Friday, July 31, 2015

As promised: Armenian military continues outreach to U.S.

Armenia's First Deputy Defense Minister David Tonoyan is back in U.S. this week. His talks at the Pentagon with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas focused on U.S. support for "defense reforms and enhancing capacities of [the Armenian military's] interoperable subdivisions involved in UN and NATO peace and stability operations - peacekeeping brigade, field hospital and peacekeeping engineering subdivisions," Mediamax reports. Farkas was part of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's delegation that was in Armenia in February.

According to the Defense Ministry, Tonoyan also had "meetings with US Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State responsible for various sectors, Jeremy Brenner, Rob Berschinski, John Heffern and Todd Chapman; Directors for Regional Affairs in the US National Security Council, Celeste Wallander and Victoria Taylor."

This is pretty much the same agenda as before; see for background:

Official: US-Armenia security cooperation will survive Russia-Ukraine crisis
by Emil Sanamyan
Published in the Armenian Reporter: Friday August 08, 2014

David Tonyan during his Washington press briefing on Aug. 7.
Arsen Kharatyan photo

WASHINGTON - A senior Armenian defense official is in Washington this week to discuss bilateral cooperation and the dangers of escalation in the Karabakh conflict. First Deputy Defense Minister David Tonoyan met his counterparts in the Pentagon and the State Department, amid a deterioration of relations between Russia and the West, and an upsurge in violence on the cease-fire line with Azerbaijan.

Meeting with Washington-based Armenian media on August 7, Tonoyan stressed that Armenia's policy of engagement with the United States and its NATO allies will not be affected by the ongoing crisis between Western-backed Ukraine and Russia. Armenia has a military alliance agreement with Russia.

Asked by The Armenian Reporter about the impact of tensions between Russia and the West on Armenia's engagement with U.S. and NATO, Tonoyan said that U.S.-Armenia "cooperation is developing intensively" with U.S. currently assisting in the preparation of a second Strategic Defense Review, a periodic assessment of Armenia's threats, resources and capabilities.

Asked about the Russian Aggression Prevention Act, currently in the Senate and intended to reassure a number of post-Soviet states of Western security involvement, Tonoyan noted that Armenia was not currently seeking security assurances from the United States, focusing on other forms of cooperation.

Tonoyan also addressed the mounting casualties on the Line of Contact with Azerbaijan, expressing pessimism with regard to Azerbaijani regime's readiness to de-escalate tensions.

In a series of raids and sniper shootings from July 26 to August 5, 7 Armenian military personnel have been killed and as many wounded. Azerbaijan confirmed the loss of 18 of its soldiers, most of them in August 1-2 fighting. So far this year, both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides have suffered their worst fatalities in over a decade, at least 21 and 32, respectively.

"We don't see them calming down," Tonoyan said when asked if he expected a reduction of violence. "Our impression is that the [Azerbaijani regime] is failing to control its military forces." He said he would encourage his U.S. and other international counterparts to do what they can to rein in Azerbaijan so that its forces don't stray "dangerously out of control."

Asked about potential peacekeeping deployments in Karabakh, Tonoyan reiterated the Armenian position that its own armed forces were a sufficient deterrent to a further escalation, as "they have demonstrated for 20 years."

Prior to Washington, Tonoyan was in Kansas with whose National Guard Armenia has developed a partnership program that focuses on peacekeeping and military medicine. Five Armenian officers were involved in the Vigilant Guard 2014 exercises held in Kansas from August 4-8. The exercise practiced a deployment of an expeditionary military hospital. Tonoyan also met with Armenian officers currently studying in U.S., including at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, DC and Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Editor's Note: A video report from Tonoyan's briefing was prepared by the Voice of America's Armenian Service.

Ohanyan tours U.S. for security consultations
Published in the Armenian Reporter: March 23, 2012

Caption: Defense Minister Ohanyan arrives at Pentagon with
Defense Secretary Panetta looks on.  
DoD photo
WASHINGTON – Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan visited Kansas, New York and Washington between March 21 and 23 for series of meetings with senior U.S. and United Nations officials.

In Washington Ohanyan met his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta, CIA director and former top U.S. military officer David Petraeus, as well as senior State Department officials, the Defense Ministry reported. Ohanyan was not available for interviews.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said that Panetta and Ohanyan discussed U.S.-Armenian defense cooperation, including Armenia's efforts on defense reform and U.S. willingness to support enhanced training of the Armenian military. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration requested $3.3 million in military aid to Armenia in FY2013.

Ohanyan also traveled to Kansas where he met Governor Sam Brownback to discuss Armenia’s continuing partnership with the state’s National Guard. As senator, Brownback took active interest in Armenia’s region, particularly development of Caspian hydrocarbon deposits. In Kansas, Ohanyan also visited the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

At the United Nations in New York, Ohanyan met the Secretary General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane and acting head of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations Dmitri Titov.

While in New York, Ohanyan also met with Armenian American community leaders. According to the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, this was Ohanyan’s first visit to New York since the early 1990s. Ohanyan, at the time a mid-level army officer, was in U.S. for treatment of serious wounds he sustained in the Karabakh war.

Ohanyan 'well-liked' by U.S.

Although this was Ohanyan’s first visit to U.S. since his appointment as defense minister in 2008, Ohanyan is known to have a good rapport with Americans, meeting Petraeus and other senior U.S. officials during visits with Armenian peacekeeping units in Iraq and Afghanistan and to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“The better we get to know Minister Ohanian, the more we like him as a partner in political-military efforts,” U.S. Charge in Armenia Joseph Pennington wrote in a 2009 cable made available by Wikileaks. “He seems a straightforward interlocutor, who is respected in the Armenian government and within the Defense Ministry. His credibility as a soldier is very high, given his long experience commanding NKSDF [Nagorno Karabakh Self Defense Forces] troops.”

“We are pleased to find General Ohanian interested and committed on Armenia's NATO-related defense reform efforts and Euro-Atlantic ties,” Pennington added.

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