Western Media Blitz Against Armenia

“It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilization. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs”. - British historian and aesthetician Sir Kenneth Clark
“A Two-Wave Experiment found that the way the news media presents the news can cause political cynicism" - Dutch study called, The Effects of Strategic News on Political Cynicism, Issue Evaluations, and Policy Support
“[The Dulles brothers] were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it’s very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it”. - Author Stephen Kinzer
They have the tools to set the political mood of a society. They have the tools to sow political unrest. They first destroy the spirit through an information war, after which they can easily destroy the body either through economic/financial blackmail or war. Softening your political opposition and making it susceptible to collapse is what propaganda and psy-ops is all about. For Western powers the notion of “free media” simply means media controlled by Western interests. Therefore, keep this in mind next time you read news articles produced by Armenian news outlets based in the US or come across news reports put out by Armenia’s Western-financed political opposition. Most of the news reports and political commentaries put out by such sources are specifically designed to convey outrage against the Armenian state and sow hopelessness among Armenians. They are therefore meant to breakdown the spirit and sow the seeds of sociopolitical unrest.

US launches cyber spy operation: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/170623.html

Pentagon spent millions studying how to influence social media: https://www.rt.com/usa/171356-darpa-social-media-study/

How British spies covertly shape the flow of information online to ‘discredit’ their targets: http://www.businessinsider.com/gchq-spies-discredit-targets-on-the-internet-2015-6
New Snowden Docs Reveal British Spy Agency Tactic To Manipulate Social Media: http://www.mintpressnews.com/new-snowden-docs-reveal-british-spy-tactic-to-social-media/194034/
Spy Agencies Manipulate and Disrupt Web Discussions to Promote Propaganda and Discredit Government Critics: http://www.globalresearch.ca/spy-agencies-manipulate-and-disrupt-web-discussions-to-promote-propaganda-and-discredit-government-critics/5370668


Do Certain NGOs Play the Role of a ‘Trojan Horse’ in Armenia?: http://www.armenianlife.com/2014/09/03/do-certain-ngos-play-the-role-of-a-trojan-horse-in-armenia/


Methods and goals of anti-Russian media in Armenia: http://vestnikkavkaza.net/analysis/politics/57463.html
Now you know why Western powers have been encouraging Armenian opposition officials, "independent" journalists and political activists to disseminate negative news about Armenia on a persistent basis. Their constant “the sky is falling" rhetoric is how they have wounded the Armenian spirit and why growing numbers of Armenians want out of Armenia. I reiterate: Much of the reason behind why Armenians have been demoralized in recent years and why there is political instability and a powerful sense of hopelessness in Armenia today is precisely due to the mass hysteria fomented by the Western-led forces in the country. Armenia is suffering from a persistent campaign of doom and gloom and every single growing pain in the country is getting co-opted and turned into a sociopolitical fiasco.

Breaking news!!!
Kirk Kerkorian has decided he is done with Armenia... The Millennium Challenge fund is to end its lifesaving projects in Armenia... The White House is cutting aid to Armenia... The protocol is part of a secret plan to turn Armenia into Turkey's eastern most province... Armenia's servicemen are massacring one-another... Armenia's women are being brutally murdered throughout the country... Armenia's uber-corrupt government is driving all businesses out of the country at gunpoint… Armenia's news press is being edited by Serj Sargsyan himself… Armenia's leaders are unelected criminals seeking to sell Armenia to the highest bidder… Armenia's president is going sell Artsakh to the Azeris... Armenia is being re-colonized by Russia... Armenia is to be invaded any day now... Armenia's poor are starving to death in the streets... Armenia's women are turning to prostitution en-masse... Armenia is turning into a crime ridden third-world cesspool... Armenia's air, water and soil are toxic... Armenians gangs are running amok around the world… Armenia is a petty dictatorship, a banana republic without the bananas... Armenia is on the very verge of total and utter destruction... Armenia's population is merely one Armavia flight away from total and final extinction!!!
Don't believe the hype. There is a full-scale media blitz against Armenia.
Listening to the Western press and its pathetic lackeys within our communities discuss Armenia these days, one would think that this is the very end of the road for our fledgling republic in the Caucasus; Armenia has finally reached its cul-de-sac. Some people in very high places would like our people to believe that if a Western inspired color revolution in Armenia does not succeed in putting into power a kabal of mercenaries that are willing to serve their Anglo-American-Zionist masters, the Armenian state will soon cease to exist. That is fundamentally what they want you and I to believe. And it is towards this aim that they are carefully preparing their field of play. Something must be going down behind the scenes in Washington. I hope that something is not a major regional war. But looking at the volatility of the political situation in the region today that may certainly be it. The very terms "Armenia" and "Armenian" are being turned into something negative; similar to what they did with Serbia ten years ago. They are trying to cause instability in the republic. I pray to God that the next stage, which usually is the start of hostilities, is averted somehow.
Alarmingly, the anti-Armenia media blitz carried out by various American funded media outlets and their affiliates in Armenia's so-called "opposition" is succeeding in convincing a significant portion of our compatriots that it's all a lost cause. The toxicity of their propaganda campaign has begun permeating all layers of Armenian society. Helplessness and hopelessness, despair and desperation is what one immediately feels when discussing Armenia these days. The divide between the homeland and the diaspora is growing and divisions within Armenia itself are deepening. Please read the various articles posted below this commentary to better acquaint yourselves to the kind of atmosphere/mood they are attempting to create, as well as their their long-term political intentions (comments posted below some of the featured articles are also quite interesting to read).  

The primary catalysts of apocalyptic news about Armenia, the vehicles upon which corrosive propaganda travels within the Armenian community are - ArmeniaNow, Asbarez, Armenian Weekly, Hraparak, Hetq, Lragir, Aravot, A1 Plus, Radio Liberty and their various affiliates in and out of Armenia.

Various Western measures to bring the fledgling Armenian state in the Caucasus to its knees have not bore fruit. Armenia won the war against a Western-backed Azerbaijan. Armenia has been bravely enduring an almost twenty year economic blockade by NATO - via Turkey, of course. And much to their dismay, Armenia has institutionalized its military alliance with the Russian Federation and it has established very warm relations with Iran. Equally to their dismay, Armenia's national infrastructure is slowly but surely developing - independent of the Western alliance. As a result of its close working alliance with the Russian Federation and its very healthy relationship with Iran, Armenia today has put itself in a strategic position to potentially become a major regional energy/trade hub - independent of the Western alliance. Yerevan's audacity in not playing ball with the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance is essentially what's driving the multi-pronged propaganda assault against the Armenian state today.
Because they cannot directly attack Armenia (similar to what they did with Serbia and Iraq) because of Armenia's significant Russian military presence, they are resorting to other measures. When economic and/or military measures fail to break a nation’s will, they will resort to psychological warfare - the war against the nation's spirit and its will to live.
What most Armenians do not know is that psychological warfare operations (psyop) is an actual manner of combat and one that is employed by virtually all major powers on earth. It’s just that the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance's strategic psychological warfare operations are considered to be the world’s most sophisticated and most lethal. Most Armenians also fail to realize that Armenia has been a major target of these types of operations by the West for a very long time; it actually goes back to the Cold War period when elements within Armenia and the Armenian diaspora were employed by Western officials to undermine Soviet Armenia. The intensity of this Washington based psychological operations have been intensified lately. In my opinion, this is most probably as a result of the long-term military deal Yerevan struck with Moscow during last summer and due to Armenia's growing relations with Tehran. Nevertheless, make no mistake about it, even as I write this, there is a full-scale psychological warfare blitz taking place against the Armenian state.

What are their intentions? What is their end game? Why are they targeting the little, landlocked, blockaded and impoverished nation surrounded by so many enemies in the Caucasus?
Simply put: as mentioned above, Yerevan refuses to play the game with the Anglo-American-Zionist global order. The Armenian state has chosen Russia to be its military ally and its economic lifeline. I don’t need to explain why this is because reasons for it are self-explanatory. But Russia is not the only problem. Armenia also refuses to participate in the aggressive campaign against Iran. You see, had Armenia’s leadership been Washington’s puppets in the Caucasus, we would not have heard a single bad word about them in the Western press. Had Armenian officials been in bed with Washingtonian officials, despite any of its problems, Armenia would be portrayed as heaven on earth and Armenia’s leaders would have been described as - protectors of freedom and democracy. But the reality is, had Armenia's politicians been dancing to the tunes of the Western alliance, Armenia would eventually cease to exist, yet again.
For the West, Armenia is just an obstacle getting in the way of their regional oil/gas exploitation efforts. Armenia is also an obstacle getting in the way of Western efforts to push Russia out of the Caucasus. Armenia is also an obstacle getting in the way of Western efforts to establish a regional platform from which to attack Iran. For Russia, on the other hand, Armenia is a crucially important strategic ally that is actually keeping the region's Western, Islamic and Turkic agendas at bay with its presence. Therefore, what Yerevan and Moscow have is a tight convergence of long-term strategic interests. As a result, because Yerevan has gotten into a crucially important military alliance with the dreaded Russian Federation (a much envied political entity various Western and Islamic/Turkic powers have tried to undermine or destroy for centuries), Armenia will continue being targeted by Washington and its allies.
When was the last time any of you read or heard anything negative said about any one of Washington's numerous dictators and tyrants in South America, Central America, Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South-east Asia or in Central Asia? When we sometimes do hear some criticism of a corrupt leader that has close ties to Washington - like when they criticize Afghanistan's Hamid Kharzai from time-to-time - it simply means that American officials either had a falling out over some political/economic matter or it's simply a ploy/political theatrics. Concerning Hosni Mubarak: he was their nasty bastard for thirty years. However, since he was an octogenarian (in other words, almost dead), since he was severely hated by his people, since he had gotten far too complacent/lazy in office, his handlers in Washington reluctantly allowed him to be pushed out of power. And who took over the controls of government? The military that Mubarak ran! Eventually they will put into office yet another Western/Zionist lackey and they will call it a democracy! Anyway, listen to an important Washington insider, who also happens to be a well known billionaire, a media executive and a political commentator discuss democracy in the Middle East -
Mortimer Zuckerman: Muslim Brotherhood would be a disaster for Egypt: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9383436.stm
And watch at this video clip: over twenty Egyptian protesters get run over by a van belonging to the American embassy in Egypt -
Diplomat's car runs over more than 20 people in Cairo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZec3vCttkw&feature=related
Of course Washington denied any involvement, saying that the van in question was "stolen" just prior to the incident. But how many of you actually saw this incident in Cairo on your television screens? Just imagine what media executives and government officials in the United States would have done with this kind of video footage had the van belonged to Russian or Iranian officials: It would have been made into a movie or a book by now! It simply amazes me that there still are people on earth who believe Washingtonian propaganda. The kind of self-serving propaganda and double talk Washington puts out these days is more outlandish than any Hollywood film, yet a significant portion of humanity still accepts it as gospel.

Being stupid during the Cold War was one thing, being stupid in the post-Soviet world is NOT excusable.

As a result of the recent political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, Washington and its many assets in the Armenian community are smelling blood once again. Taking advantage of Armenia's lingering economic woes (which is in part due to the global economic downturn), they would like to use this opportunity to foment a popular uprising against the Armenian state. And they are using their diverse assets in Armenia and in the diaspora to push their geopolitical agenda and to break the Armenian people’s will/spirit.

