Saturday, December 19, 2009

US Aid To Nagorno-Karabakh Angers Baku

Location of Nagorno-Karabakh. World inset adde...Image via Wikipedia
Eight million dollars is a drop in the bucket for the United States Congress, which is busy as bees tacking on as long a string of zeros as possible to the ever ballooning U.S. debt.

But the U.S. lawmakers' decision to allocate that paltry sum to Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, has irked the leadership in Baku, and possibly put a dent in relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, long in the crosshairs of U.S. foreign policy mandarins for its fossil fuel wealth.

However, this is a first.  Never has U.S. government money been explicitly earmarked for the separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh.

For those looking for a more detailed breakdown on how the aid process shook out, take a look at this Armenian lobbyist website.

Highlighting how much the U.S. legislative process is a 'grand bazar' with lawmakers eager to please the highest bidder, the Armenian National Committee of America singled out those most helpful in getting the aid through.

"We want to thank all our friends, among them Chair Lowey, Adam Schiff, Mark Kirk, Steve Rothman, Jesse Jackson, Steve Israel, and Frank Lobiondo, for restoring $11 million USD of the $18 million USD reduction in aid to Armenia proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, and also for setting, for the first time, unrestricted aid to Nagorno-Karabagh at $8 million USD," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA

While Armenia is elated with the decision, Azerbaijan is furious, accusing the U.S. of tampering in its internal affairs.

Azerbaijani Ambassador to the U.S. Yashar Aliyev sent an official note of protest to the U.S. State Department, reading in part:

the conduct of any US government programs or activities in Nagorno-Karabakh and other “occupied territories of Azerbaijan” without prior negotiations with Azerbaijan would be contrary to the officially declared position of the United States on support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders, reports Azerbaijani news site News.Az.

According to the ANCA, the money is for "programs and activities", what kind?  Separatist activities?  Sounds a bit sinister.

The U.S. embassy in Baku, however, says the aid is earnmarked for humanitarian projects, including mine clearing, a testament to the 1990s conflict fought between Armenian irregulars and the Azerbaijani army over Nagorno-Karabakh.

As the Informant has recently reported, things have been heating up between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, with the Azeri president recently threatening to use force to reclaim the territory.

Why would Washington risk relations with Azerbaijan, home to oil and gas riches and a key pipeline?

Despite the heavy lobbying pressure in Washington, Armenia has long been off the map for U.S. geo-strategic planners.  But Armenia is a member of the CSTO, a Moscow-weighted security grouping.  If Washington can pluck Armenia from the CSTO, it would be a huge victory for Washington.

Washington has calculated it can irritate relations a tid with Baku to pursue this goal.

Don't expect Moscow to sit by however. This video, with a tacky music accompaniment,  gives a sense of the military ties of the two countries, complete with lots of weaponry fireworks.

Rick Rozoff, doing possibly the best writing and analysis of NATO out there (his NATO site can be accessed thru my links) has this opus on overall U.S. global geostrategy here.

That piece includes the following:

Robert Simmons [9], NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus and Central Asia – former Senior Adviser to the United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs on NATO – was in this South Caucasus nation earlier this month and announced that he had recruited an initial contingent of Armenian troops for the war in Afghanistan. This marks the first deployment to that nation of soldiers from the Russian-led seven-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a potential counterbalance to NATO in post-Soviet space.

“Simmons expressed NATO’s ‘appreciation to Armenia for its strong contributions’ to alliance missions, which he said began in Kosovo and will now be repeated in Afghanistan.” [10]
In reference to his mission of pulling yet another Russian ally into the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization orbit, Simmons said, “We are continuing cooperation with the Armenian Defense Ministry. NATO assists the implementation of reforms and the development of strategically important documents.”

 The eight million outlayed by Congress may be a pittance, but it could go a long way in the pursuit of Washington's objectives.   


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