You Almost Missed Rudy Giuliani’s Bizarre Visit to Armenia

Rudy Giuliani meets with Armenia’s Acting Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan in Yerevan on Oct. 22, 2018

Eclipsed by a media storm over US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s explosive Armenia trip, an even more bizarre visit by another figure close to the Trump administration seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

On the 19th of October, the Russian outlet EAdaily, quoting Armenian sources, announced the personal attorney to President Trump, Rudy Giuliani would be in Yerevan for the Eurasian Week Expo. According to the Eurasia Week Expo’s official agenda, the former New York City mayor was scheduled to take part in a panel discussion on the “potential for technological breakthroughs in the Eurasian Economic Union” on Tuesday October 23.

Appearing in an interview with Shant TV along with Russian-Armenian businessman Ara Abrahamyan, Giuliani explained: “The purpose to come here was to discuss national cybersecurity from an economic perspective, a topic which has interested me both professionally and personally for 15 to 20 years.” He went on to say that in the years following 9/11 he has been providing professional security consulting to municipal and national governments across the globe.

In the same interview, he also reaffirmed his view that the Armenian Genocide was a historical fact, praised his warm relations with the American-Armenian community and highlighted the similarity between the Armenian and Italian immigrant experience. (Giuliani is himself of Italian heritage.)

The presence of such a high-profile American figure at a business forum for the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Union has nonetheless reignited speculation about the depth of ties between the Trump administration and the Kremlin. Joshua Kuchera, Caucasus editor for Eurasianet, tweeted:

The former mayor’s security firm, Giuliani Partners, has provided its services to various foreign groups including the exiled Iranian Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which was until recently designated a terrorist organization in the U.S. For this reason, photographs at a cybersecurity conference in Ukraine showing him with Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes of the Kremlin-backed Party of Regions raised eyebrows. The same Party of Regions which ruled the country until the 2013 Maidan Revolution became the center of another controversy when Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to investigators, the party had paid Manafort $17m in kickbacks over several years.

Giuliani has made the trip to Ukraine another three times since then under the guise of cyber security contracts where he found time to meet with Poroshenko administration officials. These backchannel negotiations with high ranking Ukrainian diplomats coincided with revelations that the Ukrainian government had paid former Trump attorney Michael Cohen up to $600,000 for access to the President.

A public-relations outfit TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, which the New York Times describes as “a company that provides image consulting to Russian oligarchs and clients with deep Kremlin ties” has been organizing trips for Giuliani Partners to Russia and Ukraine as far back as 2004. TriGlobal’s advisory board includes none-other than the Kremlin-linked Armenian businessman Ara Abramyan.

Others still have suggested financial self-interest as a more likely motive for the visit. Abrahamyan, who personally sponsored Giuliani’s speaking engagement, may have hoped that the promise of insider disclosures by a high-ranking Trump confidant would boost interest in an otherwise dull forum. This theory isn’t so far-fetched considering the former mayor’s admission to receiving money for political speeches abroad. Giuliani had gotten into some hot water recently when the Washington Post revealed that he had continued to work for foreign clients in Brazil and Colombia while serving as President Trump’s personal attorney.

Whatever the motive, it’s unclear how much of the Forum Giuliani actually attended. His only televised appearance came in the form of a talk on cybersecurity on a panel with Sergei Glazyev, an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin (and possible successor) currently on the US sanctions list. The rest of his schedule included a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial where he laid flowers and a meeting on cybersecurity strategies with the Armenian Defense Ministry. He also met with the Chief of Police to share experience on the use of new technologies for crime reduction.

Curiously enough, despite freely opining about US foreign policy issues outside his purview like North Korea and Iran, Giuliani insisted to journalists that as a private citizen he could not comment on the official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

According to political analyst Suren Sargsyan with whom Giuliani met separately, even private visits by high-profile Americans close to the Trump administration constitute a form of covert diplomacy. Afterall, Giuliani was only narrowly passed over for Secretary of State (Bolton was briefly considered as well). Sargsyan qualified the forum as an opportunity for Armenia to strengthen relations with the United States.