ArmeniaNow, for instance, has more-or-less been lamenting that Armenia is not descending into a bloody mess. This Western propaganda outlet in Yerevan is run by John Hughes, a well known CIA asset from California that many of our self-destructive peasantry adores. With their very incendiary reporting, ArmeniaNow played a major role in trying to provoke violence against the state during Levon Ter Petrosian's attempted coup d'etat in early 2008. Since Georgia's defeat in the summer of 2008, however, the staff at ArmeniaNow had considerably toned-down their anti-state rhetoric. For the past three years, they had been very careful with their reporting. Now, with them smelling blood once again, they are gradually/subtly/carefully attempting to reenter the fray. Simply put: ArmeniaNow's intentions in Armenia are solely the intentions of Washington and Washington’s intentions in Armenia are solely to carryout a regime change in Yerevan. Again, it’s all about Armenia’s alliance with Russia and its good relations with Iran.
We even now have "social activists" like Onnik Krikorian, a British born Armenian agent that has close connections to ArmeniaNow and various other Western funded entities in Armenia, attempting to prepare the field of confrontation. The following are two web pages caught my attention -
I’m afraid their relentless psy-op campaign may be working. We now have a significant portion of our compatriots both in and out of the homeland demoralized and hopeless beyond help. For these Armenians, the Armenian sky is literally falling on their heads. The hopelessness, the anger, the hate, the helplessness, the despair, the pessimism, the morbidity, the cynicism, the willingness to abandon the nation, the willingness to dodge the military draft... The ubiquitous bad news being displayed is fast becoming a very convenient excuse for all those who want to spit on their homeland and abandon it to its fate. As usual, droves of Armenians are leaving or seeking to leave their homeland. And droves of Armenians in the diaspora are seeking a bloody revolution in Armenia.
The reality is that yes, Armenia is hurting today. But Armenia is hurting no more than most other countries in the world, countries that are even in much better circumstances than it. Perhaps this is news to Armenians today, but last I checked, virtually the entire world was reeling from an economic crisis. Perhaps this is news to Armenians today, but food prices, commodity prices and energy prices are going up all around the world. Perhaps this is news to Armenians today, but social/political turmoil has gripped the entire world. Perhaps this is news to Armenians today, but oligarchs, monopolist and corrupt officials saturate virtually all governments of the world (perhaps with the exception of Scandinavian nations and Germanic ones in Europe). Perhaps this is news to Armenians today, but the opulence of the past twenty somewhat years in the western world has all but ended. All of humanity is hurting today!
Underemployment, unemployment, higher energy costs, higher rates of poverty, riots, higher rates of crime, mass protests, shrinking middle class, higher food costs, numerous wars, ecological damage, disease, widespread political tensions... It's more-or-less the same story everywhere we look these days. We are seeing the rise of unrest in many places on earth. The situation around the globe has gotten so bad that I'm actually very worried about a world war breaking out in the near future. The reality is that Armenia is not uniquely or exceptionally in a bad situation. Another reality is that despite all the odds being stacked against our landlocked and blockaded nation in the Caucasus, Armenia has actually been able to keep its head above water and has recently begun to slowly move forward.
So, what’s with all the damn doom and gloom among Armenians?
I don't see this kind of irrationality, hysteria and/or destructive behavior elsewhere. I don't see civilized people willing to abandon their homelands en-masse. We Armenians have become demoralized to such an extent that we are more than willing to spit on our homeland. Why is it that many Armenians are more than ready to abandon their nation of birth as a result of economic hardship? Why do we Armenians turn and run when faced with a war? Why do we constantly talk negatively about our country of origin?

We no longer are able to see hope. We are unable to appreciate positive developments. We can no longer process good news. We are unable to see the big picture. And the strange part is that in reality good news from Armenia is not all that rare. The fundamental problem is that good news from Armenia has no recipients. It's as if we are actually SEEKING bad news to spread. It's as if we are actually SEEKING poison to spew. 

So, seeing all this, seeing how Armenians operate, they realize that all they need to do is simply give our dysfunctional people some ammunition and just stand back and watch as our self-destructive compatriots in and out of the homeland enthusiastically uses it against the Armenian state. As I mentioned above, Armenia is NOT the ONLY nation on earth with serious hardships. Start seeing the big picture and STOP participating in the spread of poisonous propaganda! Too many of us claim that the hopelessness and despair currently being felt in Armenia and in the diaspora is primarily and directly a result of the nation's gluttonous businessmen and its corrupt officials/oligarchs. In my opinion, this particularly popular take on the matter is only partially correct at best; it's a half truth that is actually keeping us blinded to what is occurring. I ask again: Is Armenia the only nation on earth with corrupt oligarchs?

The fact is even the nastiest of Armenia's oligarchs today pale in comparison to ones found in most other nations; including nations of the Western world. Is Armenia the only nation with a bad economy? The fact is most nations on earth today have serious economic problems. Is Armenia the only nation with enemies? The fact is most nations on earth have enemies.
So, what is our real problem concerning Armenia?
Could our real problem simply be a matter of perception and/or mental conditioning? Could our people’s lack of spirit, the absence of objectivity or nationalism in our people simply be a consequence of the ruthlessly relentless psychological conditioning that has been directed against the Armenian nation for all these years - in addition to the unresolved crisis over Nagorno Karabakh, in addition to its nasty geographic location, in addition to the imposed economic blockade?

Could our problems be, at least in part, as a result of the assault against Armenian ethnocentrism and nationalism in Western academia? Could the problem be a result of the decades long propaganda assault the Armenian state has had to endure?
We need to learn to accept the harsh realities of life on earth. Let's also realize that Armenia is not a fairytale land of priests, scholars and warriors (it may have been once, but it definitely has not been one for the past one thousand years). After one thousand years of Islamic, Turkic, Persian and Bolshevik rule, Armenia today is a nation populated by a deeply scarred people. The damage caused by one thousand years of corrosive and destructive foreign rule will not be fixed in a few short years and it will DEFINITELY not be fixed by Washingtonian officials. 

Let's all be mature enough to accept the fact that Armenia will have its share of criminals, monopolists, drunks, murderers, prostitutes, drug addicts, traitors, homeless, transsexuals... as well as its meat eaters and animal haters. For a tiny and poor country stuck in the Caucasus and fully stocked with naturally talented and overly ambitious people, Armenia will also have more than its fair share of opportunistic or less-than trustworthy people.
As I have said in the past, Armenia is like a small pond containing many hungry sharks. The reality is these sharks are us. Our sharks are an accurate reflect of our societal character today. Let's recognize and accept our people's characteristics, both good and bad, and let's try working with it for the betterment of our homeland. What we are doing instead is we are allowing our enemies to exploit our people's cultural traits against Armenia.
As mentioned earlier, it is well known that Washington spends enormous sums of money on intelligence programs, politically driven propaganda campaigns and psychological warfare operations. It is also well known that Armenia has been one of Washington’s main targets for a long time. I personally believe that many of Armenia’s sociopolitical problems today have their roots precisely in this conditioning of the mindsets of our people. Unbeknownst to us, we are gradually being turned against our homeland. Even the terms "Armenia" and "Armenians" are now beginning to have a negative connotation in the Western press - similar to what they did with Serbians during the 1990s. Make no mistake about it, the poisonous propaganda in question is indeed having a major impact on our nation's collective psyche and our national cohesiveness. And the alarming thing here is that we Armenians are willingly or unwittingly participating in the spread of this lethal poison against Armenia.
Everywhere I look all I see is pessimism, negativity, destructive behaviors and ugliness. It's all doom and gloom. Just look at the type of news many of us Armenians these days choose to revel in - Hazings in the Armenian military… Violence women suffer in Armenia… Mafia… Genocide... Oligarchs… The evil Russians... The eviction of slum dwellers... Genocide... The protocols... Police brutality... Genocide... The dreaded Russians... The garbage... Government corruption… Prostitution… The beggars... Genocide... Smelly toilets in Yerevan… The flies… The nasty Russians...  

If the news is nasty (or perceived as such), Armenians today make sure it gets around via mouth, telephones, Facebook or emails - and sometimes all four! Although there are a lot of positive developments coming out of the nation, our self-destructive peasantry ONLY concerns itself with the bad news. Not a single positive thing. It's all scaremongering and fear-mongering. And it's all very infectious.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm NOT making excuses for the bad things that occur in Armenia nor am I attempting to whitewash the accesses of our oligarchs and corrupt officials. But can we act like @$%#ing adults and place all this in a proper perspective? Can we get real for once? Can we act like responsible/intelligent adults and look at Armenia's problems objectively and rationally? Our ignorant sheeple both in and out of the homeland seriously needs to better understand politics and history. 

As I have said in the past: we Armenians may be brilliant in business, sports, literature, sciences and the arts - but when it come to politics, we continue acting like a bunch of self-destructive peasants armed with clubs and pitchforks ready to burn down our village to save it from imaginary monsters.

You think this obvious national trait of ours has not been noticed by our antagonists? You think this glaringly obvious characteristic of our people is not being used against our homeland by Western intelligence agencies?
Regarding the violence or abuse women in Armenia suffer: being a father of daughters, I would love to see a LOT changed in Armenia with regards to the way women are treated or looked at. However, according to what I have personally observed in the country and according to various statistical data I have personally read, violence against women in Armenia is not a widespread problem.

Yes, there is a lot of Islamic/Asiatic mentalities in Armenia when it comes to women - but no widespread abuse and/or violence. 

Abuse rates in Armenia are actually on the level of many developed nations today. However, with such matters, there should always be more room for improvement. So, yes, let's talk about this serious problem, let's raise our voices in protest, let's try to improve the situation - but let's also not get hysterically and let's not start demanding a bloody revolution in the country over this issue.  

If its makes the reader feel any better about Armenia, allow me to just say that abuse of women is actually much worst in most other nations on earth today. Millions of women are abused and forced into prostitution, homelessness, alcoholism and drug abuse - in the United States alone. 

Again, let try to put things in a proper perspective and look at Armenia's problems - rationally!
Regarding violence in the Armenian military: any time you put together thousands of hotblooded young men from poor families with mediocre education and overflowing "Armenian" hormones - you will have violence!!! And one doesn't need to be a genius to realize this. 

All armies on earth have these types of problems; some just happen to have more than others. Periodic violence in the Armenian military, although normal by international standards, will gradually improve with better education and order enforcement, which is beginning to happen. And as far as general societal crime is concerned - Armenia is actually a safe-haven compared to many developed nations today.

It is well established that there is a direct correlation between poverty and crime. Although a large percentage of its population lives in utter poverty, Armenia is among a handful of nations on earth today where people do not fear walking the streets late at night and children continue to play unsupervised in their neighborhoods. With time and with healthy activism, I believe Armenia's various sociological problems will be taken care of. We simply need a healthy outlook and an objective/rational mindset. I'm fully convinced that Armenia’s problems today are not simply a result of its bad economic situation and government corruption. The real problem in Armenia today is its bad geographical location and the relentless psychological warfare being directed against it. 
This is all taking a major toll on the Armenian spirit. We are placing more than enough emphasis on criticizing and attacking our oligarchs and corrupt officials. I think now is the time we also need to start criticizing and attacking those who are using our internal problems against our state. It's time we call out those who are worsening our domestic problems through propaganda, manipulation, agitation, instigation and provocation.  This is what all self-respecting and responsible Armenians need to do. If we are able to somehow stop the psychological warfare being directed against Armenia, we can then and only then be able to better cope with our domestic problems.
No, the sky is NOT falling in Armenia! Armenia is NOT a dictatorship. Armenia is NOT on the verge of collapse, nor is it hell on earth.
Armenia is going through GROWING PAINS like all normal nations. And along the way, Armenia is being targeted by Western intelligence agencies similar to how Iran and Russia are being targeted by them. Yes, we have serious problems with our monopolists in Armenia - but our monopolists are our problem and we don't need monopolists of global proportions like Washington to help us in this regard. Yes, we have problems with criminals in Armenia - but our criminals are our problem and we don't need criminals of global proportions like Washingtonian officials helping us in this regard. Yes, we have serious problems with rampant corruption in Armenia, but these are our problems and we don't need by-far the world's most corrupt political entity helping us in this regard either.
When we Armenians pull our massive heads out of our behinds, we will realize that Armenia's numerous problems are very natural for a fledgling nation that has just woken up from nearly one thousand years of forced hibernation. Armenia's problems are very natural for a fledgling nation that is tiny, landlocked, blockaded, impoverished, resourceless and surrounded by enemies in one of the most remote and volatile locations on earth. Consequently, Armenia's growing pains WILL be more severe than those of others. At this point, some of our compatriots will begin comparing Armenia to Georgia and/or Israel...

