Armenia-US Relations: Unfulfilled Promise

The Armenian Weekly March 2014 Magazine:
Armenia’s Foreign Policy in Focus

Armenia has, since the rebirth of her independent state in 1991, pursued a forward-leaning policy to strengthen ties with the United States and NATO. Unfortunately, Armenia’s outreach and initiatives to bolster support and investment from the United States have largely not been reciprocated by the Obama Administration.

Kerry and Davutoglu address reporters after their meeting in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 18, 2013. (State Department Photo)
Kerry and Davutoglu address reporters after their meeting in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 18, 2013. (State Department Photo)

Strengthening ties with NATO

Armenia has been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since 1994 and currently has troops stationed as part of NATO forces in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Armenia also supported U.S.-led efforts in the Iraq war.

In June 2011, as countries were pulling out of Afghanistan, Armenia actually tripled its troop deployment there. Armenia has 4 times more troops in Afghanistan per capita than Turkey and 10 times more per capita than either Canada or France. In February of this year, Armenia pledged to keep its military contingent in Afghanistan even after NATO’s mission is concluded in order to support the U.S.-led alliance to train and assist the Afghan army. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian stated that Armenia is committed to “continuous contribution to coalition efforts to establish lasting security in Afghanistan.”

Despite regional pressures related to Armenia’s relationship with NATO, Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan, during a visit from U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas in December 2013, explained that “joining one or another economic bloc does not inhibit Armenia. On the contrary, our defense cooperation with the United States will develop and deepen further.” Farkas in turn thanked Armenia for being a “net exporter of security” and noted that “Armenia is a significant partner to the United States in many ways.”

It is important to note that after the 2008 Georgian-Russian war, Armenia was the first country to host NATO exercises in the Caucasus. Armenia announced then that it was going to increase its ties with NATO, and it has done so ever since.

Remaining an actor in the protocols farce

Perhaps the U.S.’s most significant initiative in the region has been its effort to end Turkey’s blockade of Armenia through the protocols. The protocols provided President Barack Obama the cover he needed to dodge his pledge to end U.S. complicity in Armenian Genocide denial. It was the excuse he used in his first April 24th statement to not recognize the genocide, even though he assured Armenian Americans that his “view of that history has not changed.”

Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian with Armenian troops in Afghanistan in 2010 (Photo: official website of the Defense Ministry of Armenia)
Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian with Armenian troops in Afghanistan in 2010 (Photo: official website of the Defense Ministry of Armenia)

Although there was strong opposition to the protocols within both Armenia and the diaspora, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian has continued to support this U.S.-led initiative, even though Turkey made it clear, within a day of its signing, that it had no intention of abiding by the agreement.

Now, more than four years later, Armenia still has not withdrawn its signature from the protocols—this, despite the fact that they are being used by Ankara to undermine legitimate Armenian claims, and have helped forces who wish to turn the Armenian Genocide from a crime to be internationally condemned into a simple bilateral disagreement between Turkey and Armenia.

The protocols have helped shield Turkey from outside pressure concerning the Armenian Genocide. As a result, Turkey has taken an even more aggressive posture against Armenia, including more vocally supporting Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policies, threatening to deport Armenians in Turkey, accusing Armenia of committing atrocities—allegedly the “greatest tragedy of the 20th century”—in the Karabagh War, and demolishing a statue to Armenian-Turkish friendship, all of which have happened since the protocols were signed.

Despite Turkey making a mockery of the process and the U.S.’s unwillingness to pressure Turkey beyond the occasional empty rhetoric that the “ball is in Turkey’s court,” Armenia continues to keep its signature on the protocols. Armenia has made it clear that it has done so out of deference to foreign powers, such as the United States.

What has been the US response?

Armenia is small in size, but big in terms of America’s strategic interests in the world. It sits in the middle of Washington’s top foreign policy priorities—Iran, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Syria—where it can play an important role. Although the second largest U.S. embassy in the world sits not in Baghdad or Berlin, but in Yerevan, the United States does not have much to show for its efforts to promote trade or investment or reciprocate Armenia’s efforts to strengthen the partnership.

Its signature diplomatic initiative in Armenia was the protocols, which garnered the intense attention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama before Armenia and Turkey agreed to sign the accord. Since Turkey quickly made it clear that it was not going to abide by that agreement, the United States’ willingness to pour political capital into realizing the agreement dramatically decreased.

