“All I know is the world doesn’t get better if America recedes in the shadows.” These words were said by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green, who, along with the President, has decided to quit on a lifesaving mission funded by USAID that is well on its way to its noble goal of a mine-free Artsakh.
Unfortunately, USAID is betraying America’s foreign interests by turning its back on funding a lifesaving project to clear landmines in Artsakh. The Armenians in Artsakh strived for independence from the Soviet Union and the weight of an oppressive regime. The United States had encouraged the Armenian people to seek independence for years, and, after Armenia and Artsakh declared their independence, Armenians have supported a broad array of America’s foreign policy priorities, from supporting NATO missions to sending Armenian peacekeepers to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali and Kosovo. Unfortunately, despite all this, the current presidential administration and Green have decided to stop funding a lifesaving and critical project run by the HALO Trust to clear explosive landmines from civilian areas.
The word in Washington is that President Trump, upset that the Republic of Armenia sent surgeons and deminers to save lives in Syria, wants to stop saving Armenians in the Republic of Artsakh from being maimed or murdered by land mines. If this reasoning does not make sense to you, then you are not alone. Cutting aid to Armenians in the Artsakh Republic because of medical and demining charity from the Republic of Armenia seems to be a tacit admission of prejudice towards ethnic Armenians by the head of USAID, Mr. Green.
Artsakh’s people are at risk every day from the landmines Azerbaijan placed in urban, rural and woodland areas. These explosive devices were placed to exterminate the Christian population within the region. USAID’s funding of this project has been lifesaving and has helped transform the country into a more harmonious environment. Why is USAID turning its back on a people who followed America’s lead with their own independence and still supports America’s interests abroad? According to the President and Green, it’s because Armenia provided desperately needed medical care to starving people in Syria, which ironically is something the US has supported as well.
Armenians Supported American Interests in Syria
The Armenian people have consistently supported NATO and UN peacekeeping missions across the globe. As the Syrian conflict has progressed into one of the bloodiest civil wars in the Middle East, the United States and other nations provided humanitarian assistance to save the civilian population. Considering there is a large ethnic Armenian population in Syria, Armenia also joined the effort in providing medical care and demining to keep innocent people alive. However, President Trump’s administration is viewing this aid as being against US interests. The strange part about it is that the US has already committed to providing $9,500,000,000 in humanitarian aid to Syria. Yes, that’s over nine billion. It includes a recently announced increase of $379 million. If the President is trying to “save money” by cutting funding for the demining project in Artsakh, then why is he spending so much in Syria?
Armenians Supported American Soldiers in Iraq
Armenia provided manpower to support American soldiers serving in Iraq. These Armenian troops put their lives in harm’s way to provide peacekeeping and security for civilians and Americans. International support for America’s military was and is still instrumental to our nation’s ability to engage in combat.
While Armenia actively supported Americans, Turkey didn’t even let the US military cross the Turkish border into Iraq in 2003. All Turkey needed to do was simply give permission for US soldiers, but they didn’t even do that, and yet Turkey has received billions of dollars in aid from the US. American soldiers were forced to travel a more dangerous route through the southernmost part of Iraq. Many American soldiers were unnecessarily killed or became permanently disabled because of the more dangerous route. Unfortunately, President Trump and USAID’s leadership prefers to betray real allies and reward cowards.
“The purpose of foreign AID is to end the need for its existence.”— USAID Administrator Robert Green
Considering the toll landmine explosions take on a human body, and the disabilities that can result, cutting aid to a demining process is counterproductive and morally repulsive. Landmines hurt anyone who comes across them, even children.
USAID Should Continue Funding Demining Efforts
It is a shameful act to cut lifesaving aid to a vulnerable population who have supported American causes and interests, who are a beacon of freedom in a war-torn region. Unfortunately for USAID administrator Mark Green, his actions speak volumes and reveal his true character. His photo-ops and cherry-picked quotes mean nothing. For USAID to end funding due to Armenia’s medical mission is both disgusting and disturbing. It goes against the very mission of USAID. To add insult to injury, USAID’s leadership has chosen to make a foreign policy decision that will have a net-negative effect. The President and current leadership of USAID are dishonoring the legacy of USAID and undermining the principles which it stands to uphold.
The foreign policy of quitting on our allies in this way hurts our ability to act internationally and build more bridges in the future. If the President and USAID’s leadership want to further America’s interests and grow our influence, then the demining project in Artsakh should be fully funded. Considering the election year 2020, I would encourage the President to make the right choice and support funding.