Without getting into a detailed response, allow me to just say that even with all its tens of billions of dollars of politically driven investments from places like Saudi Arabia, Europe, Britain, United States, Israel and Turkey, Georgia is more-or-less in the same socioeconomic boat as Armenia. 


Despite its tens of billions of dollars of investments, despite its Western/Israeli/Turkish backing, despite its internationally coveted Back Sea beaches and ports, despite its bountiful country - the average Georgian in Georgia today has a similar living standard as his or her counterpart in the small, landlocked, blockaded and desolate Armenia. 

The modern or "progressive" face of Tbilisi is just that - a superficial facade made possible by billions of dollars of foreign investments. In short: despite its numerous financial and political advantages today, a majority of Georgians continue living in poverty and Georgia is mutilated. Saakashvili's dictatorial government, in true Western fashion, has simply become the nation's biggest oligarchic entity, but his time in office is numbered.

And as far as comparing Armenia/Armenians to Israel/Jews: Armenians would have to be seriously out of their minds to compare a small, poor and dispersed, near-eastern nation that has essentially just stepped out of the middle ages, to a relatively major ethno-religious group of western educated ethnocentric people that are firmly entrenched in the western world and armed with an immense collective wealth that has been acquired for centuries. Prior to the forced establishment of Israel in Palestine, Jews spent centuries accumulating wealth and infiltrating various western infrastructures, both financial and political. They are currently reaping significant benefits as a result. However, the Zionist State of Israel is also a fabrication, a Western experiment in the Middle East, and its time will also eventually come to an end. So, please, stop acting ignorant, do yourselves and our nation a big favor and stop comparing Armenians to this nation or to that nation and simply start seeing Armenians for who they are and, more importantly, what they can potentially be.

Armenia needs its citizens and its children around the world to be patient and understanding. Self-respecting Armenians need to be politically aware and constructive when it comes to sociological and political matters pertaining to Armenia. It is the duty of all self-respecting Armenians to partake in constructive criticism and healthy political activism. 


Armenians need to realize that Armenia needs a sociological and political EVOLUTION and not a Western funded revolution. 

I want Armenians to STOP participating in the spreading of poison and I want Armenians to finally wake up to political realities around them. Sadly, a significant portion of our people in and out of the homeland today are made up of ignorant chobans and self-serving egomaniacs. Where other nations stay and fight, our people have a tendency to cut and run. Where other nations stay put and participate in nation building, our people will sell anything for a visa. Where other nations rally around their flag to fight off foreign meddling, our people enthusiastically does the bidding of its enemies. This is due to our ignorant chobans and self-serving egomaniacs being manipulated against their homeland by foreign powers. 
I can't really blame our enemies for doing what they do. Armenia's enemies will do whatever happens to be in their best interests. What I don't understand is Armenians helping our enemies carryout their agenda against Armenia. Therefore, I particularly blame us Armenians for the plight Armenia is currently in. Again, being stupid during the Cold War was one thing, being stupid in the post-Soviet world is NOT excusable.
Although I acknowledge that we Armenians are victims of psychological conditioning, although I acknowledge that our corrupt and incompetent officials in Armenia are a problem for our republic, I also would like to point out that our sad plight is also the fault of every one of us that have participated in spreading negative news concerning Armenia

If you participated, willingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, in the spreading of poisonous propaganda about Armenia - you are a fundamental part of the problem Armenia has today! 

In my opinion, Armenians today shamelessly participate in the organized slander of our embattled nation simply due to their deep seated egotism, uncontrollable emotions and/or political ignorance/stupidity. Here again, we see the emergence of our ignorant chobans and self-serving egomaniacs in the overall equation. Sadly, our fledgling state is stuck between its political enemies, its corrupt officials and its destructive/problematic sons and daughters.

Looking at the seriousness of the global situation we are in currently, as much as I would not want to see it happen, perhaps the best thing for Armenia to do right now is to shed several hundred thousand more of its citizens to release some of its pressure. I say this with a heavy heart because I really don't see a quick end to the global mess we are in. I don’t see our numerous enemies stopping their assaults against our state. I don't see our peasantry engaging in healthy and/or constructive activism and I don't see our nation’s hungry sharks eating their fill and beginning to give a little back. Having dealt with all kinds of Armenians for most of my adult life, I have come to the following realization: Armenians are maximalists in all that they do, especially when it comes to screwing someone or something. Therefore, I don't expect our peasantry to snap out of their stupor until they have totally burned down their dilapidated village. I don't expect our hungry sharks to stop eating until they burst. And I don't expect our nation's mercenaries working for foreign governments to stop their work against Armenia until the nation is destroyed.
If this situation continues indefinitely, if we Armenians can't finally get our house into order and our act straight - it's better and perhaps much safer to simply handover the house keys to Moscow, once again.

Arevordi
March, 2011 
(articles amended in 2017)

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Arab uprising prompts search for differences and similarities in Armenia

Egypt fallout: Arab uprising prompts search for differences and similarities in Armenia

The shockwaves of the Egyptian revolution completed late last week through a lasting popular uprising have lightly reached Armenia in the form of talk and speculation and wishful thinking on the part of Armenia’s frail opposition. But pro-establishment forces in Armenia as well as some international experts see little reasons to expect developments in the country according to the Egypt or Tunisia scenarios. Anti-government protests in Egypt began on January 25 and snowballed into a popular push to remove the government through demonstrations in the streets of capital Cairo and elsewhere in this major Arab country, forcing the veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak to step down after nearly 30 years in power.

While the situation in post-Mubarak Egypt is far from being calm, with continued looting and violence reported even after the dismantling of the Mubarak reign, the significance of the developments in the country for a possible chain reaction elsewhere in the region and beyond can hardly be overestimated. The Armenian opposition, which unsuccessfully attempted to achieve a government change through similar nonstop street protests this month three years ago, is convinced that sooner or later the wave of revolutions will reach this region as well. But its representatives say that unlike in Egypt where hundreds of people were reportedly killed and thousands were injured in street violence, they can lead a revolution without victims and festruction.

Local pro-government parliamentarians however believe at this time Armenia is immune to any sort of revolution or social riot. After Mubarak’s resignation on Friday, Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) issued a statement hailing the “victory of the people of Egypt”, which, according to the Armenian opposition, proved that “any tyrant in the world is powerless in the face of a peaceful popular mobilization.”

According to former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanyan, who was imprisoned in the wake of the 2008 post-election clashes in Yerevan on charges of organizing the riots, says that “if a tyrant like Mubarak who has ruled for 30 years gets toppled, it won’t be difficult to topple the petty tyrants here.” While, according to Arzumanyan, the slogans of the Egyptian revolution, such as “bread, freedom, dignity”, are fully applicable in Armenia as well, the ANC, which will launch a series of public rallies on February 18, excludes a revolution according to the Egypt scenario in Armenia.

ANC coordinator Levon Zurabyan welcomes “the victory of the people of Egypt”, but at the same time he stresses that it is not acceptable for their movement. “We must exclude bloodshed and similar disturbances, we need a smooth political process, we need to reach a velvet revolution,” Zurabyan tells ArmeniaNow, adding, though, that all prerequisites for a revolution according to the Egypt or Tunisia scenarios do exist in Armenia. “Of course, there are major prerequisites [for such a revolution], such as the social and political crisis, and mounting social protest,” says Zurabyan. Many analysts in Armenia believe that the stirred wave of revolutions will rather have an indirect effect on Armenia, but it is possible that it will become “a catalyst in conditions of the started social riot.”

Meanwhile, a leading American research center, Stratfor, published a report last week, concluding that an Egypt scenario was unlikely to occur in Armenia. “Armenia is not typically prone to large-scale unrest and protests, though recently the country’s opposition has called for a large rally February 18 in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, citing Egypt as an inspiration,” the Stratfor report said. Zurabyan dismissed the report as a superficial attempt at analysis.

While banned street trade in Yerevan, a row over customs clearance for car owners and individual entrepreneurs importing goods from Turkey continues to fuel protest moods in Yerevan and elsewhere in the country government representatives in Armenia insist that “social riots in the country are impossible.” “There are no such prerequisites, because our government is doing everything and is taking serious steps to carry out reform,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Samvel Nikoyan, representing the ruling Republican Party, tells ArmeniaNow. Meanwhile, chairman of the Armenian Sociological Association Gevorg Poghosyan warns that “events in the Arab world also threaten Armenia”, which “may lead to self-destruction.”

According to the sociologist, regression has been observed in all the areas examined by his center, namely in education, military, and health. “This regression poses more danger than the tragic events of March 1 (2008), moreover, emigration looms large again, one of the reasons for this [increasing] emigration is the growing threat of war on the Karabakh front. These are serious prerequisites,” says Poghosyan, warning that unless curbed, this self-destructive trend may even result in the loss of statehood.

Source: http://www.armenianow.com/news/politics/27679/egypt_revolution_armenia

Don’t Tread on Me: Little Armenia’s Bottom Line at 20

Nice Guys, Bad Politics: The need for reform as Armenia turns 20

Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan might be a nice guy, but he came to power by force of failed elections. He should step down and finally oversee the conduct of post-Soviet Armenia’s first free polls since 1991, the year it declared independence. The nation he aspires to represent deserves no less. Democracy must become an Armenian benchmark, not a motto thrown about to Western “partners” and other interlocutors who toast that best of systems, but then kill it with their duplicitous policies.

Sargsyan’s Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul is also a nice man, but he continues to represent a denialist regime that sponsors the killing of journalists such as Hrant Dink, strangles its minorities, and is the legal heir of the Ottoman Empire, which committed genocide against the Armenian people and dispossessed it of its ancestral homeland. Gul’s and his just-too-sly foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s recent addresses at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg—and the outlandish bluster of EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis at Auschwitz—beg the point. Modern-day Turkey must face history and itself, recognize the great genocide, and cease its unlawful and inhuman occupation of Western Armenia.

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliev is not so nice, but he is more honest in his authoritarian and occupationist demeanor. Mountainous Karabagh, or Artsakh, is Armenian land, his predecessors lost what they never had in a war of aggression they unleashed two decades ago, and they will never see it again except as good neighbors. He would do himself and humanity a necessary favor by respecting the rights of his own citizens, by returning the Armenian heartlands, including Shahumyan and Nakhichevan, still under Azerbaijani occupation to their rightful owners, and by making full redress to the hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Lezgins, Talishes, Tats, and other minorities which he and his have attempted to destroy.

If international law, self-determination, decolonization, and basic liberty are to carry true, not rhetorical import in the life and development of the contemporary world, then it must be ruled by rights equally guaranteed. Mountainous Karabagh, like Kosovo and Abkhazia, is the cutting-edge litmus test and must be recognized de jure and without discrimination by the community of nations. Who will be the first to recognize all three at once and to demonstrate that law and rights are worth more than a dollar in global affairs today? Georgia’s man Mikheil Saakashvili is revered occidentally but ridiculed in the east. He has brought some truly meaningful changes to his homeland and enjoys due credit. At the same time, he continues to trample the ethnic, religious, and linguistic rights of the Armenian region known to all as Javakhk. He ought to rediscover his democratic edge and renounce the xenophobic side of policies and prejudices.

