Letter to the Editor | USAID priorities: Funding the police or feeding Artsakh refugees

Budgets, as they say, are moral documents — reflecting our values at every level of government spending, be it foreign or domestic. A telling example is the allocation of foreign aid by the Biden administration to Armenia, budget priorities that reveal a stark contrast between the meager resources dedicated to supporting Artsakh refugees and the robust funding allocated for training PM Nikol Pashinyan’s security forces. My view is that there is a moral imperative to repurpose U.S. aid from Armenia’s police to meet the urgent needs of Artsakh refugees.

The situation facing Artsakh refugees remains dire. Following Azerbaijan’s genocidal attacks in 2020 and 2023, more than 150,000 Armenians were forcibly displaced from their homes. These refugees are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter and medical care. President Biden’s USAID has in hand an official $250 million needs assessment spelling out these desperate needs — chapter and verse. Yet only a small fraction of this amount (less than $20 million) has been budgeted for Artsakh refugees, with even less actually reaching families in need. Many report having received no assistance at all.

On the other hand, the U.S. has been providing robust aid to the Pashinyan government’s police force, despite repeated credible reports of human rights violations, abuse of power and brutal attacks (many broadcast across the internet) on dissenters and the democratic opposition. These police — more praetorian guards than guardians of democracy — are, by all accounts, loyal to Pashinyan, not the people of Armenia, who they regularly beat, bully and intimidate.

The allocation of U.S. foreign aid should reflect our American values, prioritizing the needs of at-risk refugees over the political and personal interests of a foreign official. We can, by repurposing police aid to refugee assistance, send a powerful message that America stands firmly for democracy, against the forces of authoritarianism and squarely on the side of the Armenian people.

Gregory Grigorian
Intelligence Analyst

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