After her spectacular expedition to Taiwan recently Nancy Pelosi has continued her “stir up trouble” world tour with a visit to Armenia. It should be noted that both anti-China Taiwanese and anti-Turkiye/Azerbaijan Armenians represent large voting populations in her Congressional District – California’s 12th. Crucial Mid-Terms are coming up and Pelosi has no problem swaggering about the world in pursuit of votes. To Hell with the consequences is Nancy’s mantra because she will do what she thinks is right and what will get her votes.
It was said that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was an independent act in defiance of the President and was purely about votes. But Biden’s statement about defending the island against a Chinese invasion (of its own territory) shows it was a double-act and about much more than mere votes. The same is likely to be true of her visit to Armenia.
Pelosi’s visit comes in the aftermath of the most serious outbreak of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the end of the Second Karabakh War in November 2020. Over 200 soldiers were killed in just over a day in clashes along the border between the two countries. Who fired the first shot hardly matters but it seems clear by the high level of casualties sustained by Azerbaijani border guards that some kind of Armenian mining operation was interrupted. Azerbaijan’s forces were rushed to the scene and a full scale battle developed which spilled over into territory that Armenia regards as its own. The large number of Azerbaijan special forces and officers who died suggests this was an emergency situation rather than a planned invasion, as alleged by Yerevan. However, there were certainly artillery and drone strikes then directed at Armenian forces stationed on the Armenian side of the border.
There are reports that some advanced positions were occupied by Azerbaijani forces but because of the failure to delineate the border it is still not clear where the border really is. Since 1992 it has consisted mainly of military lines and Yerevan’s obstructionist behaviour in concluding a settlement with Baku, nearly 2 years after the end of the war, has obviously contributed to the uncertainty.
Nancy Pelosi came to Yerevan to support Armenia and declared Azerbaijan an aggressor. Is she aware that Armenia has not fully withdrawn its armed forces from Azerbaijani territories as stipulated by the November 10 Trilateral agreement and continues with military activities within the territories of Azerbaijan, including the planting of landmines. Recently, a massive number of anti-personnel mines produced in Armenia in 2021, were found in the Lachin district of Azerbaijan. These were obviously planted in the last few months, before the Armenian withdrawal. Surely mining the territory of a neighbouring state is an act of aggression, if not war?
In essence, the continued conflict that is occurring between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces is a result of Yerevan’s failure to conclude a sustainable peace settlement based on the provisions of the Trilateral Agreement signed in November 2020. Armenia signed that armistice to avoid complete defeat but ever since it has been resisting the reality of the result of that war in which it was thoroughly defeated. While such instability persists along the border and in Karabakh itself as a result of the Armenian obstructionism periodic conflict and death is almost inevitable.
It is within this difficult and turbulent situation that the Speaker of the US Congress has decided to intervene. Her intervention can only be seen as both reckless and provocative.
For the last 3 decades the United States has been careful to present a position of relative neutrality in the Southern Caucasus. It is understood that there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the US that asserts itself in Congress periodically and the neutrality is by no means equitable. US Presidents, as part of their duty, have been at pains to restrain the Armenian tendency which is detrimental to American national interests in the region. However, President Biden decided to cross the red line of previous Presidents by recognising the event known as the “Armenian Genocide” and that now can be seen to have started unravelling the US policy of generations. For one thing he was pushed the Turkish world, which traditionally looked West, since the time of Ataturk, to start looking East again.
Pelosi began her intervention with a tweet that laid down where she believed Armenia and Azerbaijan lay in the world conflict that Washington has helped to provoke and escalate in Ukraine:
“Our Founders chose democracy over autocracy on Constitution Day 1787. For generations, we have protected and defended that choice. Today, from the US to Ukraine to Taiwan to Armenia, the world faces a choice between democracy – and we must, again, choose democracy.”
What is “democracy”? It appears to be what the US says it is. It is no longer a form of government but a US policy. What the US describes as “democracy” is inherently expansionist and destructive. It is intolerant of anything that is not acceptable to the US and it’s interests. Washington regards any part of the world that chooses not to be governed in a way the US thinks it should be governed as an aberration that needs to be rectified. And it believes that it is the duty of the US to rectify it. In the rectification process functional states are destroyed (Iraq, Syria, Libya etc.) because it is better for the US that there should be ungovernable chaos in a country rather than undemocratic government. Democracy therefore has nothing to do with the wishes of people, it is what the US wants of a country.