The U.S. has not made Turkey pay a price for its failure to ratify the protocols and end its blockade. Instead, it has rewarded Turkey by publicly saying it could have a role to play in the Karabakh peace process, whereas previous administrations made it clear that Turkey would only have a negative impact on the peace process. For instance, in November 2013 at a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed consultations with Turkey over Nagorno-Karabagh without even mentioning the protocols or Turkey’s need to end its blockade of Armenia. Davutoglu felt comfortable claiming, “Today I am happy to see that John and me and Turkey and the United States look to [Nagorno-Karabagh] from the same perspective.”

Not only did President Obama fail to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, but his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, questioned the veracity of the Armenian Genocide—a move no other former Secretary of State in recent memory has made. In addition, Obama’s Solicitor General filed a brief in opposition to a California statute that allowed for Armenian Genocide-era property claims to be brought in U.S. courts. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case and the California law was struck down, denying justice to Armenian Americans.

Even on issues that would not risk the unreasonable wrath of Turkey, and even though numerous Members of Congress and U.S. corporations (such as Microsoft, NASDAQ, and Fed Ex) have urged the administration to immediately negotiate a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Armenia, the Obama Administration hasn’t pursued U.S. interests in promoting trade with Armenia.

After a near continuous four years of Armenia extending its hand towards NATO and continuing to support the failed U.S.-backed protocols with Turkey, Armenian Americans cannot point to any meaningful benefit to U.S.-Armenia relations or trade. In fact, as the examples above illustrate, there were actually steps that undermined a strengthening of the partnership. What did, it seems, finally get the attention of the Obama Administration was not Armenia’s continued support for the protocols and other U.S. policies, but rather Armenia’s decision to move toward Russia’s Custom’s Union. Soon after the United States announced an over $250 million investment by the U.S. firm ContourGlobal in hydroelectric power plants in Armenia.

The announcement of a major U.S. investment in Armenia is a welcome first step in promoting greater U.S.-Armenia ties. Despite the many regional challenges, most notably the hostile neighbors it faces in both Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia is determined to strengthen its ties with the United States and Europe. The United States should do more to strengthen this partnership. Doing so will provide the United States with greater options to pursue its interests and promote stability in a geostrategic region. Moreover, the Obama Administration should stop compromising our values as a country to placate the most radical elements in Turkey, especially when it concerns confronting Turkey’s state-sponsored denial of the Armenian Genocide, which is at the root of instability between Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. As Americans, we are, in our relations with Armenia and all nations, at our best when we align our policies with our values.

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Kate Nahapetian

Kate Nahapetian is the Executive Director of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC). She previously served as the government affairs director for the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). She received a J.D. with a focus on international and human rights law from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in international studies from American University. Prior to joining the ANCA, Nahapetian worked as an attorney litigating complex class actions. She also worked as a policy analyst with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, which mediates ethnic and racial conflicts.

28 Comments

  1. Excellent article Kate
    The USA has proven her complete indeference about every concerns of Armenians worldwide…lip service is what they provide Obama’s presidency has championed it ….Russia has her own kind of lip service…even if Armenians are united persuing their cause, as it stands,world powers are certain Armenia can’t make much of a dent…next time around whenever America’s beloved Turkey directly or indirectly VENTURES for a solution for ARTSAKH Armenia’s response has to stun not only Turkey but also the world powers….only than they may respect Armenia’s interests…meaning that Armenia has to prove her strength at all levels.

  2. Gee, if my tax dollars were constantly going to military aid just because Armenia whined, cried and shamelessly DEMANDED for more, and then learning that there’s a huge Russian military presence already in Armenia, supposedly to protect them (awww) from who knows what, of course the US, its people and the rest of the world would be pissed off! Now, after Putin’s land grab into Crimea, and Armenia, along with the illegally occupied Azerbaijan NK region, openly supporting Russia and Putin’s actions, is it any wonder why Armenia and you “people” are now on the world’s shit list!!!

    • “…Armenia and you “people” are now on the world’s shit list”

      I can tell immediately how civilized you are. This kind of language is unacceptable no matter how upset you are. Is that how you communicate with people at home, at work?

      “…supposedly to protect them (awww) from who knows what”

      You surely are very educated in history and politics. And how cynical one should be to tell this to a people who have barely survived one of the worst genocides in history and live surrounded by two mightier countries who want Armenia off the world’s map!

      “…of course the US, its people and the rest of the world would be pissed off”

      Leave the rest of the world alone. You do not represent the world and are not entitled to speak on their behalf. You don’t even represent the US. And you are not the only one who pays taxes, by the way. I work very hard, along with my husband and we pay huge taxes every year. Where do these dollars go? To support cynics like you or causes that are of interest only to YOU?