Russia’s leaders, too, must get with the game and finally recognize the fundamental rights of their “strategic ally.” It’s time to end the imperialistic, even if soft, design to control Armenia as its traditional, God-given “forepost.” Either accept Armenia’s sovereignty and stand in true partnership with it—internationally, nationally, democratically—or let it go and face a new day. We all need that new day, and there is no need to blame the other: All persons and peoples have been mentioned herein without offense and with deference to their predicaments and interests. But this is Armenia’s last stand—and ultimate responsibility.


Leaked US Cables Criticize Mafia Lifestyle of Armenia’s Ruling Class

The U.S. State Department has refused to comment on the veracity of newly published documents that show top American diplomats in Yerevan criticizing the state of affairs in Armenia. A Russian whistle-blowing website, which claims to be a partner of WikiLeaks, published this week what it called cables sent to Washington by U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and her former deputy, Joseph Pennington. Yovanovitch purportedly analyzed a spate of high-profile killings and other violent incidents that happened in Armenia in October 2009. In one of those incidents, a nephew of President Serzh Sarkisian reportedly beat up and badly injured a man at a Yerevan nightclub.

The cable attributed to Yovanovitch says violence perpetrated by senior Armenian officials, government-linked businessmen and their relatives appears to have become the norm in the country. There is a widespread sense of impunity among such individuals, she allegedly wrote. Another purported cable was sent to Washington by Pennington in April 2008 and focused on emigration from Armenia. The diplomat, who was the U.S. charge d’affaires in Yerevan at the time, allegedly suggested that the process accelerated after the February 2008 presidential election and the ensuing government crackdown on the Armenian opposition. More and more middle-class Armenians are losing faith in their country’s future, he said, according to the Russian website.

The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday declined to say whether the documents are authentic. In a statement sent to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, it said only that U.S. diplomatic cables often carry “tentative and incomplete” assessments of the situation in a particular country and do not necessarily reflect U.S. foreign policy. The statement also reiterated the State Department’s strong condemnation of the disclosure by WikiLeaks and other news sources of its secret diplomatic correspondence.

Source: http://asbarez.com/93250/leaked-us-cables-criticize-mafia-lifestyle-of-armenias-ruling-class/

Freedom House: Human rights watchdog defines Karabakh as not free

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The annual report of Freedom House, released on Thursday, again put Armenia on the list of ‘partly free’ countries, whereas Nagorno-Karabakh has registered regress, being defined as a ‘not free’ territory instead of the previous ‘partly free’. Freedom in the World 2011: The Authoritarian Challenge to Democracy Report’s estimation given to Karabakh causes concerns, as Karabakh previously got a higher estimation than Azerbaijan, whereas now both are considered to be authoritarian.

Since 2002, Washington-based ‘Freedom House’ global human rights watchdog has considered Armenia to be a ‘partly free’ country along with its neighboring Georgia, whereas Azerbaijan was a ‘not free’ country during the recent years. According to the methodology of the report, a ‘partly free’ country is one in which there is limited respect for political rights and civil liberties. Partly Free states frequently suffer from an environment of corruption, weak rule of law, ethnic and religious strife, and a political landscape in which a single party enjoys dominance despite a certain degree of pluralism.

A ‘not free’ country is one where basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied. (One point is the best index in this table, and seven points is the worst.) This year’s report, as the previous one, gave six points to the expression of a political right and its defense, and four points went to the defense of civil freedom. As compared to the previous five points Armenia has registered regress since 2009, after the controversial elections in 2008 and the post-election clashes.

According to the methodology of the report, six points goes to those countries where “systems are ruled by military juntas, one-party dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. These regimes may allow only a minimal manifestation of political rights, such as some degree of representation or autonomy for minorities.” The decline of Nagorno-Karabakh’s index in the report is explained by the absence of an opposition at the Parliamentary elections 2010.

Meanwhile, Karabakh and Armenia do not agree with such a definition. According to Spokesperson of President of Nagorno-Karabakh Davit Babayan, “the report is imperfect, and not deeply studied.” “It is necessary to hold a deep examination for making such a conclusion, something which has not been done in Karabakh; and I believe this estimation is given for some geopolitical purposes,” Babayan told ArmeniaNow.

Source: http://armenianow.com/social/human_rights/27008/freedom_house_democracy_report_armenia

CPJ: New York-based watchdog criticizes Armenian authorities for pressure on media
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An international media watchdog criticized Armenian authorities for maintaining pressure on the country’s media and for harassing local journalists. The annual “Attack on the Press” report” released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Thursday singled out the new broadcast law that gives regulators broad powers to revoke TV licenses and also mentions Gyumri-based Gala TV, a rare critical broadcaster, which faces an array of government pressures. “As his government strengthened ties with Russia, President Serzh Sargsyan had to quell lingering domestic discontent over electoral fraud and economic woes, particularly in the construction and mining industries. New legislation granted regulators broad new powers to award and revoke licenses, while putting severe limits on the number of provincial broadcast licenses. Self-censorship remained widespread in the media, as lawlessness curbed the activities of journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders,” the report says.

The report says the most drastic step occurred in June when the president signed into law amendments to the Law on Television and Radio that tightened control of the country's influential broadcast media. The government tried to deflect attention from the restrictive amendments by embedding them into a package of measures meant to move radio and television stations from analog to digital signals. Sargsyan ignored domestic and international protests over the restrictions, which are seen as benefiting his Republican Party as it approaches parliamentary elections set for 2012.

The amendments enable government regulators to grant or revoke licenses without explanation, as well as impose programming restrictions that would confine some stations to narrow themes such as culture, education, and sports, according to news reports. Analysts said the changes would provide the government legal cover to keep the popular news outlet A1+ off the air. The amendments positioned Sargsyan to maintain control over the country's docile television and radio stations, most of which were owned by pro-government politicians and businessmen. Propagandistic state media retained important financial subsidies from various government budgets and privileged access to official information. While print and online media were more pluralistic, their reach was limited to a primarily urban and educated audience.

Throughout the year, police officers routinely harassed, assaulted, and arrested journalists, according to local press reports and media analysts. Prosecutors regularly colluded in this practice by failing to investigate police officers, even filing charges on occasion against journalists who protested abuses, CPJ research showed.

Source: http://armenianow.com/social/human_rights/27697/committee_protect_journalist_armenia_report

Raising professionalism through Russification?: Yerevan City Hall launched Russian language courses

Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan


The activities of the new mayor of Yerevan Karen Karapetyan started with very unpopular steps that have stirred a lot of talk among the public. Karapetyan, who had for years headed ArmRosGazprom, an 80-percent Russian Gazprom-owned company, began his tenure with a requirement for his employees to take Russian language courses. Reports in the media on this decision have made lots of Yerevan residents wonder why a municipality in Armenia needs the Russian language so urgently. Many also wondered why Russian Embassy advisor Viktor Krivopuskov, who is also head of the Armenia affiliate of Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian agency for international humanitarian cooperation, was present at the opening of the courses.

Lessons for 26 employees in 11 divisions of the City Hall will be held for three months by Tereza Mirjiferjyan and Armen Aghulyan, the two leading Russian language educators of the Russian Educational-Methodical Center of the Russian Language (REMCRL) of the Rossotrudnichestvo representation in Armenia. Opening the courses, Krivopuskov noted that knowledge of the Russian language will increase the quality of managerial decision making, interaction with the Russian-speaking population of the city, as well as facilitate work in “developing and strengthening friendly relations with cities and regions of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States as a whole, where Russian still remains a working language.”

A summary of critical Armenian media writing in this regard is as follows: Krivopuskov’s objective is to spread the Russian language and influence in Armenia. Does the mayor of Yerevan also consider this to be his objective? Apparently, he is still closely associated with ArmRosGazprom and feels like a representative of the interests of the Russian company, more than of Yerevan citizens. On the day of the launch of the courses, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan signed the law on introducing amendments and additions into the laws “On the Language” and “On General Education”, which effectively removes the ban on the functioning of school in Armenia with curricula taught in a language other than Armenian.

In accordance with these amendments, 11 schools with foreign-language curricula will operate in Armenia - two of them will be private schools (in Jermuk and Dilijan) and nine will work on the basis of international treaties. A considerable part of the country’s intelligentsia has been opposing the legislation. A civil initiative “We Are Against the Reopening of Foreign-Language Schools” held a series of public protests. Under the pressure of those demonstrations of protest the number of foreign-language schools allowed to be opened by law was reduced, and some other changes were introduced in the original bill. It also became clear that the Armenian society is unwilling to return to the days when the Russian language was considered to be the state language.

Representatives of the public pressure group have already called the decision by the Yerevan mayor “unconstitutional”.

Source: http://armenianow.com/commentary/analysis/27179/yerevan_municipality_russian_language_courses

No Nike Brand Social Movement: “Just do it” is not the Armenian way

No Nike Brand Social Movement: “Just do it” is not the Armenian way

Could the “Tunisia Syndrome” happen in Armenia?


It is a question in the thoughts of observers and participants of socio-political life here (which in fact is all of us), as unrest has spread into Algeria, Yemen and others places, and has turned Egypt inside out. Yesterday, even Jordan – a monarchy – saw its government fired, a pre-emptive move by King Abdullah II in the face of citizen discontent at leadership which the king himself said “had sometimes put their own interests ahead of those of the public.” It started when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire December 28 (and later died) in protest of a law banning sales of goods in the street. The next week, the Mayor of Yerevan began a crackdown on the Armenian capital’s street vendors.

The cancer that finally ate its way into the brain of public conscience in Tunisia started as a tumor of unemployment, lack of opportunities for youth, inflation, and a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the hopeless poor – all conditions that define Armenia in 2011. In Egypt, where yesterday a crowd measured by the New York Times as “hundreds of thousands” filled Cairo’s main square, protestors railed against “an illegitimate president” in hateful solidarity against a regime under which, CNN reported, “Egypt’s economy was stagnant for decades, but in the past 10 years started to grow, creating bigger differences between rich and poor”.

Again, the similarities are compelling. An Al Jazeera reporter called the movement (estimated by the Arabic network at more than a million) “people power”. And there is the answer to why such a revolt will not (even if some think it should) occur in Armenia. Here, there is no “people power”. There are 10s of thousands – as proved in 2008 – who are willing to follow a leader, but none who are willing to lead themselves. There are no grass-roots movements here, where the soil of democratic will remains infertile even two decades after the toxic waste of communism should have been cleaned.

When a man, sadly and quite literally, sparked a social movement in Tunisia, his countrymen recognized themselves in his tortured desperation. In Armenia, those who have valid grievance are waiting for an authority figure to voice it for them. That a populist, Tigran Karapetyan, with a message no deeper than bumper sticker slogans, could rally 6,000 or more followers – as many, in fact, as the major opposition bloc – indicates how low the bar has dropped on social movement in Armenia.

Eduard Sharmazanov, a leader of the Republican Party of Armenia, says that there will be no copy-cat rebellion in Armenia. “Of course, there is discontent, but any country that saw dramatic economic crisis, has it. Nonetheless, Armenian authorities are determined to carry on the reforms designed to improve our fellow countrymen’s living standards,” he said. He is right. His reasoning as to why the public is submissive, however, is debatable. The reforms that the current regime has implemented are indeed laudable. Progress, depending on definition, can surely be seen in some realms, particularly in quality of life for Armenia’s nascent middle class (in Yerevan).

It is, though, more likely that Armenia’s apparent general passivity is brought on by lack of choice, rather than by public confidence that the government is working for the people. It may also be argued that those with the intellectual capacity and professional resource to seek an improved life in Armenia, are instead spending that energy on finding ways to leave the country. (A 2009 Gallup report found that 39 percent of Armenians said they aspired to move from the country.)