In the Southern Caucasus, the US would prefer a unstable, chaotic Armenia to a strong, independent Azerbaijan. Armenia is ripe for US grooming and exploitation, Azerbaijan is not. That seems to be the problem the US has with Baku.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan the Speaker of the House began her speech by referencing a large painting behind her: “This picture is an episode of Christian Armenia’s struggle with the Persians”. Did she really mean Persians/Iranians or just Muslims?
In her statement in Yerevan Pelosi was clear about whose side she (and Congress?) was on:
“We strongly condemn those attacks,” Pelosi said. “This was initiated by the Azeris and there has to be recognition of that.” The United States, Pelosi said, was listening to Armenia about what its defence needs were and said Washington wanted to support the country in what she described as “a global struggle between democracy and autocracy” of which Armenia was part.
Further tweets emphasised Pelosi’s strongly partisan approach:
“This afternoon, our delegation met with Speaker Simonian to reiterate Congress’s commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Armenian relationship and convey America’s support for Armenia following Azerbaijan’s assault on its territory.”
“Today, I delivered remarks in Yerevan… to make it clear that America stands with Armenia. In the ongoing battle against autocracy around the world, we will always support democracy and freedom.”
“Today, our delegation met with Armenia MoD Team Minister Suren Papikyan to convey America’s support for Armenia’s security. On behalf of the United States Congress, we condemned Azerbaijan’s attacks and spoke about the need for peace and security.”
Armenians are ecstatic at this clear US intervention on their side. An interview on the Armenian channel CivilNet, with Eric Hacopian, the important Los Angeles Armenian-American is illuminating.
Hacopian stresses that Pelosi is the 2nd most powerful person in the United States, after the President. She came to Yerevan in her official position as the Speaker of the House of Congress. She is not a transient figure but the favourite “daughter of American establishment”. It is therefore a “humungous event” and a “huge development” for Armenia. Pelosi is a “World wide figure” since she visited Taiwan and shook China.
Hacopian believes that the United States is taking advantage of Russia’s weakness to return to the Southern Caucasus in force. It is a “brilliant power play” on Washington’s behalf. The US, Hacopian suggests, forced Baku into a ceasefire after stiff Armenian resistance and “Blinken labelled Azerbaijan as the aggressor”. The US sensed that “the Armenian mood was moving against Russia and the CSTO after Russia’s betrayal” and the Kremlin’s friendship with Baku. This was the chance to bury the CSTO and take advantage of the situation.
With regard to “Russia’s betrayal” a prominent Russian had told Hacopian that Putin was intent in undoing the “200 year Russian presence in the South Caucasus to please Baku”. The Armenians presumably understands that the Russian State had made it possible for them to have a state and a substantial presence in Karabakh through its process of colonisation of the region with Christian Armenians and the displacement of Muslim population to form a frontier buffer.
Pelosi’s visit to Yerevan was “meant as a humiliation of Russia” according to Hacopian. Not only that, it was “meant as a humiliation of the EU”. Hacopian argued that “The Americans have imposed their war on the Europeans, who really want to end the war in Ukraine, and made them take a tremendous hit to their economies”. He suggested that the US may have been displeased with the EU and Von der Leyen flying to Baku to conclude its gas deal with Azerbaijan. This was consorting with the enemy at a time of war. Hacopian suggested that Washington was signalling its displeasure by not going to Baku and now expressing solidarity only with Armenia.
CivilNet also interviewed Lawrence Broers of Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs). Broers argued that the recent outbreak in hostilities represented a “qualitative escalation” of the conflict on Baku’s part “to intimidate Yerevan into a settlement”. In Armenia there had been a “decline in perceptions of Russian security guarantees”. Since the Ukrainian counter-offensive near Kharkov Russian military might was seen to be “not what was thought it was”. Broers noted that Azerbaijan has been a successful operator of the emerging multipolarity – non-aligned but friendly to both Russia and the West. Azerbaijan was very important to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine and its larger Eurasian project according to Broers. It had growing leverage with the EU due to the crisis in energy supply and Brussels interest in promoting the peace process as a form of soft power. The region was likely to be “in a dynamic of serial escalations/ceasefires” for the foreseeable future.