    • Any body who sympathises Turkey’s Denialism/Genocidal record is full of confusion and hate.
      It proves his or hers complete ignorance ABOUT THE HISTORICAL FACTS OF OUR REGION people of your sort whom (WHINE AND CRIE ) can never be successfull to impose lies and hate on Armenians they all will miserably fail so will the Turkish Government
      Erdoghan will than say the world can not impose injustice upon Turkey Genocide is forbiden in our religion…but fatwa provides the ticket to kill without Mercy MR.WENDY.M whoever you are stay tuned .

    • Hey Randy, I feel a bit sorry for you because your comments make you look so stupid. Thank goodness for your sake no one knows who you are to spare you the embarrassment since you are an example of someone that should not make comments in regard to global affairs due to lack of knowledge and your angry disposition to attack others who are of a different nationality than you.

  3. For the past several decades, the biggest insult to us as Armenians from the “US Government”, or more correctly the ‘Neocon Usurpers’, is that “Turkey is a strategic ally” and therefore “we can’t make her angry”.

    Really??

    Besides the ludicrousness of the US supporting a country which committed Genocide and is sleezy enough to defiantly deny its crimes (unlike an enlightened real ally such as Germany), Turkey, which the US/UK/NATO armed to the teeth themselves is in a position or even capable in deciding the destiny of the world’s strongest super power? How droll. That is not only an insult to Armenians worldwide, but to the general American public and all of humanity combined.

    The problem in the Armenian Genocide recognition is NOT in reality Turkey itself. It is the Neocons in power who have infiltrated both the UK and US governments. They are guided by “special interests” and their associated lobbies. When a Turkish sleezeball politician goes in public and denies the Genocide, while mirroring their delusional state they are also a mouthpiece for the Neocon, and the Neocon has taken delivery of America’s politics and turned her into a one-party government, albeit with two names.

  4. {“ Gee, if my tax dollars were constantly going to military aid…”}
    (RandyM // March 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm //)

    Gee, I didn’t know people on welfare pay taxes, Turk-oglu.

    The you “people” who are on world’s sheep* list are yous Anti-Armenian fascist Turkic nomads.
    Go and ask Europeans what they think of Turks after having fascist Turks like you live amongst them all these years.

    It must be some exclusive, highly sought after sheep list Armenians are on, Uygur-oglu RandyM: after Armenia told EU that she is going with CU, EU officials fell over each other rushing to announce that close relations with RoA will continue. Nothing to see here; move along folks.
    Meanwhile, your sheephole of a country has been begging on its knees for 50 years (since 1963) to be allowed into EU: it is becoming a sheepty joke.
    Don’t you Uygur-oglar nomad sheepheads have any pride ?
    Why do you Turks keep begging Christian EU to let you in ?
    They don’t want more sheepheads.
    Go and create your own Islamic Union. Lots of great Muslim countries out there: Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Somalia…
    Prosperous, peaceful, highly advanced. Turkey can lead, being relatively the most advanced of the bunch (….thanks to Christian West).

    Your dysfunctional sheephole of a country is slowly fracturing.
    The mad Sultan Erdogan is getting madder and more delusional by the day.
    But his Hi-IQ Islamist base still loves and adores him: surprise, surprise.
    The rest of Turkey hates and despises him.
    The pressure is building up.
    How long before a civil war breaks out ? Erdogamaidan just around the corner.
    All the signs are there: Kemalist vs Islamist; Sunni vs Shia/Alevi; Kurd vs Turk. AKP Islamists vs Gulen Islamists.
    It will fracture just like Iraq, another country that was artificially patched together.
    Or like Ukraine maybe ?
    All it needs is a little push from outside.

    Regarding: {“ along with the illegally occupied Azerbaijan NK region,”}

    What is illegally occupied is Armenian Nakhichevan and the rest of Armenian Artsakh called Lowlands Karabagh.
    By Turkbaijanis. Foreigners.
    Invaders from Uyguristan.

    Soon.

    —–
    FOOTNOTE.
    * reference to sheep is in deference to your nomadic sheep-herder ancestors. You know, Kara Koyunlu, Ak Koyunlu.
    However if you replace ‘sheep’ with ‘sheet’ as in “sheet of paper”, it will read better.

  5. Randy, For years you and fools like you have been a laughing stock for countries like Turkey sucking billions of dollars from US and posting your name who believed they are ally on their fool’s list. Armenians for thousands of years preserved their identity and we solute those who respect our Identity. Got that school boy?. Now officially I have posted your name on Armenians shit list.