And, into any discussion of whether things in Armenia are getting better or worse under this leadership – and there’s some of each – arises the phrase that is on protest placards in Cairo: “illegitimate government”. Sadly for Armenia’s hopes of becoming democratic, this “illegitimate government” may very well be better than the alternative that would have emerged had elections three years ago been held fairly. Lacking a movement that grew organically, Armenians at both political polarities were willing to follow dubious leaders in that ill-fated election. "There is no political group leading the people,” a human rights activist in Cairo told media. “There is no one leading the people. People are just doing it.”

I am in a friend’s car and he is behind the wheel. We are at a Yerevan intersection, and the street we need to reach is just ahead of us, across this street and about 30 meters to the left. Instead of going directly across the street and turning to enter our intended passageway, my friend turns right, goes nearly one kilometer and, under a blue sign indicating “U” he turns back, drives to the destined street and carries on. “Why didn’t you just go across the street and turn left?” I ask him. “Because there was no sign saying I could do that,” he replied. And there, anecdotally, is why Armenia is not Tunisia. Or Egypt. Or whatever fill-in-the-blank country is next to launch a popular movement to exert the will of its people. These Armenians won't turn unless somebody says they can.

Source: http://www.armenianow.com/commentary/27403/armenia_tunisia_egypt_revolutions

Perspective on media: Civilitas organizes discussion about state of television, newspapers and internet

Perspective on media: Civilitas organizes discussion about state of television, newspapers and internet

Under an amended law and by the regulatory body’s decision only 18 television companies late last year got licenses for digital broadcasts in supposedly competitive tenders, and this narrowing of the field, according to experts, first of all hits freedom of speech in Armenia. Some specialists urge the television companies that lost or could not renew their licenses as a result of the competitions to unite and battle together over this matter. “The television companies that were deprived of the air have not united yet, but I still believe that time will come and they will join their hands together. Employees, founders, directors of TV companies must understand that we can fight and not give in,” said Gyumri GALA TV Executive Director Karine Harutyunyan at a Wednesday discussion organized by the Civilitas Foundation.

(GALA, based in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri, is a rare television company giving voice to the opposition. It will go out of the air in 2015 after losing its license in the December contest administered by the National Commission on Television and Radio. A1+, off the air since 2002, also failed to regain its license, while ALM lost one and is off the air since January 21. Another three companies had not even made a bid to renew their licenses from the very beginning.)

Experts also say that unlike television companies, which are largely controlled by the authorities, there is a certain variety among the print media, but this area also has drawbacks. “The problem is that in Armenia newspapers still do not depend on their readerships, if they have money, they go into print, if they don’t, they don’t come out. It is not the readership that decides the orientation and style of a given newspaper, and as long as there is no link between media and the public, media cannot be independent,” says editor-in-chief of the Karabakh-based Analitikon magazine Gegham Baghdasaryan.

The number of internet users in Armenia grows from year to year. While websites have seen more visitors recently and some believe it is possible that in the near future the internet will completely replace television, most specialists at the Civiltas-moderated discussion did not agree that it will happen soon. “The internet provides ample opportunities, but it is still too early to say that it will soon replace television, but, of course, there is such a prospect. The thing is that journalists do not yet manage this field,” says co-founder of the Epress internet magazine Armen Melikbekyan. Civilitas founder Vartan Oskanian, too, does not see any essential impact of the internet on the political field in the next few years.

“I agree that the internet is rapidly developing in Armenia, but it will still take 5-10 years for the internet to be able to make an essential change in our political field,” said Oskanian, who served as Armenia’s foreign minister in 1998-2008. “So, one shouldn’t pin too much hope on it at this moment.”

Specialists are also concerned that there is no independent media institution in Armenia. According to the Committee for the Protection of Freedom of Speech, nine cases of physical violence against journalists were reported in Armenia in 2010, as compared to 11 in 2009. Instead, the number of reported cases of exerting pressure on journalists increased. The Committee’s report also notes that very often no criminal cases are instituted in connection with violence against journalists.

Source: http://armenianow.com/social/human_rights/27595/freedom_of_speech_armenia_television_civilitas

Lost Opportunity?: Lincy closure seen by some as indictment

Lost Opportunity?: Lincy closure seen by some as indictment

In 2011 Armenia is losing the current or potential support of two major foundations. It became known on Tuesday that the Lincy Foundation shuts down after 22 years of work during which it has made major gifts of over $1.1 billion to schools, hospitals, scientific research projects and other charitable endeavors. More than $200 million in Lincy money has been spent on Armenia. This coming September will see the completion of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Account program, which since 2006 had planned to assist with a total of $236 million to projects in irrigation and agricultural areas. But in the wake of the 2008 post-election violence in Armenia, the programs were curtailed to $180 million.

The charitable organization founded by Armenian-American businessman Kirk Kerkorian will transfer all of its assets, currently valued at $200 million, to the UCLA Foundation. Before its shutdown, in early February, Lincy donated $10.5 million to the United Armenian Fund and a major portion of this grant will be used by the UAF to renovate and reconstruct six schools in northern Armenia. The start of major Lincy projects in Armenia was in 2001 with the three-year $150-million project targeting road construction, housing construction in the earthquake zone, construction of cultural centers and schools.

In 2006-2008, the foundation implemented its second major program in Armenia with $60 million. The means were equally divided into three programs -- Yerevan streets repairs, school building and road construction. Reasons for Lincy’s closure of the Fund are still unclear and those potentially privy to its affairs have mostly stopped short of providing any commentary or interpretation. Prominent Diaspora commentator, editor of the California Courier and former Lincy vice president Harut Sassounian declined ArmeniaNow’s request for comment, but cautioned against “unwarranted and erroneous sweeping generalizations” as to the Lincy decision.

While saying that the reasons are unknown, several representatives of the Armenian opposition, however, say Armenian authorities who, to put it mildly, were guilty of “mismanaging the funds,” have caused the 93-year old billionaire to close his hand on handouts to Armenia. “It is not a coincidence that the funds for repairing schools were given not to an Armenia-based fund, but to the United Armenian Fund,” opposition Heritage Party MP Anahit Bakhshyan told ArmeniaNow. (The United Armenian Fund is the collective effort of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Relief Society, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the Lincy Foundation, and Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.)

In the past several years (at least three) Kirk Kerkorian and his Lincy Foundation has not made any major donation to the All-Armenian Fund Hayastan either. Still during the first phase of the Lincy Foundation’s programs in Armenia, in 2001-2003, when restoration work worth $150 million was carried out, 17 cultural centers were renovated, about 3,600 homes were built, the activities were dogged by allegations that it was “a big wash” and that the money was not being used purposefully. After the end of this phase of the project it was intended to solve the housing problem in the earthquake zone.

As then president Robert Kocharyan said during the ceremony opening one of the buildings constructed with the foundation’s allocations “due to this serious investment in 2003 we solve the housing problem.” But still today up to 4,000 families remain in makeshift housing in the earthquake area despite further serious allocations from the foundation for housing construction in northern Armenia. In 2006, the President’s audit service began to conduct checks at the Foundation’s Armenia office whose coordinator was President Kocharyan’s staff manager Artashes Tumanyan. While reports surfaced (though unconfirmed) that Tumanyan was being questioned by the National Security Service (KGB) department combating organized crime, he was relieved from the foundation post, replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan.

The last controversy surrounding the Foundation was in June 2010, during the discussion of the report on the fulfillment of the 2009 state budget when in the report of the Lincy Foundation presented to the lawmakers it was stated that the $17.8-million project had been fulfilled completely, by 100 percent. “It was mentioned in that performance report that 17 schools had been renovated and about $19 million had been spent on the work. However, as a person who is from this sphere (a long time educator) and is very well aware in which schools actual work was done, I saw in the list the names of schools that had not been repaired,” says Bakhshyan, who had worked as school principal before becoming a lawmaker. In response to the question raised by Bakhshyan, Deputy Prime Minister Gevorgyan explained that no work had been done in seven schools because of the budget reducing due to the dollar-dram fluctuations.

“First, this answer did not satisfy me, because in the agreement there is a point that the government is committed to bridge the gap that originates because of such exchange rate fluctuations to make sure the program is fulfilled by 100 percent. Why didn’t the government close that difference and was that difference really equivalent to the price of repairs at seven schools?” the lawmaker said. No clear answers have yet been provided, but like many other Armenians, the lawmaker feels sorry that Armenia is deprived of very serious funds that would give a unique opportunity to develop the country. “I regret it very much. Our authorities once again should think carefully about what they are doing and how much love and confidence of their homeland they lose because of their interests,” Bakhshyan told ArmeniaNow.

Source: http://armenianow.com/social/27738/lincy_foundation_shutdown_armenia

The Coalition of Doom


By signing an agreement to endorse President Serzh Sarkisian in the 2013 elections, Armenia’s ruling coalition parties attempted to reinforce their positions for the upcoming 2012 parliamentary elections and the subsequent presidential race. For the Republican Party of Armenia, Prosperous Armenia and the Country of Law parties, the announcement was a way to assert their rule and block opposition forces from gaining ground or, for that matter, having a voice in government. The declaration will set Armenia back with grave consequences for its future and any hope for advancement of democratic norms in the country.

In their declaration, the parties claimed to have protected Armenia and its citizens from dangers to national security, economic collapse as a result of the global crisis and ridding the government of corruption and bribery. Yet a quick glance at their rule, since the 2007 parliamentary elections, only shows that there have been no tangible advances in Armenia, and in some cases, there have been gross violations of human rights and an effort to endanger Armenia’s national security.

“Today the coalition forces have more than 100 deputies,” Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia chairman Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday. “Can their presence get any bigger? At whose expense? Must there be no opposition at all in this country?” The coalition has vowed that its campaign for the parliamentary elections will yield even more seats in parliament.

ARF Bureau chairman, Hrant Markarian said: “In effect, a dictatorship, a totalitarian system is thus being formed in the government camp.” If anything, the signing of the declaration should send a clear signal to Armenia’s electorate that the fate of the country and its government is in the hands of the people. For 20 years, successive regimes have used coercion, intimidation and vote rigging to assume power and amass incomprehensible wealth at the expense of the country’s well-being.

The ruling elite must not be allowed to bulldoze through yet another set of elections, through which it aims to cement its hold on both the legislative and executive—and as a result judicial—branches of the government and without the checks and balances continue to govern with impunity and reckless disregard toward the aspirations of its citizens and the Armenian nation.

The people must rise up and learn their rights, empower themselves and take part in elections as informed voters and concerned citizens. The ARF’s campaign, announced earlier this week and officially launched on Friday, aims to bring together all facets of society under one tent and engage all voters to take party in a massive electoral reform campaign. The people of Armenia must come together and defeat the ruling coalition’s effort to further solidify its hold on Armenia.

Source: http://asbarez.com/93553/the-coalition-of-doom/comment-page-1/#comment-468174

Oskanian Fears ‘Absolute Rule’ In Armenia

Armenia -- Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian speaks at an event organized by his Civiltas Foundation, undated.

Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian accused President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday of seeking to tighten his grip on power in utter disregard of democratic principles and the popular will. In a written statement, Oskanian expressed serious concern about key points of a joint declaration issued by Armenia’s three governing parties on Thursday. “The ruling coalition’s announcement highlights the authorities’ disregard of democracy, elections and the public will,” he said.

“The ruling coalition has openly declared that in the upcoming parliamentary elections they are not prepared to do what political forces are fundamentally meant to do: that is, to enter into open competition.” The declaration says, among other things, that Sarkisian’s ruling coalition will gain an “amplified” presence in the Armenian parliament as a result of elections expected in May 2012. It already controls the overwhelming majority of seats in the current National Assembly.

