The U.S. has invested substantial funds in Armenia, a nation with a treaty alliance with Russia. Samantha Power, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), arrived in Yerevan shortly after the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire, pledging support for Armenia’s sovereignty. This article delves into how USAID is working with Armenia’s pro-Western prime minister to reshape the country.
How Did We Reach This Point?
In the face of an Azerbaijani military offensive, ethnic Armenian leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to surrender and let the region become part of Azerbaijan.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, although accusing Russian peacekeepers of not preventing the attack, had already recognized the territory as Azerbaijani.
He sought to distance himself from traditional allies in Moscow and build closer ties with the U.S., conducting military exercises with American forces and providing aid to Ukraine.
What is USAID’s Role?
Samantha Power and Yuri Kim, Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, visited Yerevan to affirm U.S. support for Armenia’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and democracy, as well as address humanitarian needs arising from recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.
USAID allocated $33.7 million to Armenia last year, with nearly half directed towards government and civil society projects, aiming to expedite the country’s transition towards inclusivity, democracy, and economic resilience.
USAID, with an annual budget nearing $30 billion, is the primary distributor of U.S. civilian foreign aid, though it has faced accusations of financing risky biological research and being linked to the CIA.
Currently, USAID is seeking contractors for tourism, disaster response, and public relations projects in Armenia. Other U.S. government agencies have already spent millions rebuilding Armenian government and civil society to align with U.S. ideals.
U.S. Influence in Armenia
The U.S. State Department plans to hire a legal consultant to revise Armenian labor laws, allocate $1.5 million for anti-corruption initiatives, and purchase a firearms training simulator for Armenian police to use in handling protests.
The State Department has also funded a think tank, supported by USAID, the EU, and the UK, for debunking misinformation and training Armenian journalists against propaganda. Funds have been allocated for promoting American state media on Armenian television and supporting LGBT programs.
Furthermore, the Pentagon is looking to establish a “biological threat reduction” facility in Armenia. While the facility’s purpose is vaguely described by the Pentagon, Russia has accused the U.S. of using similar laboratories in Ukraine for researching and manufacturing biological weapons.
Russia’s Response Armenia, a former Soviet republic, is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led defense alliance akin to NATO.
The Russian Foreign Ministry cautioned that Pashinyan’s pivot toward the West is a significant mistake, arguing that Russia and Armenia share common interests in security and development, while the U.S. is primarily interested in Armenia to harm Russia strategically and destabilize the Eurasian region.