Regardless of the circumstances which brought Giuliani to Armenia, Bolton’s visit may have spoiled chances of strengthening Yerevan’s position vis-à-vis Moscow and Washington.

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Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. As correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, he covers socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia, with occasional thoughts on culture and urbanism.
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7 Comments

  1. Misinformation and inaccuracies. Neither Giuliani nor John Bolton were considered or have been Secretary of State.
    Guiliani was a “candidate” for Homeland Security or Dept of Justice. He was not nominated to either position.
    John Bolton was never the Secretary of State; he was not even on the short list. He was given the post of National Security Advisor at the white House only recently. The secretary of State was Tillerson ( ex CEO of Exxon Mobile) and was replaced by Pompeo.

    Vart Adjemian

    • Thank you for your comment Vart, but I’m not sure where the misinformation lies. First, the article never uses the term ‘candidate’ when discussing Giuliani, so I don’t know why you included it with quotation marks; second, Both Giuliani and Bolton were considered for the position before President Trump finally chose Tillerson. Bolton actually mentioned that he was under consideration during an interview with Fox & Friends on the 1st of December 2016. Giuliani was “one of 4 key contenders” for the position until officially withdrawing his name on the 29th of November 2016. He was later named National Security Adviser as the article correctly states.

  2. Thank you Raffi for highlighting Mr. Giuliani’s visit to Armenia. I was not aware of this fact. Thank you also for providing your analysis of the different speculations surrounding the different actors in the US Administrations and their motives. In this age of “alternative facts” one has to learn to fish in muddied waters and you have helped clear these waters for me.

  3. You actually make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really something that I feel I would never understand.

    It kind of feels too complex and very vast for me.

    I am having a look ahead for your next publish, I’ll try
    to get the hold of it!

  4. Hi, yes bizarre but so bizarre; in a tv interview, Juliani said this (after visiting Genocide Memorial): the longer Turkey denies the G., the more problematic it will be for them; I am interested in cyber security….

    I looked for an article in the Weekly & did not see it. A friend who is into economics said that “they” want to make Armenia a data storage center, like Switzerland is for money! I then interpreted Mr. Guliani’s & Mr Bolton’s visits in this light. Bolton examined the Karabagh issues & said that it is not easily solved, but, that Armenia was “safe.” Political analysts in Armenia interpreted as the US putting a foot in Armenia vs Iran.

  5. I did not have to read the Article to make a comment. The moment I heard a U.S. delegate visiting ARMENIA, I knew right away that America wants something. Yes, they want a base to attack Iran.
    Armenia has only one question for Bolton and Giuliani:
    WHere was the U.S. all this time? Let me count the chances they had:
    For 103 years and they still did not recognize The first Holocaust of the 20th century that was documented by U.S> president Woodrow Wilson, because Turkey (the enemy) is an ally of you U.S. that can not be offended!!! Hmmmmmm
    2. When it came to foreign aid, U.S. cut down the foreign aid to Armenia while they increase the foreign aid to some other countries, and Turkey continue to be the third highest receipient of U.S. aid.
    3. Donald Trump continue to build his towers in Turkish Terrorist Azerbaijan.
    4. U.S. is heavily investing in Azerbaijan, but building a Grand Tour Nation Race car stadium.
    4. U.S. Exon Mobile the giants of Petrolium componies buys millions of barrels from Azerbaijan.
    U.S. TV moguls, ABC,NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX and the rest continue to deny airing Armenian issues and Armenian history. Who is behind all this, do you wonder???
    And list goes on…
    Need I to mention more,
    Well, I will after I get an answer to my original question.
    Where were you my friend when I needed you?
    Bottom line, Armenia can not afford to please America if its thousand years neighbors are in good terms with Armenia.

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