American Interests, Russian Influence

The interests of Americans around the world are represented by the President of the United States. Where American interests lie is mostly geographical and sometimes political. The interests range from trade, defense of trade and, sometimes, defending the freedom of our friends.

A few days ago, President Obama hosted a long-planned nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C. Leaders from over a fifty countries came. No Russians were there. As the conference finished, combat broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the latter’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been under Armenian military occupation since 1994.

The shooting broke a 22-year-long cease-fire. Armenia and its forces in the Karabakh region agreed to another cease-fire a few days later on April 5. The 1994 cease-fire left in place an Armenian occupation of one-fifth of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region that has been and is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh has never been independent or part of Armenia.

Who started the fighting is immaterial. It was fought on Azerbaijani territory. People died on both sides. It is claimed that Azerbaijan secured strategic heights in the few days before a cease-fire was agreed to. It is their internationally recognized territory.

In the middle of the cease-fire was Russia, not the United States. By inserting itself into the situation to broker a cease-fire, Russia acted unilaterally, without the U.S. and France -- the other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is mandated to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States president did not even meet with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, when they were both in Washington, D.C. for the summit, or try to arrange their meeting. The lack of meaningful diplomacy in this instance is shocking. Why didn’t the President of the United States intercede in this larger-than-a-firefight episode where it is said hundreds of soldiers and civilians died?

While this may be news to the president, Azerbaijan has been a partner of the United States in fighting terrorism since 2002, when it granted permission for the U.S. to move troops and supplies through Azerbaijani air space to make war in Afghanistan. On top of that, Azerbaijani soldiers have served in Afghanistan as allies and are there today, in April 2016. Azerbaijan has also been crucial in providing energy security to the U.S. as well as its allies in Europe and Israel.

It is one of Washington’s absurdities that the U.S. Congress passed a law (Section 907 to the Freedom Support Act) in 1992, rewarding Armenia for an illegal invasion and punishing Azerbaijan for defending itself. The law was adopted at the behest of the well-financed Armenian Lobby. The lobby and its supporters in Congress dismissed the fact that the war of occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh was commanded and controlled from and by Armenia. It fomented, financed, and ran the war with Russian soldiers fighting for Armenia. This ludicrous American law that punished Azerbaijan for defending its own territory was passed and never overridden despite United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. Annual waivers by Presidents Bush and Obama have enabled Armenia to avoid punishment.

At one point, Armenia was receiving the highest amount of American aid per capita of any country in the world, even as the country was illegally occupying Azerbaijan and forcing -- at gunpoint -- a million Azerbaijanis from their homes. Secretary of State John Kerry was nowhere to be seen while the shooting was going on between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both Kerry and the president were MIA.

So, how did a cease-fire come about that stopped the shooting? The Russians are back. Between the Russian Czars and Soviet Russian Communists, Azerbaijan was ruled by Russians for almost 200 years. They want it back. The old phrase “spheres of influence” has returned. Russia yearns -- craves – for more influence in its former territories. It dominates Armenia with money and over 5,000 troops and border guards; it wants to do the same with Azerbaijan.

Armenia was found guilty of an illegal invasion -- with Russian Army help -- and illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory by the European Court of Human Rights in June, 2015. The fighting over the first April weekend would never have happened if Armenia had followed multiple United Nations resolutions to leave the one-fifth of Azerbaijan it has illegally occupied for 22 years. With Russian support Armenia has no reason to give up an inch of Azerbaijani territory and allow hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homes. The U.S. administration should defy the Armenian Lobby’s influence-peddling and support justice for Azerbaijan -- a true ally of America in the region.  

The interests of Americans around the world are represented by the President of the United States. Where American interests lie is mostly geographical and sometimes political. The interests range from trade, defense of trade and, sometimes, defending the freedom of our friends.

A few days ago, President Obama hosted a long-planned nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C. Leaders from over a fifty countries came. No Russians were there. As the conference finished, combat broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the latter’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been under Armenian military occupation since 1994.

The shooting broke a 22-year-long cease-fire. Armenia and its forces in the Karabakh region agreed to another cease-fire a few days later on April 5. The 1994 cease-fire left in place an Armenian occupation of one-fifth of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region that has been and is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh has never been independent or part of Armenia.

Who started the fighting is immaterial. It was fought on Azerbaijani territory. People died on both sides. It is claimed that Azerbaijan secured strategic heights in the few days before a cease-fire was agreed to. It is their internationally recognized territory.

In the middle of the cease-fire was Russia, not the United States. By inserting itself into the situation to broker a cease-fire, Russia acted unilaterally, without the U.S. and France -- the other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is mandated to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States president did not even meet with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, when they were both in Washington, D.C. for the summit, or try to arrange their meeting. The lack of meaningful diplomacy in this instance is shocking. Why didn’t the President of the United States intercede in this larger-than-a-firefight episode where it is said hundreds of soldiers and civilians died?

While this may be news to the president, Azerbaijan has been a partner of the United States in fighting terrorism since 2002, when it granted permission for the U.S. to move troops and supplies through Azerbaijani air space to make war in Afghanistan. On top of that, Azerbaijani soldiers have served in Afghanistan as allies and are there today, in April 2016. Azerbaijan has also been crucial in providing energy security to the U.S. as well as its allies in Europe and Israel.

It is one of Washington’s absurdities that the U.S. Congress passed a law (Section 907 to the Freedom Support Act) in 1992, rewarding Armenia for an illegal invasion and punishing Azerbaijan for defending itself. The law was adopted at the behest of the well-financed Armenian Lobby. The lobby and its supporters in Congress dismissed the fact that the war of occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh was commanded and controlled from and by Armenia. It fomented, financed, and ran the war with Russian soldiers fighting for Armenia. This ludicrous American law that punished Azerbaijan for defending its own territory was passed and never overridden despite United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. Annual waivers by Presidents Bush and Obama have enabled Armenia to avoid punishment.

At one point, Armenia was receiving the highest amount of American aid per capita of any country in the world, even as the country was illegally occupying Azerbaijan and forcing -- at gunpoint -- a million Azerbaijanis from their homes. Secretary of State John Kerry was nowhere to be seen while the shooting was going on between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both Kerry and the president were MIA.

So, how did a cease-fire come about that stopped the shooting? The Russians are back. Between the Russian Czars and Soviet Russian Communists, Azerbaijan was ruled by Russians for almost 200 years. They want it back. The old phrase “spheres of influence” has returned. Russia yearns -- craves – for more influence in its former territories. It dominates Armenia with money and over 5,000 troops and border guards; it wants to do the same with Azerbaijan.

Armenia was found guilty of an illegal invasion -- with Russian Army help -- and illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory by the European Court of Human Rights in June, 2015. The fighting over the first April weekend would never have happened if Armenia had followed multiple United Nations resolutions to leave the one-fifth of Azerbaijan it has illegally occupied for 22 years. With Russian support Armenia has no reason to give up an inch of Azerbaijani territory and allow hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homes. The U.S. administration should defy the Armenian Lobby’s influence-peddling and support justice for Azerbaijan -- a true ally of America in the region.