Armenia Geopolitics

Stall in U.S. elections complicate cash flow and lobby of Armenia’s “Artsakh” campaign in the West

By | Rachel Brooks

November 6, 2020 

Pictured above, “Kanye West @ MoMA” by Jason Persse is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. West ran on the independent ballot for U.S. president. His political presence as well as his marriage to Kim Kardashian may influence American lobby for Armenia. However, as the U.S. stalls over electoral decision, the future of U.S. policy for Armenia, or toward neutrality, is yet to be decided. This stall may widen the gap in the Armenian vision of western support for its failing Nagorno-Karabakh campaign.  

The Armenian diaspora supports the Artsakh project in Nagorno-Karabakh financially and politically. Backed by the United States Democratic party as a major supporter, Armenia sends funds via the Armenian National Committee of America, ANCA, as well as the Los Angeles-based non-profit Armenia Fund. Armenia Fund receives its support, not from politicians per se, but wealthy Armenians of the Los Angeles County constituency as well as Hollywood celebrities such as TV personality Kim Kardashian. The Azerbaijani community also alleges direct support of Armenian funds through companies such as Nike. 

Despite the vocal American-Armenian support of Artsakh, Artsakh is not considered a legally recognized republic.

During the conflict of 30 years ago, the United Nations declared Armenia’s occupation and de facto control of the Nagorno-Karabakh to be illegitimate and issued four resolutions that demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the region. See the U.S. State Department archives. 

Armenia gains the support of its diaspora by stressing the viewpoint that Artsakh has the right to self-determination. This would mean that Armenia has two self-determined states instead of one. Armenia does not claim Artsakh as an independent nation, as the Armenian diaspora supposes, but rather as part of Armenia. This would effectively make Artsakh a colony, which Armenia means to lobby to take by force. 

ANCA and the U.S.-Armenian lobbies have used their presence to fund the Armenian advent into “Artsakh”, but they have also used their presence to attempt to lobby against the flow of transactions between Azerbaijan and foreign entities.

In recent news, ANCA had introduced a letter that attempts to prove Azerbaijan had violated U.S. Arms Export control laws. The letter was sent to Advent International and rebuked an Advent-owned company Cobham for producing antennas that are used in Turkish UAVs, and which Armenia alleges are then used by the Turkish and Azerbaijani government to “kill Armenian and Artsakh citizens.” The Turkish government has not been proven to have illegally sponsored Azerbaijan with UAVs. A boycott of Turkish munitions and selling parts to Turkey for Turkish munitions was called for by the ANCA to slow the process of UAV production. 

 

ANCA and similar U.S. lobby entities have supported the claims they make and legislation they call for by a continuous posting of videos alleging the deliberate targeting of civilians in Artsakh and Stepanakert. There are severe inconsistencies in these claims. For example, the Armenian government’s press relations team alleged that Azerbaijan had deliberately bombed a maternity ward in Stepanakert, which was later proven by comparing posts in the Artsakh Press to the alleged site location to have been a construction site. The consistency of war propaganda published by the ANCA, and Armenian foreign political lobbies, supports its cause for both funding its own Artsakh vision and boycott of Azerbaijan. 

 

Despite best efforts, the Armenian forces suffer a cash flow problem and consistent losses of equipment and military positions to the Azerbaijani forces. Without rapid intervention, Armenia would not statistically be able to equalize its force to Azerbaijan’s force. Armenia will likely be forced to withdraw from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region due to a lack of resources. 

 

Armenian lobby’s dream of reshaping the campaign for Artsakh seems to also teeter in part within the balance of the U.S. electoral process. The U.S. election hangs in a drawn-out balance between the leading candidate Joe Biden, and the president incumbent Donald Trump. This proceeds after a long year of political animosities and complex legal battles in the United States Continental Congress, which have effectively tied up the nation’s highest courts from passing legislation of smaller constituency interests. Armenian constituency looks forward to the anticipated election of Democratic candidate Joe Biden due to the potential swifter processing of Armenian policies from the Democratic lobby. Biden would likely be in favor of passing Armenian legislation because ANCA and various Armenian-lobbies of the U.S. are backed by his party. 

