By Harut Sassounian,
The United States Department of State posted on its website a lengthy document which described the American government’s strategy for relations with 175 countries, including, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, in the next four years. The 16-page section covering Armenia is dated May 4, 2022. The document is titled, “Integrated Country Strategy” (ICS).
The ICS sets goals and objectives through a coordinated and collaborative planning effort among Department of State, USAID, and other U.S. Government agencies with programming in Armenia. The document indicated that the main objective is the furthering of U.S. national interests. It made it clear that the goal of the United States government is to minimize the influence of Russia in Armenia while maximizing U.S. interests. This is not surprising, as all countries attempt to increase their influence in the world. Given Russia vs. the West confrontation in the Ukraine war, U.S. antagonism to Russia has grown exponentially. This is confirmed by the document’s own statement: “The U.S. role has become more important as regional tensions increase following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
In addition to its anti-Russia perspective, the United States drags Armenia into its hostility with China and Iran, further meddling in Armenia’s foreign relations. The document stated: “Strengthen the ability of partners and Allies to resist and counter influence operations and disinformation, particularly from Russia and the PRC [People’s Republic of China]; Counter Russian, PRC, Iranian, and other state, and non-state actors’ strategic, conventional, and hybrid threats and emerging disruptive technologies that threaten U.S. and European security in Europe and beyond.”
The U.S. document also disparaged Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union since its other members are Belarus., Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. The document stated: “Armenia’s participation in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) may limit trade with non-EAEU members as it conforms with poorly planned or implemented EAEU standards or imposes unclear documentation requirements.” The U.S. document concealed the fact that Armenia signed on March 1, 2021 “the European Union-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA)” to enhance trade and other relations with European countries.
Likewise, the U.S. document disparaged Armenia’s membership in the military alliance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization since its other members are Belarus., Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.
The first paragraph of the document stated: The U.S. objective is to “advance American interests by helping Armenia succeed as a secure, prosperous and democratic country, at peace with its neighbors, and more closely integrated with the Euro-Atlantic community.” The document also stated that Armenia’s defeat in the Artsakh War of 2020 and continuing tensions along its border “highlight the importance of the U.S. role as a Minsk Group Co-Chair and other diplomatic efforts to improve Armenia’s ties with its neighbors.” This is a misleading statement as the Minsk Group no longer exists, except on paper, since Russia, as one of the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group, does not acknowledge its viability and Azerbaijan totally rejects its mediating efforts. The United States is simply using the defunct Minsk Group as a tool to counter Russia’s unilateral actions in the Artsakh conflict. The second excuse the United States used to meddle in Armenia’s internal decisions is “to help Armenia normalize relations with its neighbors,” meaning Azerbaijan and Turkey, but not Iran. At this point, Armenia’s relations are much more critical with supportive Iran than with hostile Azerbaijan and Turkey.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I am just as opposed to the undue influence of Russia in the internal affairs of Armenia, which should not be under the thumb of any country and should be able to manage its foreign relations to maximize its own national interests. What Armenia needs is a multilateral foreign policy, developing friendly relations with most countries of the world, including the Middle East (Arab States, Iran, and Israel), Asia (China and India), Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Russia. Relying on only one power, no matter which one, can only lead to disappointment and undue influence on Armenia.
The U.S. document repeated several times that “Armenia has strengthened its commitment to a democratic path that respects rule of law and human rights, though more progress is required.” Fortunately, the State Department recognized that “more progress is required.” Elsewhere in the document, the United States correctly acknowledged: “The Armenian government has taken some steps to ameliorate social and human rights concerns, but progress has been mixed.” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power in 2018 espousing the ideals of democratic rule. Regrettably, he has strayed far from the principles of democracy, establishing one-man dictatorial rule, making all governmental decisions on behalf of the Cabinet of Ministers, Parliament, President, and Courts. Since Pashinyan has antagonized most Armenians, his popularity at home has suffered tremendously, decreasing from a high of 80 percent in 2018 to a low of around 30 percent. By ignoring the violations of human rights and decline of democracy in Armenia, the United States simply disappoints Armenians in Armenia and the Diaspora, particularly, American Armenians, who question the U.S. commitment to democracy beyond paying mere lip service.
When the U.S. government and its embassy in Yerevan remain silent in the face of grave violations of human rights in Armenia, it shows that the United States, contrary to its statements, is not serious about improving democracy in the country. Similarly, when Azerbaijan regularly attacks and kills Armenians, while the United States calls on both sides to reduce tensions, the United States loses its credibility in the eyes of Armenians in and out of Armenia.