“The coalition, which already enjoys absolute majority, intends to push out of the parliament those in opposition who, as it is, constitute an extremely small minority,” said Oskanian. “This does not help alleviate the already complex social, economic and political situation in the country; instead, it further exacerbates the situation. Rather than securing the continuity of those forces which are themselves the main obstacle to improving conditions, the coalition should have worked to secure a balance within the government, as an alternative to absolute rule,” he added.

Oskanian, who served as foreign minister in former President Robert Kocharian’s administration from 1998-2008, has been increasingly critical of the current Armenian government since leaving office. His criticism has until now focused on Sarkisian’s foreign policy and, in particular, Armenia’s rapprochement with Turkey.

Source: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/2313987.html

What’s Wrong with Armenia?

Re-investigation: Armenian Special Investigative Service launches fresh probe on 03/08

Every year, efforts by the Armenian Diaspora in the United States to win formal Congressional and Presidential recognition of the Armenian Genocide culminate on April 24, the date Armenians mark as their Genocide Remembrance Day. It’s a hot-button issue which historians still debate. Genocide scholars and Armenian historians declare that deliberate genocide occurred, while many Turkish historians and Ottoman specialists question argue that Ottoman officials did not conduct premeditated genocide, but rather that between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died in the fog of war. Regardless, the deaths of so many are a tragedy, and one that should not be forgotten. Still, questions and aspersions of denial and negation will only be settled when both the Turks and Armenians open their archives to everyone without regard to nationality or ethnicity.

I do not deny the sensitivity of the genocide issue, but Armenian American organizations are doing both themselves and U.S. national security a disservice by making the genocide issue the community’s marquee issue. History must be respected, but the future is as important as the past—if not more so. To the present day, Turkey and Armenia remain adversaries. Traditionally, the American alliance with Turkey has driven a wedge between Washington and Yerevan. Sadly, Armenia remains largely antagonistic to the United States. In 2009, Armenia voted with the United States on important issues at the United Nations less than half the time; In contrast, Israel voted with the United States 100% of the time.

Armenia has also embraced Iran to the detriment of U.S. interests and security. Armenia has even reportedly supplied Iran with weapons, which the Islamic Republic used to kill Americans.

It is long past time for Armenian organizations in the United States and the congressmen who partner with them to demand change in Armenian behavior. By ignoring Armenia’s orientation, the Armenian American community squanders an unprecedented opportunity to build a true partnership. Turkey has transformed from an ally into an adversary. From a strictly realist perspective, never before have the constellations oriented in such a favorable way to make the United States receptive to Armenia, should Armenia seize the opportunity.

Yet the Armenian community in the United States appears asleep at the switch. It need not drop its interest in the genocide resolution, but it might nevertheless prioritize strengthening the diplomatic and strategic partnership between Washington and Yerevan. That partnership, however, will not develop if the Armenian Diaspora cannot convince its cousins in the Armenian homeland that a successful Armenian state could be a military, security, economic, and diplomatic partner to the United States—not a proxy for Iran or a puppet to Russia. Perhaps it’s time for the good Congressmen and Congresswomen from California and New Jersey to push back the next time Armenian lobbyists come knocking on their doors.

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/04/22/whats-wrong-with-armenia/

Will the US Punish Armenia?

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The warped State Department-hatched Turkey-Armenia Protocols did not yield the necessary results for the US, nor have efforts to strong-arm Armenia into making dangerous concessions on the Karabakh front, so the US has renewed an old “concern” by alleging that Iran is using Armenia to for financial transactions that might violate international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.

An exclusive report by Reuters Tuesday, citing a nebulous “Western intelligence report” and quoting anonymous diplomatic sources, claimed that Iran is seeking financial alternatives “in countries that do not work according to the dictates of the West” is looking to expand its banking foothold in Armenia to allegedly deceive Western governments that have been attempting to curtail Iranian banking activities worldwide to thwart Iran’s nuclear 
program.

The so-called “Western intelligence report,” according to Reuters, has singled out the Yerevan-based ACBA Credit Agricole Bank, one of the largest in Armenia, as one of Iran’s principal targets. Reuters also spoke to an anonymous Western UN diplomat who confirmed that ACBA was “a bank that has come up in connection with Iran.” He declined to provide details of any potentially illicit ACBA transactions linked to Iran, said Reuters.

This fracas has prompted the Armenian Central Bank to issue a blunt denial, echoing earlier statements by ACBA officials, who in the Reuters report, vehemently denied the allegations that the financial institution is being used by Iran for illicit activities.

“The Central Bank of Armenia obligates all banks and financial institutions in the Republic of Armenia to scrutinize their transactions, in order to avoid any possible involvement in transactions considered unacceptable by the international community,” said a statement issued by the CBA. “We don’t have any relationship with Iran,” The ACBA chief executive Stepan Gishian told Reuters. “We never have, we don’t now and furthermore we don’t plan on becoming a channel for financing Iran. What you’re saying is complete nonsense.”

Furthermore, recent news reports indicate that Armenia has been following the mandates set forth by the sanctions imposed both on Iran and Syria, since Syrian and Iranian nationals of Armenian descent have experienced difficulty opening bank accounts in Armenia, because of their citizenship. This is especially disheartening to Armenians who are leaving Syria due to the crisis there and are experiencing hurdles in establishing themselves in Armenia.

The Reuters reports does state that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates remain Iran’s largest banking connections, but claims that due to US pressure, especially the government of Turkey has become more vigilant in its business with Iran. Reportedly, President Serzh Sarkisian was cautioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit in June to Armenia about US concerns over the Iran’s interests in Armenia.

Iran remains one of Armenia’s largest trading partners with a reported $1 billion in trade. Asbarez has extensively reported about the intense desire by Armenia and Iran to strengthen their strategic partnership through varied projects, including the construction of an oil pipeline and a highway that would connect Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas with Batumi in Georgia, thus providing a direct link for Armenia to a seaport.

Evidently, this organic neighborly and centuries-old relationship between Armenia and Iran does not sit well with the US and its Western allies, who are keen on tightening the noose around Iran’s neck because of concerns over its nuclear program and be damned whatever stands in their way. However justified those concerns might be, Armenia should not be penalized by the US, which in its efforts to police the world, is bullying nations to conform to its standards.

If the US scrutinized its own domestic financial system as meticulously as it does other nations’ perhaps the loopholes that allowed for the collapse of the banking system and wide-spread corruption in this country would have been avoided.

Moreover, if the US went as far as to caution Armenia, it has not lifted a finger to force Turkey and Azerbaijan to lift their blockade of Armenia, which has been in place since 1993 and in international legal circles is considered an act of aggression or war. Instead the US has concocted convoluted schemes—the Protocols and policy on Karabakh—that abets Turkey to continue its denial of the Genocide and face history and diminishes the sacred principle of self-determination.

The Reuter report is a harbinger of things to come. The failed approaches by the US to address concerns in the South Caucasus have now taken on a worrisome tone. How far will the US go to force its misplaced policies on other nations, especially Armenia?

Source: http://asbarez.com/104894/will-the-us-punish-armenia/

Is Armenia a Weak Link in Iran Sanctions?

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Yesterday, I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe and Eurasian Subcommittee, which was investigating Iranian strategy, influence, and interests in the Caucasus. As always, there’s good news and bad news from the region. Azerbaijan remains a stalwart U.S. ally intolerant of Iranian approaches. Georgia is as well, but after its October election remains very much in play. Turkey’s efforts to subvert sanctions are well known. The greater problem today is Armenia:
  • According to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks, in 2008, U.S. diplomats concluded that Armenia shipped Iran weaponry, which Iran then used to kill Americans.
  • Bank Mellat, a sanctioned Iranian bank, operates in Yerevan, and Iranian businesses dot the city.
  • In October 2011, a member of Armenia’s Nuclear Energy Organization told the Iranian press that Tehran had enticed several Armenian nuclear scientists to work in Iran’s nuclear program.
The Armenian community in the United States is fortunate to be both vibrant and organized. It is unfortunate that organizations representing the Armenian Diaspora in the United States and the congressmen who partner with them do not do more to encourage change in the Armenian government’s geopolitical behavior. Certainly, Armenia is between a rock and a hard place. Russia looms large, both culturally and politically, and Armenians are loathe to unravel that relationship in an age when no one believes U.S. guarantees of continued commitment.

Cultural links are also strong to Iran; when I first studied in the Islamic Republic in the mid-1990s, my apartment was in Julfa, Isfahan’s chief Armenian neighborhood. The Armenian community need not drop its advocacy for recognition of the Armenian genocide, but by ignoring Armenia’s pro-Iranian orientation, the Armenian-American community squanders an opportunity to build a true strategic partnership between Washington and Yerevan, a partnership which would certainly be to both countries’ benefit.

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/12/06/is-armenia-a-weak-link-in-iran-sanctions/

Forbes: Armenia is the World’s Second Worst Economy

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On Tuesday, the prestigious Forbes magazine published a list of the world’s ten worst economies in which Armenia occupies the second place next to Madagascar. Forbes has selected the worst ten economies from among 117 countries according to three-year average statistics for gross domestic product growth and inflation (including the International Monetary Fund’s 2012 estimates), plus GDP per capita and the current account balance, a measure of whether the country is importing more than it exports.

Compared with the list for 2010, significant changes have taken place this year. While the previous release included mostly African nations, this year the list also includes Ukraine (4th position), Kyrgyzstan (7th) and Iran (10th). The authors of the research consider not only the economic crisis, but also mismanagement, corruption as causes of the decline of economies.

“Onetime losers like Ghana and Zimbabwe got their economic acts together and moved off the list while some countries, including Armenia and Jamaica, marched into the lower ranks primarily because of the global financial crisis. Others, like Madagascar and Nicaragua, earned their positions almost entirely due to the ineptitude of their rulers. It should come as no surprise that eight of the 10 worst economies also were in the bottom quartile of countries in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index, with Guinea, Kyrgyzstan and Venezuela scoring close to the bottom,” says the report.

“Beyond income, (corruption) extends to economic development,” it quotes Transparency International’s Robin Hodess, group director for research and knowledge, as saying. “All of the indices that reflect human development suffer. Where government doesn’t work, economies don’t grow.”

According to Forbes, Armenia mainly suffered because of the financial crisis: “Armenia’s economy shrank by 15% in 2009 as an expatriate-financed construction boom fizzled along with the world economy. With a mediocre growth forecast for the next few years, this landlocked former Soviet republic, dependent upon Russia and Iran for virtually all of its energy supplies, is struggling to keep up with the rest of the world. Per-capita GDP of $3,000 is less than a third of neighboring Turkey, and inflation is running at 7%. On top of that, Russia cut back on supplies of diamonds, hurting Armenia’s once-thriving diamond-processing industry.”

Armenia’s well-known economist, head of the “Alternative” Research Center Tatul Manaseryan tends to trust the kind of assessment made by Forbes. “Usually, the Forbes surveys are well grounded and our researches also show that Armenia’s economy, to put it mildly, is not in a good condition. In this sense, I can share this opinion. But I am confident that possibilities of redressing the situation are not exhausted,” Manaseryan told ArmeniaNow.

Source: http://armenianow.com/economy/30861/forbes_report_worst_economy_armenia#comment-14452

Wrong Path in Armenia

Rally Do-Over: Officially denied, ANC again leads rally in Liberty Square

All Armenians in the diaspora are quite familiar with the sadness, grief, suffering, exile and relocation of those who escaped the Genocide. Here in the US, drawing from lessons and experiences from our past, we developed a value system, making us obedient to law and order, love of education, rewards of hard work and blessings of freedom. As a consequence, we have been extremely proud citizens of America. Next to the Holy Bible, the greatest treasure we possess is the document that proclaims us American citizens.

