$70,000 was invested in promoting American state media on Armenian television, and $25,000 was designated for programs supporting the LGBT community in Armenia
For the third time in the past three decades and the second time in just three years, the international community has fallen short in its efforts to prevent hostilities between Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenians inhabiting Nagorno-Karabakh, a region seeking independence. Starting on September 19, Azeri forces initiated a major offensive to recapture the enclave, and the most recent conflict concluded relatively rapidly.
Starving and fatigued Armenian families flooded the roads on Tuesday, desperate to escape their homes in the recently defeated Nagorno-Karabakh region. Their departure was marred by a tragic explosion at a fuel depot, resulting in dozens of fatalities and over 100 injuries. In the wake of the crisis, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged $11.5 million in humanitarian aid, underscoring the severity of the situation.
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White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson emphasized the need for ongoing humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh to assist those in dire need. USAID Administrator Samantha Power arrived in Yerevan, pledging “unwavering support for Armenia’s sovereignty.” Russian Today delved into USAID’s efforts to influence the nation in collaboration with its pro-Western prime minister.
What led us to this point?
On Monday, local media disclosed that a blast at a gas storage depot outside the Karabakh capital resulted in more than 200 people getting injured. This city is known as Stepanakert in Armenia and Khankendi in Azerbaijan. The Western powers, including the United States, have conveyed their dissatisfaction with the Azeri hostilities that have transformed the dynamics of the South Caucasus, a region known for its mosaic of ethnic groups and intersecting oil and gas pipelines. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are also contending for influence in this area.
Faced with a relentless military offensive from Azerbaijani forces, the ethnic Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh made the difficult decision last week to surrender and let the region become part of Azerbaijan. The Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to prevent the Azerbaijani attack. His actions, such as recognizing the territory as Azerbaijani and engaging with American forces, revealed a strategic shift towards aligning with the US while distancing himself from Moscow.
USAID, as Washington’s primary distributor of civilian foreign aid with a yearly budget approaching $30 billion, operates in over 100 countries, providing essential humanitarian assistance and development programs. However, its activities have also faced scrutiny, with accusations of funding risky biological research and allegations of being a “CIA cutout,” as stated by presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Presently, USAID is actively soliciting contractors for tourism, disaster response, and PR initiatives in Armenia, reflecting its commitment to supporting various sectors in the country. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that several other US government agencies have invested substantial sums in reshaping the Armenian government and civic society to align with American values and practices.
Power dynamics were at the forefront when US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim arrived in Yerevan on Monday, underlining Washington’s commitment to Armenia’s sovereignty and democracy. Her visit, as stated in a press release, also aimed to provide assistance in addressing humanitarian challenges arising from the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to the agency’s website, USAID allocated $33.7 million to Armenia in the previous year. Nearly half of this sum was designated for projects within the government and civil society sectors. The agency’s stated goal is to expedite Armenia’s transition towards becoming a more inclusive, democratic, and economically resilient society.
According to the US government’s contracting website, the State Department is in the process of hiring a legal consultant to revise Armenian labor laws and allocating $1.5 million for anti-corruption initiatives. Additionally, they intend to purchase a firearms training simulator for Armenian police, which Prime Minister Pashinyan has pledged to deploy in a “tough response” to protesters.
The State Department allocated nearly $30,000 to a think tank, backed by USAID, the EU, and the UK, to counter manipulations and smear campaigns in Armenia. Furthermore, Armenian journalists received funding for anti-propaganda training as part of this initiative. Additionally, $70,000 was invested in promoting American state media on Armenian television, and $25,000 was designated for programs supporting the LGBT community in Armenia.
A sum of almost $30,000 has been disbursed by the State Department to support a think tank receiving funding from USAID, the EU, and the UK. The objective is to combat manipulative tactics and smear campaigns in Armenia, while also offering anti-propaganda training to local journalists.
Other countries’ stance on the conflict
Armenia, a former Soviet republic, is currently a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a defense bloc led by Russia that bears some similarity to NATO. The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Monday, cautioned against Prime Minister Pashinyan’s shift toward the West, contending that Russia and Armenia share significant interests in security and development. They further alleged that the United States is showing interest in Armenia solely to inflict strategic harm on Russia and destabilize the Eurasian region.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, called for full compliance with the 2020 ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, both of which maintain a border with Iran.
Paris has urgently summoned a UN Security Council meeting to address the crisis at hand. During a call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, French President Emmanuel Macron pressed for an immediate return to discussions in pursuit of a fair and enduring peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, while also advocating for an immediate halt to the offensive.
The EU expressed its strong disapproval of the escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged Azerbaijan to halt its military operations, as stated by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, in an official statement.
In her statement at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Azerbaijan of violating its commitment by initiating military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Gaining access to the area for independent observers poses significant challenges, and the extent and duration of the ongoing military operations remain uncertain. It’s evident that a striking contrast still exists between the two nations. America’s commitment to the international liberal order and the prevention of displacement and ethnic oppression, both essential for securing ongoing support for Ukraine, hinges on its swift action to make sure that this war is the final one.