work.
- Mr. President, I must now say the opposite of what you said, which is quite common. The fact that the army has been robbed in the last two decades, as we have all been robbed, the soldier has been robbed of bread. The soldier was half-starved. The money that was supposed to be spent on armaments, say, castles were built in the Monument, you have probably heard, the castles of the Monument were to be our drones.
By the way, this is a very important episode about drones. The most important weapons of this war were the drones. Why were not enough drones produced or bought during your presidency?
- I will answer that question a little differently. Various former officials have spoken about it in the press. So, after the April War, we were busy investigating the lessons of the April War, because any reform in the army, any acquisition of new weapons must be conditioned by the outcome of hostilities, the weapons and innovation used by your adversary. And we approved two documents for 2018-2024: Document number 1: Armed Forces Development Plan, consisting of 169 points, what we should do, what changes we should make in the Armed Forces, what weapons we should develop and what we should get as a result. Based on that document, we developed a military equipment acquisition plan.
USD 1 billion 300 million was provided for the plan, the sources of those funds were clearly available, 100 million were on credit each year, 100 million other budget funds. More than half was planned for 2018-2020 with more than USD 500 million out of USD 1 billion 300 million earmarked for the development and acquisition of aviation, air defense and unmanned aerial vehicles. Let me tell you a number: it was planned to purchase 2500 unmanned aerial vehicles by 2024.
- Mr. President, can you tell the supplying countries?
- I do not consider it expedient, but if there is an urgent need, I will say it once.
- Were those deals not made later?
- No, moreover, for 2018-2020 it was planned to purchase more than 1000 unmanned aerial vehicles, moreover, these devices were killers, reconnaissance devices; they would be able to operate within a radius of 5-150 km from the agreed cost. But, unfortunately, you do not know why, perhaps due to the character of the Armenian official, that I came to change something, because the former did not understand well, they changed the whole plan. I must honestly admit that I am not aware of any changes that have been made, but I say that it has definitely changed. The Tor complexes procurement plan, which was envisaged in three batches, was received by the Republic of Armenia only in one batch, under the contract we signed.
- But we bought a SU-30; we did not have fighter jets.
- Did you buy it and use it later? Buying weapons is also an art, you know. You just can't aim to do PR with it, to solve political issues, thinking that the former brought Iskander, we bring SU-30, the former bring weapons of the 80s, and we bring a new SU-30 : How many times did the SU-30 fly, yes, it flew once during the Tavush border incident, and ... they just say everything, it flew with such an incompetent horse that I had to ask one of my colleagues to call the Ministry of Defense will say, do not do that stupid thing, we see that the plane flies without weapons, where do you fly without weapons? I did not see any weapons on the plane; afterwards the military said there were no weapons. They once tried to justify that this is a very difficult thing, it takes a lot of time to use that complicated thing, etc. I am confident in saying this as I did not learn whether we used a drone or not, whether we used it effectively.
- In other words, did the project change as a result of a political decision?
- I cannot say, maybe the initiative came from the General Staff at that time, when a change has already taken place.
- But the military understood what we needed.
- Of course, the military understood, but in many cases, I must say in a good way, there is a struggle among the military as to which armament should be increased. It is a competition, that is, the artilleryman who wants to have modern artillery, the pilot wants to have new modern planes, and so on. There is always a desire, but it is necessary to assess the very sober state, to observe the basic rules of purchasing weapons and ammunition. The initiative should come from within, from the General Staff departments, which will take into account the demands of the troops, the completeness of the means more suitable for the military arena and restraining the enemy, then, in case of large ammunition, it should get flesh and blood in the General Staff
- Understand what we need in a tight budget.
- Yes, if we had the opportunity to acquire fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft, a large number of large-caliber weapons, the most modern means of air defense, etc., but when the contents of your pocket do not allow you to enjoy, you should to choose the most important, the vital, not the demonstrative.
- Mr. President, in connection with the arms trade, the Prime Minister has never accused you, claiming that you bought non-firearms. Let me quote it: “You have a case, people, Serzh Sargsyan’s government has given USD 42 million and bought a weapon, and that weapon does not work, it is not useful for anything, just scrap metal. They gave USD 42 million, it is useless, it is not a weapon, now a criminal case has been initiated, let Serzh Sargsyan come, give the answer to this, I say, you have no choice, you will bring it, it will be hot. The Investigative Committee has not issued any statement in this regard, what is it about, what weapon is this?
- You know, the statement follows that if I had been as guilty as a grain of wheat, I would have been somewhere else a long time ago; can you imagine what actions they would have taken?
- Were you not invited to the Investigative Committee?
- No, of course not, what should I have had to do with it? Besides, is Serzh Sargsyan signing a contract to buy weapons? This is one, second, what are those people arrested who were directly involved in acquiring that equipment, a whole year has passed, where is it? I ask in surprise, then he asks me, what are you surprised about? Each time this database of lies is released in such a large amount, people are fooled and try to force the law enforcement agencies to turn their intentions into a criminal case. Of course, I know what "Repellent" and "Autobasa" systems are all about. A criminal case has been filed for a long time, some people have been interrogated, but no one asked me any question yet.
- But your name is mentioned here.
- Well, he attributes everything to me, talks, tells stories, then what happens as a result? Of course, he has a great desire to find some gross mistake, to confirm, to find some corruption cases, etc. The man said, right? My family is the most corrupt family in the world, then this, to convince him that my call my relatives, my relatives, my children to justice. That is, what is it, to force assumptions to come true, that is; there is no other way to remove evil?