We also forgot our homeland of Armenia and by all accounts and means, have always helped her. Long before Turkish occupation and the Genocide, the Soviet regime and the great earthquake of 1988, every Diasporan Armenian gave support, love, talent, time and treasure to the precious homeland. When Armenia declared independence some 20 years ago, it was a most thankful moment of prayer, pride and joy for us all. With foremost and firmest promise, we determined to help the homeland in every way possible to ensure her security, health and progress.

The people of Armenia, in turn, were deeply appreciative of our help. They demonstrated honest appreciation, deep love and heartfelt admiration for all that we did and still do, to improve their lot. Diasporan Armenians who visited the homeland experienced greatest warmth, deep love and fellowship and never forgot this most unique experience.

Since the election of Serge Sargisian as president of Armenia, unprecedented and somewhat questionable practices were sought by him and his cabinet to further solidify relations with Diasporan Armenians. The government started to shower some leaders, philanthropists and wealthy Armenians in the diaspora with royal banquets, citations, honors and medals. His government even created a new position of Commissioner For Armenia-Diaspora Relations, who traveled across the Armenian world, extolling us to love Armenia more, give more, care more and promise never to forget the homeland. Not satisfied with all these and to further offer gloss and flattery to diaspora, the president of Armenia is offering dual citizenship to certain Diasporan Armenians of his choosing. The who and why is still obscure and highly questionable. The very idea of dual citizenship is divisive, misguided and totally absurd. This idea, or practice, should be buried in the deepest pit in Armenian soil and never see daylight again.

Unfortunately, this is not all. Lo and behold, the president of Armenia is considering restructuring the constitution of Armenia to include a number of Diasporan Armenians as members of parliament. This misbegotten and misguided concept seems not only unprecedented, but ridiculous. Is it to satisfy the ego of some Diasporan Armenians, who receive this honor? There must be a thousand-and-one questions regarding this scheme and before any more time is spent on it, it should join the same pit and never see sunrise or sunset again. President Serge Sargisian and his governing body are rushing from the ridiculous to the sublime and spending precious time to seduce Diasporan Armenians.

It is tragic, disturbing and sad to read or hear of demonstrations, protests, hunger strikes, discord and chaos in Armenia. Are we to assume that our beloved homeland is becoming like a kite whose line has been cut off? Truth, stark naked truth, demands that good government work for the governed and abandon all schemes, pretense and misrule.

As sure as I am that God’s sun breaks into a hundred million sapphires over Armenian Lakes, and that any Diasporan Armenian visiting Armenia feels he or she has stepped on the earth of God’s Eden of Genesis, that sure I am that all Diasporan Armenians — some eight million of us — will love more, do more, sacrifice more for homeland Armenia, if the president of Armenia and his governing body make more effort, put more passion, zeal and dedication and eliminate disunity, discord and especially, all dramatics.

Source: http://www.mirrorspectator.com/2011/04/20/wrong-path-in-armenia/

Who will decide Armenia's destiny -- patriots or tyrants?



Across an ocean and a continent, on a sliver of land tucked between two seas, a little republic today enters its 20th year of independence. I know a man there, an American by birth – except that 20 years ago, he quit his law firm in Los Angeles, decided he had no further business in the United States, and went to search for his destiny in Armenia. It was a romantic time. One by one, the 15 Soviet satellites were breaking from the Kremlin’s orbit, and exiled sons were returning to their homelands to share in the creation of new republics. As for my father, Raffi K. Hovannisian, once the football star of the Pali High Dolphins, he left a promising legal career and moved with wife and children to Yerevan, the capital of Soviet Armenia. After independence was officially declared on Sept. 21, 1991, my father was handed a fax machine and a first month’s paycheck of 600 rubles – $143. He was told he was the republic’s first minister of foreign affairs.

Post-Soviet seeds of democracy

All across the Soviet plains, the seeds of democracy were being sown into soil tyrannized for generations, but no one doubted that they would grow. My father certainly didn’t. Within a year, he had established diplomatic relations with every major democracy in the world. At United Nations headquarters in New York, he had raised the red, blue, and orange Armenian flag. That was nearly 20 years ago. Everything was possible then. But the shadow of history soon closed in on the Armenians. The capital went dark. Faucets dried up. Grain shipments stopped coming in. And suddenly, as if for the first time, the Armenians realized where they were. To the west: a history of horror with Turkey, the memory of an unrequited genocide in 1915. To the east: the anticipation of war with Azerbaijan, occupant of the ancient American enclave of Artsakh, or Mountainous Karabagh. It is a dangerous thing, when survival becomes the sole ambition of a people. But that is what happened to the Armenians in the years after independence. They lost their hope, their cause, their conviction. They were not as generous as they used to be. And the old Soviet symptoms reappeared.


Corruption and failure

On the streets of Yerevan, a generation of child beggars emerged. Policemen waved batons for two-dollar bribes. Teachers worked for bribes, too. The presidents came to control every judge, prosecutor, and public defendant who wanted to keep his job. Fair trials and free elections became failed promises. Incumbents almost always “won” – while losers almost never went home without first leading a mob of a hundred thousand citizens through the capital. In 1999, during a session of parliament, all the president’s key adversaries were assassinated. My father long ago resigned from the Yerevan government, but he, at least, never gave up the dream. Instead, in 2001, he gave up his American passport once and for all. The following year, he founded Heritage, a national-liberal party, which now represents the opposition in the Yerevan parliament. To this day, my father is admired by his people. In a recent poll, Gallup pegged his popularity at 82 percent – but not for the obvious reasons. “Achke kusht e,” the people say of him, “His eye is full.” In other words: the man has seen the world, and he’s not in politics for the money. In Armenia, that is enough. Today the Yerevan government is linked to a group of powerful businessmen called “oligarchs,” who invest in and control the political game. One of them has the monopoly on gas, another the monopoly on sugar and flour. All of them have nicknames, armies of bodyguards, and fleets of luxury cars escorting them ostentatiously through the city.
 

Power-hungry tycoons

The rulers are multimillionaires, the lot of them, though they have incurred great debts to the original power tycoons surrounding the Kremlin in Moscow, to whom they have been selling the country’s gold mines and electricity plants. And they are ready to sell much more than that. Last month, Armenia hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet alliance including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – republics unclaimed by the West, republics that are now following an ancient gravity to its source in mother Russia. During the August meeting, Russia secured a 24-year extension of its lease on a key military base in Armenia. Actually, lease isn’t the word. The base is funded and sustained entirely by the Armenian state. Now you see why today, in Yerevan, there is not much independence or democracy left to celebrate. And by now my father, too, must see what his romanticism has long prevented him from seeing: Armenia is not free, not independent, not united. The Soviet soil has spit out the seeds of democracy.
 

Hope foreshadows freedom
 

Of course my father still keeps the faith, and there is some evidence to support it. For the first time in Armenia, a civil society is taking shape to bridge a government and a people, so far disenfranchised from each other. Denied television airwaves, opposition media are now transmitting their protest through the Internet. And that little party in parliament, though it has not realized a revolution, can at least symbolize – and foreshadow – a free and independent Armenia. And so we hope, and we even know, that the tree of liberty will grow from Armenian soil one day. But not today, not until, in the words of another founding father, “it is refreshed by the blood of patriots and tyrants” – both of which, I’m afraid, Armenia has plenty.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0921/Who-will-decide-Armenia-s-destiny-patriots-or-tyrants/%28page%29/2#


Armenia No Longer Eligible For U.S. Aid Program




Armenia is currently not eligible for receiving additional U.S. economic assistance under a program designed to reward good governance and reforms around the world, U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch said on Friday. She said the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections in the country will be an opportunity for the Armenian government to improve its democracy and human rights record and thus again qualify for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.

The U.S. government approved $236 million worth of MCA assistance to Armenia in 2006 to finance a rural development plan submitted by Yerevan. In June 2008, Washington scrapped a $67 million segment of the aid package, which envisaged the reconstruction of hundreds of kilometers of rural roads. The decision was widely attributed to a disputed presidential election held in February 2008 and a harsh government crackdown on the Armenian opposition that followed it.

The aid cut did not affect the rest of the MCA funding which is being mainly channeled into Armenia’s battered irrigation networks. Their ongoing refurbishment is due to be completed this September. Yovanovitch and Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian visited on Friday the central Aragatsotn province to inspect local irrigation canals that have been rehabilitated with MCA funds. They also met with farmers that have received training as part of the same scheme.

“We hope that this program has made and will continue to make a real impact on the rural community in terms of increased wealth,” Yovanovitch told journalists there. The U.S. diplomat made clear that Yerevan can not apply for more MCA aid for the time being. “Perhaps at some point in the future, there might be a possibility,” she said. “Every year, every country is reviewed for eligibility. At this point, Armenia is not eligible for a second compact due to where it stands on the [MCA] indicators.”

Yovanovitch specified that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration should, among other things, hold more democratic elections. “As Armenia enters into an election cycle, with parliamentary elections next year and presidential elections the year after, there is an opportunity to boost these indicators,” she said. “Obviously, conduct on the day of elections is an important thing but so is freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the many other things that go into general good governance,” she added.

Yovanovitch urged the Armenian authorities to hold free elections, respect civil liberties and embark on other “deep and difficult” reforms in a recent speech at Yerevan State University. In particular, she stressed the importance of “ensuring that peaceful, lawful assemblies will not be harassed or broken up.”

Source: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/4745616.html


Little Hope of More Democracy


Although there is still more than a year to go until the next parliamentary election, opposition parties in Armenia are already calling their followers onto the streets. There is plenty of popular dissatisfaction with the status quo, driven by rising prices and widespread poverty. But experts say the scope for channelling that into real change is limited by Armenia’s difficult relationships abroad, which its current leaders can always cite as justification for tough controls at home.

Armenia is still officially at war with Azerbaijan, and its troops garrison the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorny Karabakh, so ruling politicians can play the national security card if their authority is threatened. This has allowed them to fend off demands for democratic reforms. The government’s authoritarian tendencies, and its insistence on supporting Karabakh, has won support from big businesses keen to keep their monopolies safe from the Azerbaijani and Turkish competitors who might flood in if a peace deal was signed.

Opposition parties seeking to harness popular resentment of the government believe there is a limit to what people will put up with in the name of national security. “One fine day, a people who have nothing to lose and who have been driven to extreme suffering, might cease to care about the views of opinion of parliament, and even about Karabakh,” Armenian National Congress, ANC, leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan told a rally of supporters last month.

Experts say, however, that most people are not prepared to abandon their fellow-Armenians in Karabakh, and fear a possible repeat of the conflict with Azerbaijan. This plays into the government’s hands. “It’s clear the Armenian public has a keen sense of the danger of new war with Azerbaijan. That means that both the public and the opposition are more restrained than they might be], and that citizens have to opt for political stability over democratisation in many areas,” Garik Keryan, head of politics in Yerevan State University’s international relations faculty, said.

Commentators say the government tolerates political freedoms as long as they do not interfere with its grip on power, while the opposition movement remains divided among competing personalities. People who attend opposition protests are often there because they are against the government rather than actively drawn to the opposition. Ter-Petrosyan’s ANC fails to make much ground because he alienated many people in his time as Armenian president in the 1990s.

“Look what this government has driven me to. I have a law degree and I’m driving a taxi. They’re forcing people to team up with Levon,” Artur, a 29-year-old Yerevan resident said. “I remember the days of Levon’s government – it was terrible then. But what else can you do? These politicians are just humiliating us.”

Ter-Petrosyan has ruled out a swift attempt to win power, comparing his political strategy to a game of chess. That has led many analysts to argue that he is not interested in changing the political set-up radically, just in putting himself and his followers at the head of it. Political battles in Armenia are often more about competing individuals than different ideologies.