  6. Armenians should learn to do business as usual, it doesn’t matter who, where, what, for al countries specially the west, it is business as usual, they betray, lie, cheat, for them anything is OK

  7. RandyM,

    You sound like one of those typical Anglo White-loving Turkbaijanis. Exactly which U.S. military aid for Armenia are you talking about? For your own education, the United States sends absolutely zero military aid to Armenia. It’s the terrorist nation of Azerbaijan, which the United States sends military aid to. And, also don’t forget that the United States also provides military aid to those Arab Muslim terrorists in Syria. For some rather bizarre reason, the United States has a bad habit of sending military aid to Azeri Muslim terrorists, as well as Arab Muslim terrorists. Exactly what sort of U.S. “War on Terror” is this supposed to be? As for the majestic Republic of Artsakh, it has been enjoying its independence for over twenty years now. And, there’s absolutely nothing that your people in Azerbaijan can do about it. After twenty years, the Azerbaijani dog pound still continues to suffer miserably from the brutal beating it received from those Armenian soldiers. Hey, when you really think about it, it’s your compatriots over in Azerbaijan who are on the world’s poop list.

  8. The base line premise here is that Armenia’s “forward leaning policy”, Armenia’s initiatives to the West, and it’s troop contribution all warrant more consideration and more largesse from the US and the West. Not surprisingly the conclusion is that Armenia deserves more from the West. What is said between the premise and the conclusion never established the conclusion.

    The descriptor “forward leaning policy” is self-serving. I don’t have the training of a legal education similar to the columnist but that might meet the standard of leading the witness. It prejudices the remainder of the discussion.

    As for all those troops. Let me ask some questions? Who pays for the equipment of those troops? Who transports those troops. Who is paying for the training of those troops. Who is providing the housing and food for those troops Are those troops in front line combat areas? We all know the answers to these questions.

    Armenia is getting troops trained and equipped by others. No, they are not out in Helmand province along with US troops and Britain’s 16 Air Assault Brigade. They seem to be behind a protective cordon of German and other troops. Certainly not executing front line combat roles. In fact neither are the Germans-so the Armenian troops are well removed from the danger Western (read as US and British) Troops face.

    If the strongest point of Kate Nahapetian position is the contribution of Armenian troops–then she never establishes her conclusion which is basically her premise restated.

  9. RandyM is obviously Turkish. There is always one or few Turkish at every Armenian site or blog. Their purpose is to agitate and insult but who cares! Let them show their true ugly face.

  10. Armenia is where Putin’s Russia hold the biggest army, in other words, Armenia is another Russian State, Armenia was given to Putin’s Russia with open hands, there was no need for force.

  11. Don’t mistake my prior comments. I want to see Armenia more tightly integrated into the West. The idea that Armenia warrants western largesse is overstated. Armenia has not sufficiently developed a western democratic system-with a free market-capital oriented economic system. Bottom line-you want to be part of the West-then you need a western system of governance and economy. It will also be helpful to align foreign policy with the EU-USA. Armenia’s latest foreign policy position on Crimea is one more clear statement that shows Armenia is not western oriented. Clearly Armenia’s rebuff of the EU and joining the Russian CU is a very clear statement. The orientation to Russia is understandable. Armenia does not have the legs to stand on its own yet and they are in the Russian neighborhood. There are very pragmatic reasons why Armenia looks to Moscow. How anyone would conclude the West should be doing more for Armenia is very surprising.

    • Because Armenia is not in the heart of Europe, Armenia is a landlocked country in a volatile South Caucasus surrounded with Turkic tribes, where US support them and ignore to recognize AG and Western Armenia as part of Armenia!

    • The problem is that NATO interests are diametrically opposed to Armenia’s. NATO wishes to push back against Armenia’s only allies, Russia and Iran. Armenia’s enemies are closely linked to NATO: Turkey is a member and Azerbaijan has close cooperation (even talks of hosting troops in the event of an attack against Iran). NATO and Armenia will not be allied anytime in the near future.

