Social entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan’s interview to Mediamax
Mr. Vardanyan, population in Artsakh has been cut off gas supplies these days and face immense humanitarian issues. You are just back from Artsakh; how would you describe the situation there?
I was in Artsakh a couple of days ago, where I met people, representatives of different sectors, as well as the President of the Artsakh Republic Arayik Harutyunyan. I am aware of the ongoing situation and the issues people are facing currently. I do my best to support in finding solutions. We are in permanent contact with the leadership of Artsakh, trying to understand the ways of helping people.
Do you have specific programs currently implemented there?
Yes, as you may know, we implement direct support programs in Artsakh through the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, which are supposed to be on permanent basis. We have already provided support and have implemented development programs worth 1.7 million dollars; programs of some 500 thousand dollars are anticipated to kick off soon. These programs cover education, healthcare, infrastructure development, and are in many ways socially-oriented.
I’d like to emphasize that Artsakh, and I have said this repeatedly, is a number one priority for me and is widely covered by a number of our initiatives.
Your interviews in recent days, in which you have touched upon the ongoing geopolitical situation, the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on Armenia, have drawn much public attention on social media. This is particularly true for your thoughts regarding some possible scenarios, including those regarding the scenarios of Armenia’s sovereignty.
I believe in good times and in bad times we just have to discuss and to envision all the possible scenarios of development. As you may know, my partners and I launched the Armenia 2020 Initiative more than twenty years ago with an intention to develop various scenarios of Armenia’s development. To my regret, life proved the less optimistic scenarios.
Today it is equally important to understand the perspectives, and the way the geopolitical situation and the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation may impact Armenia. We cannot avoid that and pretend that we have nothing to do with those developments.
This situation requires that we focus on minimizing the potential risks and enhance the opening opportunities.
We don’t have much time. We have to act fast, professionally, and consistently. If we fail to respond adequately to these events, we may suffer losses. Both opportunities and risks require serious and in-depth discussions involving all the parties, whether on public or private levels.
Elites are supposed to clearly understand where we stand now, what is the situation we are in, and are assumed to initiate discussions on what shall be done in case of different scenarios.
And this is not a matter of concern for government or the legislative alone; it has to be priority for all those healthy forces, which are interested in the maintenance and solidification of our statehood.
We are facing massive challenges. In such a situation we need to consider the possibility of a nationwide mobilization, including the military. Are we really prepared for that?
We are much dependent on food imports, fuel prices. The price for gas hits 3000 dollar mark, Russia has set 160 dollars price for Armenia. Is it reasonable to talk about sovereignty in a situation like that?
As to Armenia’s independence, it remains an absolute value for me. Everything I do is aimed at solidifying Armenia’s independence and strengthening the security of Artsakh. Yet, toasts and words won’t help keep sovereignty; it requires diligence, willpower, and commitment.
Right at the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict you urged to stop the war as soon as it is possible. Yet, the fighting is still on. What is your position on that?
I have had a chance to cite Mother Theresa in one of my interviews, and I will do that again; when offered to join an anti-war rally, Mother Theresa said: “No, I will not join it, but if you do one for peace, I will join.” This is a fundamental message with a deep-rooted meaning. The idea of this message underlies many of our initiatives, the UWC Dilijan International College and the Aurora Global Initiative. People have to come to common grounds, people of various viewpoints have to share their positions rather than destroy each other.
After all, war will end one day. If we fail to find a way to stop all these and fail to find ways to live after all these, we shall ask ourselves: what’s there for us after this?
I am absolutely sure, dialogue and communication are the only means to reach and maintain reconciliation.