Armenia US foreign policy

U.S. parties appear divided over Caucasus policies, action stalled by election

By | Rachel Brooks

November 1, 2020 

Pictured above, “President Trump & the First Lady’s Trip to Europe” by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0

The U.S. interests in the Caucasus primarily focus on its outside mediation policy, and attention to preventing escalations with its rivals in the region, especially Russia and Iran. 

On November 1, ANCA Eastern Region released a statement concerning the Ohio representative’s constituent backing of the Armenian Artsakh determination. 

“Ohio State Rep. Jay Todd Smith set to introduce legislation to condemn Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression and recognize the right of Artsakh to self-determination,” stated ANCA via Twitter.

Artsakh does not have the international rights of self-determination because Artsakh, also known as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has been established within an illegally occupied region of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory. No nation recognizes Artsakh as a self-determined republic. Armenia itself does not recognize Artsakh.

Therefore, the backing of Artsakh on behalf of the Armenian constituency in the United States does not, as it implies, back the “inalienable” right of Artsakh to form a republic. Instead, it indicates that the American lobby, via the ANCA, has backed its Armenian diaspora constituency for an agenda in the interest of Armenian nationalism. This backing of Armenian nationalism is blind to the anti-American interests of Armenia as a state. Armenia is heavily supported by Russia and Iran, both of which nations are at odds with United States interests abroad. 

This would indicate that the American lobby for the Armenian constituency is at odds with pro-American foreign policy. It does not indicate the American backing of the subordinate Armenian settlement’s right to self-determination. It indicates a divided American interest over Caucasus policy. This divided interest can be traced directly back to the American bipartisan system of governance. 

“File:Armenian National Committee of America.JPG” by AgnosticPreachersKid is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

For example, all of those within the American lobby for Armenian interests are of the American Democratic Party. Those who appear withdrawn from the Armenian state interests lobbying in the United States are of the Republican party. This is indicated in the U.S. State Department’s approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire. The U.S. State Department is currently headed by a State Secretary who serves in the administration of the Republic President Donald Trump. 

While the State Department appears to have attempted mediation of the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh, the U.S. State Department has not taken strong action against the ceasefire violations of the deal it mediated. State Secretary Mike Pompeo stated on October 27 that he had held separate calls with both the President of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan in an attempt to uphold the ceasefire agreement that was violated nearly as soon as it was mitigated. 

“During separate calls with @NikolPashinyan and @presidentaz, I pressed the leaders to uphold their commitments to cease hostilities and pursue a diplomatic solution in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenians and Azerbaijanis deserve to live in peace,” tweeted Secretary Pompeo on October 27. 

The U.S. continues to play the role of distant proctor rather than active de-escalation participant in the Armenian and Azerbaijani conflict. Rather than directly engage, the U.S. State Department appears to have focused its policy on the greater region surrounding the Caucasus. 

This was evidenced by State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s October 29 statements denouncing the behavior of Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. 

“We condemn Iranian-backed Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia that threaten regional security and endanger the lives of innocent civilians, including Americans. The Houthis must stop working with Iran, stop threatening regional security, & should work to help the people of Yemen,” tweeted Pompeo. 

The connection between key areas of the Gulf-Med region, Iran, and Russia appears to shape all U.S. Caucasus policy. The current U.S. administration, led by the need to field off the activity of the Islamic Republic, focuses on the area surrounding the Caucasus but never directly intervenes in the Caucasus. The U.S. Democratic agenda, led by voices such as Rep. Adam Schiff of California, appears to want to provoke a more hands-on involvement in the Caucasus. 

U.S. Caucasus policy appears to be divided from the lower level of individual State Representatives and Senators to the U.S. Executive Branch. On the eve of the U.S. Election, both the Republic and the Democratic candidates for the U.S. presidency have been held to intense scrutiny for their policy toward the Caucasus. This scrutiny has surrounded the politics of Ukraine oil markets, which both the current President Trump and the presidential candidate Joe Biden have been accused of corruption over by their opposition parties. Likewise, their cabinets, including their sons, have both been accused of corrupt dealings in the Caucasus through the oil industry and what the American people deem inappropriate ties with Russia.  

Due to the position of both parties being accused of energy industry corruption in the Caucasus, and being accused of conflicting interests and collusion with Russia, neither presidential candidate will be eager to take a staunch position on the Caucasus. No altering position on Caucasus policy is likely to be made until after the presidential office of the next four-year term is decided. 

The balance of U.S. foreign policy in the Caucasus will likely be determined by the Executive Branch leadership of the Representative decisions in the U.S. Congress. Should the current seated president continue in office, the U.S. policy of indirect mediation in the Caucasus, particularly in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, will likely continue as is. 

Yet, should the opposition be elected, it is a possibility that there will be a polar shift in the U.S. stance toward the region. The Democratic leadership in the Executive Branch would likely promote the press forward for the votes and influence of Democratic Caucasus policy legislations, including the ANCA stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

If that were the case, the United States may become more directly involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. A U.S. direct involvement, however, would not be in the interest of either Armenia or of Azerbaijan directly. Rather, U.S. involvement from the higher levels of executive governance would be focused on concern over the inferred proxy conflict in the region, which is the focus of the U.S. Democratic-leaning media. 

Any increased involvement of the United States would not be determined until after the election. However, U.S. policy analysts warn that make a decision leaning in a biased favor of the Armenian lobby would be a mistake.

“Americans, such as, for example, Congressman Adam Schiff & Senator Robert Menendez pretend that Azerbaijanis aspire to something more than a peaceful life within internationally recognized borders. But they are pandering to parochial constituencies. Armenia is the ally of Russia and of Iran. A strong Azerbaijan, in coordination with Turkey, is obviously in the American interest,” tweeted Mike Doran, the show host of Counterbalance, analyzing the best interest of American Caucasian policy moving forward.