Remarks by Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch at AAA International Youth Seminar

Thank you, Tevan. Head of NATO Division of the MFA, Mr. Isaraelyan, Ambassador Lonsdale, members of the South Caucasus Youth Forum.

The title of your seminar is “NATO at 60, a New Start” and, coincidentally, it was only a few days ago that our new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called for a “fresh start” when she addressed NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

President Obama is committed to strengthening the trans-Atlantic alliance, to supporting a strong Europe that is a strong partner to the United States, and to energizing our partnerships to confront the common challenges of our time.

For 60 years, we’ve had a strong transatlantic foundation based on shared values and a mutual commitment to working together as allies. And over the last 19 years, we’ve expanded that commitment to helping people in the eastern part of Europe who have not had the opportunity to develop their societies and militaries the way the rest of Europe had.

We have been working with these countries, including Armenia, to build stronger democracies, to develop more prosperous economies, to establish civilian control over the military – as the Armenian constitution calls for — and to establish security and stability in their neighborhood. We want to sustain that partnership over time, building on the things that we all believe in: good governance, transparency, accountability, and a market economy.

Because the big secret about NATO is that it is far more than just a military alliance. It is political alliance of like-minded countries. I’ve even heard it described as a marriage of civil societies. You cannot hold together a military alliance for 60 years, if there isn’t the bedrock of common values to rely on; and we have seen other military alliances founder and fail for precisely that reason. I promise you there are many differences within NATO. Twenty six countries can’t agree on everything and sometimes it appears that we don’t agree on anything. But we always have our core beliefs to sustain us and the certainty that we are better off together than alone.

In that regard, NATO must keep its doors open. Especially as the threats we face are increasingly not from single nation-states, but from the global threats that affect us all. So, NATO is committed to keeping its doors open — to membership for those countries that choose to pursue membership – or to an Individual Partnership Action Plan with whatever degree of cooperation is most appropriate for that country. Launched at the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague, Individual Partnership Action Plans are open to countries that have the political will and ability to deepen their relationship with NATO.

An IPAP as we call it, establishes the cooperation objectives and priorities of each individual partner country, and ensures that the mechanisms for cooperation correspond directly to these priorities.

So when we speak of Armenia’s cooperation with NATO, we are talking about cooperation that has been identified by the Armenian Government as being beneficial for Armenia’s future development. The key to IPAP is that Armenia need not become a member of NATO or even aspire to membership in order to develop a mutually beneficial partnership with NATO and NATO countries. I’d like to review with you the current activities under this partnership.

Armenia has contributed to Euro-Atlantic security alongside NATO allies in Kosovo, and is actively considering contributing units to ISAF in Afghanistan.

Armenia contributes to the fight against terrorism through participation in the Partnership Action Plan on Terrorism.

Armenia is working with NATO and individual NATO countries to establish a peacekeeping brigade using NATO standards. The United States, for example, continues to provide a substantial amount of military assistance and training to help Armenia achieve this goal.

Through this cooperation, Armenia is becoming – as President Sargsian has repeatedly said – a “producer” rather than a “consumer” of international security. We believe that when other countries are secure, Armenia is more secure.

NATO is supporting the reform of democratic institutions in Armenia, with a particular focus on civilian control of the Armenian Armed Forces.

Armenia has consulted NATO allies on the development of a National Security Strategy and a new Military Doctrine and is currently conducting a Strategic Defense Review.

In the context of its IPAP, the Armenian Rescue Service is taking measures to improve contingency planning for emergencies and natural disasters, including the establishment of a government crisis management center.

Armenia is also working with the NATO-based Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center to contribute to international disaster relief organizations.

Under the Science for Peace and Security Program, Armenia has received grants for nearly 40 projects for scientific and environmental cooperation, including for the prevention and response to nuclear threats, risk assessment for natural disasters, and collaboration on improving regional water quality with Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In the almost six months I have been in Armenia, I have come to appreciate how seriously Armenia regards its partnership with NATO. Armenia – and particularly President Sargsian and Defense Minister Ohanian — should be congratulated on the rapid achievements in this area.