It is perhaps no surprise that the Trilateral Agreement of 2020 has now become a target for the US to undermine, as Washington considers it Putin’s achievement. Pax Americana will be preferable to Pax Russiya for Yerevan. The US is providing a potential means of escape from its commitments under the armistice Pashinyan that signed up to. The EU, which is now seen as captured by Baku is worthless for the Armenians except as a cash cow. But Washington with its vast amounts of money it spends on allies, and its Himars, is the Real Deal.
It should be noted at this point that while both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been careful to maintain something of a balance between West and Russia they have gone about it in very different ways. Armenia, bent on unsustainable territorial expansion at the expense of its neighbours, has found itself, despite independence, an economic and military dependency of Russia as a result of its expansionary adventurism. However, it has a pro-Western element in Yerevan, represented by the Colour Revolution of the current Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and a powerful US and French diaspora that prefers a Washington orientation.
According to al-Jazeera on 18 September:
“Pelosi… said she found it interesting that Armenia was unsatisfied with the response from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation. A senior Armenian official expressed unhappiness last week with the Russian-led military alliance’s response to Yerevan’s request for help. “We are very dissatisfied of course. The expectations we had were not justified,” parliamentary speaker Alen Simonyan told national television, likening the CSTO to a pistol that did not shoot bullets.”
There could be considerable conflict within Armenia if Washington does what it did in Kiev in Yerevan.
In the Rand Corporation’s 2019 Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground, which is very much the US blueprint for its geopolitical policy, there are 6 suggested Measures for stretching Russian resources: “Measure 1: Provide Lethal Aid to Ukraine; Measure 2: Increase Support to the Syrian Rebels; Measure 3: Promote Regime Change in Belarus; Measure 4: Exploit Tensions in the South Caucasus; Measure 5: Reduce Russian Influence in Central Asia; Measure 6: Challenge Russian Presence in Moldova.”
In its Geopolitical Measures chapter, under Measure 4, on page 117 of the document, after discussing the possibility of the US detaching Georgia and Azerbaijan from the Russian sphere, it is stated:
“… the United States could try to induce Armenia to break with Russia. Although a long-standing Russian partner, Armenia has also developed ties with the West: It provides troops to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, and it also recently agreed to strengthen its political ties with the EU. The United States might try to encourage Armenia to move fully into the NATO orbit. If the United States were to succeed in this policy, then Russia might be forced to withdraw from its army base at Gyumri and an army and air base near Yerevan (currently leased until 2044), and divert even more resources to its Southern Military District.”
Eurasia.net, a US and UK funded online news service, pushes this Washington narrative in an article published on 15 September entitled For Armenians: CSTO Missing in Action:
“Many pro-Western Armenians have called for the country to leave the CSTO. “If Armenia does not show determination now and does not get out of the deadlock of the CSTO-Eurasian Union-trilateral statement of November 9, 2020 [the Russia-brokered ceasefire that ended that year’s war] and does not take a step toward becoming part of the United States-France-European Union civilized system, then [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Azerbaijan President Ilham] Aliyev will devour Armenia,” wrote Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist and chair of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Vanadzor, in a September 14 Facebook post.”
Protestors have started to appear on the streets of Yerevan demanding the withdrawal of Armenia from the CSTO. If that were done Armenia would be wholly dependent on the US for its security. We can be pretty sure if Pashinyan does this he will have had assurances from Washington about Armenia’s future protection.
Washington sees Armenia as a formal ally of Russia in the CSTO, with a giant Russian base on its territory, and operating close relations with Iran, against its ally, Israel. And yet this is all of no consequence to the United States. Why? Because the US sees the Armenians as not being serious. It is believed that they can be easily turned once the Dollar is flashed and promises are made about territory.
The Azerbaijanis are a different kind of people: honour and principle seem to be a part of their make-up. They have good intentions toward wider humanity and engage in honest, straightforward relationships for mutual benefit. They are not so easily bought.