Pro-Armenian policies have been backed heavily by the Democratic Representatives of California, New Jersey, and Hawaii. In particular is Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California, who has been steadily pursuing legislation in favor of Armenia’s pursuit of the Nagorno-Karabakh region since at least 2007. 

Schiff’s initial legislation was opposed by the Bush administration but was promoted by the Obama administration. Biden served with the Obama administration as the then-vice president of the United States. It is a possibility, based on the historical patterns that an officially elected Biden would be in support of any further pro-Armenian legislation that Mr. Schiff and his colleagues were to introduce. Schiff’s process has continued under President Trump, see the Los Angeles Times 2017, but the Trump administration does not prioritize the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This is highlighted by the withdrawn stance of the United States State Department, led under Trump by State Secretary Mike Pompeo, toward the conflict. Mr. Pompeo introduced ceasefire diplomacy that failed almost as soon as it was introduced. He then proceeded to rebuke the violations of the ceasefire, calling both sides to uphold it. Yet, he did not take a direct position, rather leading the United States in a distant Nagorno-Karabakh position, present to mediate when necessary, but not aggressively. A more aggressive U.S. presence in the conflict has been lobbied for by United States Democratic Representatives.  

The process of potential Armenian lobby policy will be delayed, however, by the legal challenges of the 2020 election by the Trump administration. Mr. Trump has alleged voter fraud on the part of the Biden administration. In states where Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have nearly tied, or where their race came under a hairline margin, Mr. Trump will pursue a legal challenge of the legitimacy of Biden’s assumed election. The votes of all states are required to be counted before the legitimacy of a candidate’s lead is determined. U.S. newspapers have posted inconsistent information regarding the legal challenges. Some papers, such as Vox, have already declared the Biden administration as the successor, but this has not been officially recognized due to the allegations of voter fraud. The Epoch Times, a small independent U.S. newspaper, has reported the U.S. election to be undecided and cited an expectation of many more legal challenges to come. 

Should Mr. Trump be awarded an election victory by the recount and the expected battle in the courts, then the future of Schiff’s and colleagues pro-Armenian, pro-Artsakh legislation would stand in question. A second term for the Trump administration would not likely change its current distanced position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Trump administration, due to bitter rivalry with such Democratic representatives as Adam Schiff, see the Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump 2020 for reference, would be loath to support legislation Schiff introduces on controversial subjects. 

The issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict qualifies as a potentially controversial subject in United States politics due to the volatility of the Caucasus region. A more commanding U.S. presence in the region is currently ill-advised tactically, due to the potential backlash the U.S. would face from neighbors of the region. The United States, up until this point, has been reluctant to involve itself in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, considering it more than a domestic territorial war between neighbors, but approaching it tactically as a proxy war that could draw in Turkey, Russia, Syria, and Iran, and potentially even Afghanistan, creating a difficult foreign policy position for the United States. 

By the time the anticipated legal battle over the Presidency of the United States would be over, the status quo of the fight for Nagorno-Karabakh will have changed considerably. As of November 6, the Armenian offensive into the Nagorno-Karabakh was proving highly unsuccessful. Azerbaijan, to date, has reclaimed a large percentage of the land that has been occupied since the previous conflict of 30 years ago, citing the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. 

From the current election status, there is also Kanye West, who ran on the ballots of the election as an independent candidate. Kanye West is married to Kim Kardashian-West. While it was probabilistically impossible for him to be elected as the United States President, the purpose of running on the independent ballot is to receive lobby support. West reportedly received 60,000 votes across 12 states. Mr. West has expressed voca support of the ANCA presumably due to his wife’s support of the ANCA, and his presidential campaign would have reflected this support politically. For this reason, the ANCA lobby can potentially receive some indirect support from the U.S. election process as it currently stands, but this has no long term guarantee as the Trump campaign threatens a protracted battle for the legitimacy of the election in the high courts. West reportedly spent millions on his election campaign, citing the Independent UK. 

The West political campaign did not directly cite support of Artsakh itself, but rather received minimal donation support. The West campaign cited that it was in favor of Christian policies, which may have made it sympathetic to Armenia’s Apostolic politics, but this was not explicitly stated.  It is not clear, at this time, to what degree the political support of the West independent campaign will have on promoting future American legislation in general, and American pro-Armenian legislation. Should West continue to pursue political interests, he may have a presence on the future of Armenian lobby.