High military representatives of NATO Military Committee, the oldest and supreme military counseling body in the Alliance, will visit Macedonia for the first time on the 6th and 7th November this year. They will be introduced to the plans and development of ARM capabilities, as well as with the condition and readiness of part of the declared units, stated the ARM Chief of General Staff, major-general Vasko Gjurchinovski in his interview for MIA. This visit, according to the general, is further confirmation that the ARM is on the right path to fulfill the necessary criteria required for NATO membership.
General, approximately two months ago you were appointed senior uniformed officer of the army, i.e. Chief of General Staff of the Army of Republic of Macedonia. What are the conditions in the army, having in mind that one of your previous duties was senior officer in the supreme body of the ARM, the Joint Operations Command and the SOR?
As I pointed out in my speech when receiving this most significant duty in the Army of Republic of Macedonia, as the 11th ARM Chief of General Staff, we, the members of the army are taught and educated as true professionals to have an understanding of the conditions and the capabilities our country offers. We will continue to perform our daily tasks with the means at our disposal, of course hoping and expecting financial improvement. Executing my previous duties as chief of the largest and most engaged operational commands in the ARM is certainly of great help in understanding the conditions and the capabilities of ARM commands and units, above all, the capacities of the personnel which is the moving force behind all successes, the top level of combat readiness and the gained credibility by our citizens. Having this in mind I believe that with every improvement of the financial aspect we will perform the tasks imposed by constitution and law, even better.
The Minister of Defense announced an increase in the army Budget. Can we expect those means to be used for equipping the ARM with new technical systems and its modernization? What are the priorities, that is to say, what armament and military equipment does our army need?
The Ministry of Defense and its leading personnel, as legal entity in charge of budgeting and equipping the army, are the linking chain with the Governmental institutions, where in accordance with the planning – the assets are granted based on priorities. The announced gradual, but continuous, increase in the budget is projected in the strategic defense review, and is also approved by all state structures as one of the conditions for Alliance membership. It is normal that, in accordance with the estimated increase in the army budget, the ARM General Staff plans and requests, by priority, those material-technical means, armament and equipment necessary for optimal execution of the tasks and for providing capabilities to carry out missions and interoperability with NATO standards in equipment. Above all, those are means and equipment for our declared units, which up to now have proved our readiness by receiving only top scores in evaluations according to the NATO concept for operational capabilities. I would also like to add that following the current trends in the area of cyber security, a special approach will be taken in planning the provision of modern communication systems for better cyber defense and information safety.
What are the human resources of the army? In the past few years there was a large outflow from the army, and there was no great interest for new employments. Is there a strategy to attract young people to apply for professional soldiers?
As I already mentioned, the Army of Republic of Macedonia can be proud of its members, who represent the greatest potential since the formation of the ARM until present day, who through their dedication, enthusiasm and motivation made the army respected among the citizens. That is the reason why we should always invest in personnel management. The Ministry of Defense, responsible for personnel management and attracting the young population, works in coordination with the ARM GS, and at the moment, for the second time this year is popularizing the military profession throughout secondary schools all over the country. In terms of the outflow of ARM members, up till this year, it amounts to 197 ARM members from all categories (officers, NCOs and professional soldiers) and on all grounds (retirement, upon request, deaths, on the grounds of unexcused absence, end of contract for professional soldiers and other reasons). That outflow trend is a reflection of the conditions in that area, as well as in the economy and in the state institutions. Here I would like to emphasize that in the course of 2018 – 250 professional soldiers and 26 officers were admitted, and advertisement of vacancy is expected for admission of another 125 professional soldiers. In the future, according to long-term resolutions, until 2028 it aims at more efficient personnel management reaching greater effectiveness with smaller number of personnel. Simplifying the system of payment and benefits, and of course the announced continuous financial improvement of the defense until reaching the projected 2% of the GDP, will contribute to increasing the standard of the ARM members, and with this it will make this honorable profession more attractive to the young population in Macedonia.
Since 2002 Macedonia participates in missions. Is the ARM going to continue to actively participate?