Azerbaijan has maintained a balance between Moscow and the West by being a good neighbour to Russia at the same time as allowing Western business, particularly in the energy section, to have access to its resources and market. There are also a number of projects involving assistance to European countries, including the Vatican, in cultural and economic spheres operated by the Aliyev Government. Baku is the most Western city east of Vienna.
It can be presumed that Washington’s courting of Yerevan is not just a move to detach Armenia from the Russian sphere but also to send a signal to Baku. That signal would be that Eurasian development, like that being pursued by Azerbaijan with Russia, Turkiye, Iran and China in Samarkand, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit, displeases Washington. When Washington is displeased it can get up to no good in a country. It has a wide range of NGOs etc. funded for the purpose of “democracy promotion” in all but a few countries. It is very interested in “oppositions” and their cultivation as state destabilisers on the road to utopian democracy.
Washington’s mission could be described as “Democracy or Bust!”.
Both in Armenia and Azerbaijan “bust” is a much greater likelihood than the development of US-style democracy. That is not because Armenians and Azerbaijanis are unsuited to democracy. It is just that they are not islands off the coast of Europe or in the middle of the Atlantic/Pacific Oceans where such ideal states can be constructed over centuries and from where the rest of the world can be safely lectured to about its failings, in the knowledge that it will continue to fail and never achieve the gold standard democracy of the USA or UK.
I am pretty sure that most people in Azerbaijan would know the result of a “democratic revolution” or Colour Revolution having seen one in Armenia lately and witnessed one 30 years ago that resulted in crushing defeat in the First Karabakh War. Elchibey was an honest, decent man by all accounts with democratic pretensions but running a functional state in the South Caucasus was beyond him.
One of the most ridiculous and hypocritical aspects of Pelosi’s intervention has been the view that Armenia was the victim of an attack on its “sovereign territory. An attack on Armenia proper with civilians targeted.”
The United States has great double standards when it comes to dealing with Azerbaijan.
Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act 1992 is a curious piece of United States Law. It bans any kind of direct US aid to the government of Azerbaijan. This ban made independent Azerbaijan the only post-Soviet state not to receive direct aid from the United States government it provided to all others to “facilitate economic and political stability.”
The Act was sought by the Armenian lobby in the US, and was passed in response to a blockade Azerbaijan imposed on Armenia after separatists in Karabakh declared independence and union with Armenia and organised an armed insurgency against the Government of the State. That insurgency led to the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 and the killing of around 20,000 Azerbaijanis. The UN Security Council passed 4 Resolutions against Armenia for this but the US Congress still decided to punish Azerbaijan for it.
After 9/11, with national security demands paramount, the US Senate adopted an amendment to the Act that provided the President with the ability to waiver Section 907. All Presidents have done so since then, including Biden, who had criticised President Trump for operating the waiver during the recent war in 2020. The ending of the waiver is a prime target for the Armenian lobby after their success with the Genocide statement. Some restrictions have been reapplied to Azerbaijan by Congress since the war in 2020.
Armenia invaded and occupied nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory for 3 decades. The force that Washington condemns Azerbaijan for using, and says has no place in the world, is the only thing that liberated this territory after reliance on US diplomacy failed miserably. There was only one side which targeted civilians in the recent 2020 war and that was Armenia which bombarded the civilian populations of Azerbaijan with Russian missiles, killing around 100.
Kiev is fortunate that Washington has not applied the same morality it has to Baku. In the Ukraine Washington has lavished the most abundant finance and military supplies on an ex-Soviet state defending its Soviet borders against separatists. It has marshalled the entire Western world behind something that is only one stage short of a world war. It demands the destruction of entire economies, people’s livelihoods and futures, for the sacrifice necessary to win the war.
For Mr. Biden and Mrs. Pelosi it is the same old story: “Muslim lives Don’t Matter.”
Postscript: Battle lines being drawn in South Caucasus?
From Russian media:
CSTO is the regional Collective Security Treaty organization, among six former Soviet states.
The Pelosi visit appears to have activated pro-Soros NGO Armenians…. Recall that Pashinyan himself is a product of the Open Society Foundation. Can’t help but notice the org is slightly overrepresented in Ukraine, while banned in Russia since 2015, in Hungary since 2018. If the Pashinyan government withdraws from the CSTO, Azerbaijan may immediately close the Karabakh territorial issue.