By Harut Sassounian
There are many justified complaints about Russia’s shameful role in the loss of Artsakh and inaction in coming to the defense of Armenia’s borders. However, there is also a lot to complain about regarding the indifference of the international community, including the United States, to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Artsakh and Armenia.
For 30 years, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, composed of the United States, France, and Russia, the mediators in the Artsakh conflict, issued repeated statements about the unacceptability of the use of force, urging the settlement of the dispute through peaceful negotiations.
However, contrary to such well-intentioned words, when Azerbaijan repeatedly attacked Artsakh and Armenia with frequent shootings at the border for three decades, the OSCE Minsk Group simply issued meaningless statements, urging both sides not to engage in violence. The OSCE, however, never bothered to point a finger at the guilty party — Azerbaijan — thus equating the victimizer with the victim.
Such unjust statements encouraged Azerbaijan to brazenly continue its attacks, culminating in the unleashing of a massive war against Artsakh in 2020, followed by incursions into the territory of Armenia. Last month, Azerbaijan violated the agreement it signed in 2020 to allow Russian peacekeepers to protect the remnants of Artsakh’s population until 2025. Pres. Ilham Aliyev, knowing full well that no foreign country would intervene to stop his attacks, ethnically cleansed the 120,000 inhabitants of Artsakh and drove them out of their historical homeland.
On Sept. 14, 2023, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We will not tolerate any military action. We will not tolerate any attack on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Days later, Azerbaijan attacked and occupied Artsakh confident that the U.S. government was bluffing.
Naturally, no one expected the United States or another major power to send troops to defend Artsakh and Armenia, but merely urging Azerbaijan not to block the Lachin Corridor or refrain from the use of force is an exercise in futility. The international community did not even impose sanctions on Azerbaijan because its gas and oil were more valuable than Armenian blood.
To make matters worse, after ignoring Azerbaijan’s repeated attacks on Artsakh and Armenia since the 2020 war, Samantha Power, the Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), finally arrived in Armenia last week, bringing along a letter from Pres. Joe Biden which contained a lot of sweet words for Armenians, but once again, no action.
Even more shocking, Power offered the pitiful amount of $11.5 million in humanitarian aid to the 120,000 destitute Artsakh refugees. That’s almost $96 for each refugee, deprived of housing, food, medicines and other basic necessities. This is a shameful amount of money compared to the USAID’s annual budget of $50 billion. Her visit was too late and accomplished too little.
Several other countries and international agencies also pledged assistance to the Artsakh Armenians: France ($7.4 million), Germany ($5.3 million), the European Union ($5.3 million), Sweden ($1.3 million), Canada ($1.85 million), Denmark ($140,000), United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR (amount unspecified), Japan (amount unspecified), Spain (amount unspecified). Armenia committed $25 million, plus $125 for rent and utilities per month for six months for each refugee. The government of Cyprus invited the Artsakh refugees to resettle in Cyprus. However, it is not a good idea to take these displaced Armenians out of Armenia.
In addition, dozens of Armenian organizations throughout the Diaspora are raising funds to help the Artsakh refugees. There are also many charitable organizations and businesses in Armenia that are helping the Artsakh Armenians with funds, supplies or services. Armenia’s Ministry of Finance opened a bank account to receive donations from the public. There is also an office set up by the Armenian government to coordinate the distribution of the offered assistance.
Just in case someone thinks that the pledged assistance is a lot of money, it is in fact a negligible amount compared to the vast needs of the refugees for the months and years to come. Ukraine, on the other hand, has received so far $80 billion from the United States for its military, financial and humanitarian needs. In addition, 41 other countries have contributed tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine.
The lack of concrete action by the Biden Administration, aside from pledging $11.5 million to the Artsakh refugees, has highly disappointed many Armenian-Americans. It is surprising that Pres. Biden, an experienced politician and candidate for reelection next year, who has one of the lowest ratings in the history of the United States for an incumbent president, has not made more of an effort to win over Armenian-American voters. Even if Pres. Biden does not care about Armenia and Artsakh, he should have at least cared about his own self-interest, which is getting votes for his own re-election.