The Army of Republic of Macedonia engaged in peace support operations in 2002 by sending its troops to ISAF peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Until it ended in 2014, almost 3000 ARM members participated, and in some periods, for example 2010, looking at our participation compared to the number of population, it was one of the major contributors to the mission. At the moment there are 55 ARM members carrying out their tasks in the missions: ‘Resolute Support’ in Afghanistan, ALTEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina and UNIFIL in Lebanon. I would like to mention here that, referring to your question, we have increased our presence by two ARM members in the UN mission UNIFIL, and we have increased our presence by 20% in the mission ‘Resolute Support’, meaning that not only do we continue to take part in the peace support operations but we have plans to increase our presence by another 25%. Besides, we have increased our presence in the NATO forces for Kosovo (KFOR) with one participant, a mission we also support with the Coordinative Centre for Host Nation Support.
Before you took over the position of the CGS you were the ARM permanent military representative to NATO. Macedonia expects to become the 30th member of the Alliance. Is the ARM ready to stand side by side with the world’s biggest forces? Which country in your opinion is going to become the 31st member of the Alliance?
During my 2-year–service as a military representative of Republic of Macedonia to NATO in Brussels, I had a chance to closely follow the process of progressing to full-fledged membership, and familiarize with the opinion of the NATO command’ highest military representatives on the matter. Here I have to say that Republic of Macedonia fulfills all partnership aims with the expected dynamics. The expectation to become the 30th NATO member state is completely rational because our partners constantly emphasize that the ARM has already taken part in trainings, exercises and operations side by side with NATO-partners. Furthermore, replacing partnership goals with goals for capabilities development; developing defense capabilities and synchronizing defense planning with that of NATO, will shortly make possible to become equal to the biggest world military forces in the Alliance. Referring to ARM valorization and results achieved in the NATO Alliance accession process, let me mention the forthcoming visit by the representatives of NATO Military Committee, which is on the 6th and 7th November, and is of great importance because it is the first visit of this NATO high military body to Macedonia since our independence. It is another testimony that the ARM is on the right path to fulfilling the necessary criteria for NATO membership. During their visit to the ARM, the high military representatives of the NATO Military Committee, the oldest and highest counseling body in NATO, will get acquainted with the plans and development of ARM capabilities, and also with the condition and readiness of part of the declared ARM units, during the second part of their visit.
What is the situation with the reserve forces and is there a relation with the active members of the armed forces? Can Macedonia rely on the reserve as an armed component, similar to the active members?
A few years ago, a concept for the reserve was adopted by the Ministry of Defense, and it was implemented in the legal provisions. On its part, the ARM implemented a corresponding command structure which is incorporated in the reserve forces’ command. The Ministry of Defense, has introduced the plan for new Strategic Defense Review which envisages the development of a new concept for the reserve and initiation of a pilot-project as part of creating a small, active reserve; following the same instructions for development, and working under the same standards projected for the active forces.
What is the biggest challenge our army faces at the moment? Is it the migrant crisis, our northern neighbor’s current affairs, or the missions we take part in with our partners?
The Army of Republic of Macedonia, together with the institutions in charge of defense, has already confirmed it is prepared for all kinds of predicted, but also not so predicted situations, for example the migrant crisis and the natural disasters, which shows that in our plans and analysis of possible risks we are always ready to quickly perform the duties expected from us by the state and military authorities and the citizens of Macedonia. This will continue in the future and the ARM will readily deal with all the challenges we face, no matter of their character.
What are your future plans?
All my predecessors, performing the tasks and duties required by the position Chief of the ARM General Staff, have paved the road to fulfilling the long-expected full-fledged NATO membership, which is our national interest. As current ARM CGS my obligation is not only to reach to the end of this road, but also with the help of the entire ARM personnel and direct coordination and cooperation with all entities in authority, to continue our achievements as an equal partner to the big world armies, in order to promote our national interests abroad. Members of the Army of Republic of Macedonia are always guided by the basic moral principles, at the same time constantly affirming the values, professional and human qualities, respecting the high standards of manner. That is why I will never stop in my efforts and that is my determination – all ARM members to have their deserved place in our society, equivalent to their commitments, hard work and sacrifice in their professional and personal life.