It is important that Armenian citizens understand Armenia’s achievements. In this regard, Tevan, and the Armenian-Atlantic Association have played an invaluable role in enlightening young Armenians about the workings of NATO and dispelling many of the misconceptions that have persisted from Soviet times.

Because it’s important to know that being pro-NATO, working with NATO, does not mean that a country is anti-Russia.

While we pursue a strong transatlantic agenda and strong outreach to the people in Europe’s East, including Armenia, President Obama believes that we can and must find ways to work constructively with Russia. We are trying to build a cooperative relationship with Russia, and there are many areas where we share common interests, including helping the people of Afghanistan, arms control and nonproliferation, countering piracy and the trade in narcotics, and addressing the threats posed by Iran and North Korea.

The NATO foreign ministers have agreed to resume the NATO-Russian Council, including at the ministerial level, after the 60th Anniversary Summit in April. This will be a forum for discussing not only the areas on which we agree, but also areas where we have strong disagreements.

NATO is an alliance that seeks to bring countries together to focus on our mutual security challenges of the future.

The most likely issues that will affect our security today and in the future are issues that involve non-state actors and non-traditional threats.

That can be terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks, energy issues, the consequences of failed states, humanitarian crises to which we need to respond – there is a whole range of future security challenges that we need to stay focused on and figure out how to deal with.

By continuing to develop its partnership with NATO, Armenia can ensure that it can be part of that discussion as we find ways, together, to meet these challenges.

You are the future leaders of Armenia and in many ways it will be your job to define the security role that Armenia will play in the next decades. The United States and NATO look forward to continuing to explore with Armenia our partnership and how that partnership can meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Thank you.


Another way we can boost our collective self-esteem is by supporting one another. Men do this: in every country in the world, established men help younger men along in their careers. Let me be clear: I don’t mean that this is done in a corrupt way. I mean that they see a bright young man that reminds them of themselves twenty years ago — and they want to help him get his start.

Whether they come from the same place, went to the same school, root for the same sports team; they answer questions, provide advice, open doors, make interviews and — even that critical first job — possible.

Well, women can do this too!

Civil Society activism is also an excellent place to start building the capacity and skills necessary to lead. In the United States, over the last fifty years, civil society has been a training ground for today’s young leaders, particularly for women and minorities. President Obama, as just one example, began his career in public service, as a community organizer in the City of Chicago.

I can’t help but believe that somewhere in Armenia, right now, there are five or ten, or maybe more, future Armenian Barak Obamas; learning how to organize communities, developing their leadership and communications skills, and learning how grassroots democracy works. Maybe one or more of them is here in this room with us today.

So I leave you with three thoughts before I take questions:

First, to those who are just starting out: Look in the mirror. Who do you want to be? The President? A Minister? An NGO leader changing Armenian society and becoming a role model for future generations? A business innovator, creating jobs and economic opportunities that change the Armenian economy?

It’s important to define yourself, create your own path forward, and don’t limit yourself. Remember the words of Dr. Hunt and triple your assessment of what you are capable of.

Look around and find role models. It doesn’t have to be a formal program; the same benefits can be derived by an older person helping you along the way (and in the U.S. these kind of relationships are often not even formally termed mentorships, they just happen).

Second, to those of you who are more experienced, and for all of you as you make progress in your careers: look around and spot the young, talented woman you’d like to help. Armenia needs all of its talent and we should be promoting capable women into leadership roles — as university leaders, politicians, business owners, and NGO leaders. Not only do I believe this is necessary, this can be one of the most satisfying parts of your career, as you help young women flourish.

In advancing women, change in the U.S., as well as in Armenia, has not been as fast as we would like. But we have the power to change the future, and you, the women in this room, are one of the places where change starts.

And third, I’d like to leave you with this thought from an American politician, Robert F. Kennedy, who is one of my biggest inspirations. He once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events … It is from [these] numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man [and I think that we can clearly add women here as well] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Thank you. And now, I’ll take questions.