    • Reasonable point of view…
      Our president Mr.Sargesyan negotiated a road map to join the European Union STATING Armenians are European by race our second republic should be built on European values please help us do that…however without asking us to turn our back to Russia for known reasons this is what a wise president should be doing…
      USA and Europe stated repeatedly indeed Armenia needs to work with more than one superpower in order to manage her business successfully.
      During the last meeting with the European union most if not all concerns of Armenia became a problem to join the Union mainly Armenia’s historical land claims based on the treaty of SEVRE…THE TREATY OF SEVRE WAS SIGNED BY WORLD POWERS ARMENIA AND THE DEFEATED GOVERNMENT OF OTTOMAN TURKEY (young turks were rebels and terrorist organisation fighting the Ottoman government ) for geoplotical reasons France/England/USA dropped all support to Armenia.
      Armenia was betrayed by the west no matter what kind of excuses one can be provide…However factually the west did work hard to rescue the homeless and the sick but that was it…
      The west built BANKRUPT DEFEATED Turkey spending trillions of dollars…
      After one hundeered years USA continues double standard policy providing 1rst class lip service USING ALL KIND OF SYMPATHETIC WORDS/EXPRESSIONS TO PLEASE OUR CAUSE for how many more decades this approach can be acceptable to ANY NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS?…

  12. This is out of line..what I´m to write here ,but this is the only VENUE to broad cast so to speak.Right now am watching News from Armenia from Kentron TV channel. I simply don´t know what kind of DDMAGLOUKH people are there who cannot SOLVE THIS TRANSPORTATION ISSUE IN YEREVAN..
    A.
    MY ¨´SUGGESTION¨¨ FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO TAKE THE nEW (COMFY) BUSES LET THEM COUGH UP(PAY) 150 dRAMS AND THOSE WHO CANNOT AFFORD LIKE STUDENTS AND LESS PREVILIGIED 100 DRAMS.
    B.
    As rgds the ¨GOUDAKAYIN¨ for which today there was a big showdown in downtown Yerevan and days before too. The middle of the ROAD. solution would be( as I wish to stress that in almost all countries of world people adhere to Law and pay from their incomes, whether salary or private works… acertain % in order that after age 65 0r 63(when they retire) begin to receive Social Security…
    I WOULD HAVE PASSED A LAW THAT THOSE IN HIGHER BRACKETS OF income or SALARY…pay ,say 7-8% and those lesser previlged some 5% and third category ,low ioncome -salary some 3%.
    THESE TO HAVE BEEN PLACED AS IMPOSITION -AS IT IS NOW- A F T E R THE GVOT. NOT (Ishkhanutyun)to hell with this owrd which implies they are Ishkhans and the Farmer and worker believes these are other kind s of APARATCHIKS.Put an end to that!!!!!!!!
    We should address these people in Gov.t what´s more as …..
    CIVIL SERVANTS……anyhow..
    they should have raised salary of the LOWEST TYPE SOME 5% or so then imposed this law…There are solutions if they think hard-
    What I have suggested is NOT A FINAL ONE FAR FROM IT EM A SIMPLE Civil Servant of my ñpeople.There are more important people who can indeed Administre such issues.Who put those nincompoops at helm of a Nation.BTW last night a partisan(shall not say which) says the man has X many Biznesses in ra and is advocating Equal rights!!!!! all B-S
    Vahe Oshagan son of Hakob oshagan once wrote in Haratch paris Daily. No one has the right to consider himself Kak muh(S…..
    Be modest humble and let others opine too. please. anc CHANGE WILL THEN COME PREVAIL_—-

  13. I would like to know why a western orientation is more valuable to Armenia. As western people here we assume this to be true, but I don’t see how it is better for people there free to chart their own course. Please explain.

    • JDA: I agree let the people there decide their own course. The author’s position is that the West owes something to Armenia. That may or may not be true-but the author’s discussion fails to establish that point.

      It is very clear that Armenia has chosen for a variety of reasons to be in the Russian orbit. It recently moved to join the Custom Union anchored by Russia.

      I see little reason for the USA to be working to help prop up a Russian client state.

  14. “I see little reason for the USA to be working to help prop up a Russian client state.”

    On the contrary, if the USA cares anything about its investments and interests in the region such as the gas station it established in Azerbaijan, it needs to actually DRAMATICALLY prop up a Russian client state. Once the region erupts, the first thing to go will be western investments in the region. The west can minimize this by having good relations with both Armenia and Russia, and so far it is headed in the opposite direction guided by the neocons.

    Your “logical analysis” does not hold water. I bet you wouldn’t dare give the same “analysis” for other countries the USA sends money to, a couple of which are preposterously high compared to the peanuts sent to Armenia.

  15. A much as we who are citizens of the West and would like to see Armenia in the USA-Europe orbit, we must realize and accept that Turkey as a member of NATO and Azerbaijan as an energy source and a thorn in the side of Iran will always be more important to America and Europe than Armenia. So let us stop deluding ourselves and let the Government of Armenia pursue its national interest, even if it upsets some in the Diaspora.

  16. Nicely put,Randy M.
    Now that is some strategy:humiliate and ignore a country until it goes where you do not want it to go.Thankfully,this country’s policies are more subtle than your statements.

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