“The ANC probably a few tens of thousands of supporters, and the Heritage party has fewer, since it isn’t as well-organised,” public relations expert Samvel Martirosyan said. “Heritage more closely resembles a collection of individuals.”

The divisions among opposition groups were graphically evident on March 17, when Ter-Petrosyan was taking part in a protest meeting in central Yerevan and went past Heritage leader Raffi Hovhannisyan without acknowledging the fact that the latter had been staging a hunger strike for the past two days. Arman Vardanyan, chairman of the Union of Young Politicians of Armenia, said recent remarks made by Ter-Petrosyan, 66, might indicate he was considering stepping down as ANC leader. But finding a replacement of similar standing would be difficult.

“Ter-Petrosyan was making it plain he didn’t intend to stand in the next [2013] presidential election. But in my opinion, no newcomer is going to be able to present a serious challenge to the current president, Serzh Sargsyan,” Vardanyan said.

He predicted that the ANC would win around 25 per cent of the seats in parliament in the May 2012 election, while the Heritage Party and Dashnakutsyun, a party now in opposition but formerly part of the ruling coalition, would probably struggle to surpass the five per cent threshold needed to gain any seats at all. The result, Vardanyan said, would be that the ruling coalition would maintain its grip on power, and there would be little progress towards a more democratic system.
 
Keryan ascribes Armenia’s failure to build a more open political system in the two decades since independence to economic problems, the Karabakh war and its legacy of isolation in the region, and the continuing influence of Russia. “For 20 years, Armenia has seen its security as depending on its strategic partnership with Russia,” he said. “This could change only if there were major geopolitical changes in the region, and those changes haven’t happened.”

Last year, the two countries agreed to extend the stay of Russian troops in Armenia. An official strategy paper on national security reaffirms that a continued Russian presence in the South Caucasus is crucial for Armenia. While the document also talks about greater cooperation with NATO members, most analysts say the authorities would never stray too far from Moscow.

Meanwhile, a rapprochement with Turkey which has emerged over recent years appears to have ground to a halt. With no change to the external environment, observers say there is little impetus to move away from the current system dominated by a small political elite and by oligarchs with vested economic interests. “There is a privileged caste which is not only able to bypass the law but which uses the state to pursue its own ends,” Arman Rustamyan, a member of parliament from the opposition Dashnakutsyun party, said.

Hovsep Khurshudyan, an expert from the Armenian Centre for National and International Studies, said that despite the government’s declared intention of pursuing reforms, “the economy remains in the hands of a few families which also have political influence”. “The government is unable to force the big oligarchs to pay taxes, so it’s forced to place the whole tax burden on small and medium-sized businesses and on ordinary citizens, who will soon refuse to put up with this, or will emigrate,” Khurshudyan added.

Vazgen Manoukyan, who heads of the Public Council, a government advisory body set up by President Sargsyan in 2009, told IWPR that while Armenia had a democratic constitution, there were problems in practice with elections, freedom of speech and the judicial system. “The parliamentary and presidential elections of 1990 and 1991 were democratic, but 1995 and 1996 saw a huge step backwards, and the tradition of electoral fraud has continued since then, albeit with some modification,” he said.

Manoukyan said free speech was marred by the removal of the A1+ TV channel from the airwaves some years ago, the judicial system was far from perfect, and economic domination by the oligarchs had curbed both market competition and the growth of democratic institutions. 

Source: http://iwpr.net/report-news/armenia-little-hope-more-democracy

Democracy Derailed: How Armenia Has Become the Post-Soviet Region's Model Dictatorship

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On December 7, 2015, Armenia held a landmark referendum on constitutional reform. The results were resounding. Over 63% of Armenians voted in favor of reforms that would greatly increase the power wielded by the Prime Minister and render the president's role in the Armenian political process ceremonial. Even though decreased presidential power in CIS countries is typically associated with democratic consolidation, liberal Armenians expressed severe discontent with the referendum's outcome. Opposition MPs in Armenia and European politicians accused regime officials of electoral fraud and criticized the lack of meaningful open political debate on constitutional reform prior to holding the vote. Four thousand Armenians protested the government's handling of the referendum in the streets of Yerevan immediately after the results were announced, confirming the predictions of Armenia experts that the regime would be destabilized yet again by mass unrest.

Despite these protests and the fierce rhetoric emanating from established opposition groups in Armenia, it is intriguing that the current wave of demonstrations have not escalated to the levels witnessed in the summer 2015 Electric Yerevan protests. This failure is a testament to the success of Serzh Sargsyan regime's authoritarian consolidation efforts. Even though the July protests were largely motivated by popular discontent with Armenia's relationship with Russia, Sargsyan successfully deflected these concerns to benefit of his regime security. The Armenian regime has effectively addressed the domestic undercurrents of the protests while simultaneously exploiting crises in Turkey and Nagorno-Karabakh to receive more extensive support from the Kremlin.

Why Sargsyan's Response to Electric Yerevan was Effective

Even though Armenia has a long tradition of popular protests forged from the transition experience and the instabilities associated with authoritarian consolidation in the post-1991 period, the summer 2015 protests in Yerevan posed a distinct challenge to Sargsyan's regime security. Unrest occurred outside the context of an election cycle and the extensive participation of previously apolitical youth and urban professionals in the protests highlighted the extent to which civil society in Armenia had matured in recent years. The anti-Russian undercurrents of the Electric Yerevan movement fueled many comparisons with the Euro-Maidan revolution in Ukraine, especially amongst Russian observers. At points, Sargsyan's long-term future appeared uncertain, with chorus of premature political obituaries drumming louder as unrest worsened day-by-day.

Sargsyan effectively defied these naysayers by demonstrating that he had learnt the lessons from Viktor Yanukovych's ignominious demise in Ukraine. Instead of resorting to mass violence to restore order, Sargsyan attempted to appease the protesters with concessions demonstrating his ostensible concern for their economic plight and demands for a less corrupt judicial process.

Six days after the protests began, Sargsyan made a public statement insisting that the 17% hike in electricity costs was necessary to ensure Armenia's power grid was operational. But to alleviate the financial burden, he announced that the government not households would cover the excess costs until an independent audit of the price hike was completed. To prevent opposition movements from snowballing in retaliation to gratuitous police brutality, Sargsyan launched a police investigation into officers involved in the June 23 crackdown. A senior regime-affiliated member of the police force was demoted and police officers involved in the repression were reprimanded.

Sargasyan's deft accommodation of the Yerevan protesters' grievances prevented the electricity protests from escalating into a national popular revolution. The absence of unified leadership amongst the Armenian opposition and the increasingly abstract nature of their agenda following the government's concession on the electricity issue ultimately defused the protests completely. To prevent a more cohesive challenge to the Republican Party's 16 year long hegemony over Armenian politics from emerging, Sargasyan has attempted to stimulate the economy by borrowing from international lenders and by presenting Armenia as an economic bridge between China and Europe. He also launched an ambitious constitutional reform agenda weakening presidential power to present a more credible façade of democracy to the international community, while providing a gateway to a potential run for a third presidential term.

When opposition movements resisted these measures by claiming that Republican Party was trying to institutionalize a one-party system in Armenia, Sargsyan devised a divide-and-conquer strategy to marginalize the opposition and exploit its disunity. Amidst allegations of bribery and by courting Russian assistance, the Prosperous Armenia bloc supported the regime's proposed reforms, dissolving the opposition troika formed several months earlier. As a result, opposition blocs like the Heritage Party who opposed the Sargsyan reforms became increasingly hostile towards those who acquiesced and experienced defections amongst their own ranks. The regime's clever political machinations ensured that the December 7 referendum was met with much more muted opposition than one would have expected on the heels of Electric Yerevan.

Armenia and Russia: A Tightening Partnership

The second prong of Sargsyan's authoritarian consolidation strategy is a counter-intuitive one: deepening Armenia's partnership with Russia. The Electric Yerevan protests highlighted Russia's eroding soft power in Armenia and diminished popular support for integration with Putin's Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) during a period of economic recession. Sargsyan's channeling of public anger away from Russia and towards Armenian domestic policy by appearing to crack down on government mismanagement and police brutality was a risky move. But in the long run, it has crystallized Russia's support for Armenia, at a time when Azerbaijan has been attempting to thaw relations with the Kremlin.

Russia's increased support for Armenia once again upholds its reputation as the leading guardian of authoritarianism in the CIS region. The head of the Federation Council's Foreign Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev described the summer 2015 protests in Armenia as bearing "all the hallmarks of a colored revolution." Elites close to Kremlin insinuated that Western-backed NGOs had a hand in fomenting instability in Yerevan. Sargasyan's new found sense of vulnerability implored Russia to tighten its alliance with Armenia. In late October, the Russian government proposed the creation of a joint air defense mechanism with Armenia as part of a broader plan to create a CSTO aerial umbrella extending to Central Asia. Armenia also received a $200 million loan from Russia, which would be used to purchase long-range weapons and military hardware vital for the modernization of its military.

The sale of arms at discounted prices during a period of economic crisis in Russia and a brewing debt crisis in Armenia is a telling sign of Putin's commitment to preserving the bilateral relationship. It also repaired the strains created by the January slaying of an Armenian family by a Russian soldier, an event that caused Regional Studies Center director Richard Giragosian to speculate that an end to Armenia's security dependence on Russia was near. In addition to stoking fears of uncontrolled popular revolutions that could diffuse to Russia, Armenia has curried Russian patronage by exploiting regional crises. The recent inflammation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been at least partially attributed to Armenian provocation. Azerbaijan's defense ministry on October 1 accused Armenia of violating the ceasefire 80 times a day by using heavy machine guns and mortar shells.

In tandem with these escalations, Russia has become increasingly confrontational in its rhetoric about the Karabakh conflict. Russian ambassador to the OSCE Aleksandr Lukashevich recently described Turkey's unconditional support for Azerbaijan as detrimental to long-term prospects of peace and an infringement on OSCE responsibilities. The economic aid and coercive capabilities the Armenian regime has received from Russia depend in part on Armenia facing credible security threats. Creating an atmosphere of perpetual crisis in the South Caucasus therefore plays right into Sargsyan's hands.

Armenia's scathing condemnation of Turkey's recent downing of a Russian jet over its airspace, and solidarity with Russia's counter-terrorism campaign has also strengthened the Sargasyan regime's ties to Russia. Sergei Mironov, the chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament, submitted a bill on "holding to account" deniers of the 1915 Armenian genocide. The prospect of a major Russian military buildup on the Turkey-Armenia border has also become more realistic.

Yet unlike Yanukovych who made integration with Russia or the acceptance of the EU association agreement a mutually exclusive choice, Armenia has been able to balance increased Russian support with a multi-vector foreign economic policy. Armenia has actively co-opted Chinese investment, received 30 million euros from the EU to improve fiscal governance, and has reopened negotiations on a broad-based bilateral framework agreement with Europe. Sargsyan's successful free-riding off regional crises has given him flexibility and leverage that Ukraine's elites lacked in 2013, and has put Putin in a position in which escalating support for the Armenian regime is the only way for Russia to maintain its leverage in the South Caucasus

Sargasyan's mixture of shrewd concessions, deflection of blame away from Russia to domestic institutions and exploitation of international crises to curry Russian support demonstrates that he has learnt the lessons of Maidan. His successful experience could also provide a powerful role model for other authoritarian Russian allies like Belarus or Kazakhstan, in combatting future mass protests and neutralize the effects of liberal civil society development.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-ramani/democracy-derailed-how-ar_b_8838530.html

Paul Goble: Armenia Facing Demographic Collapse


All progressive humanity’ is concerned by the periodic reports about the disappearance of this or that type of plant or animal, [but] we are much less concerned about the disappearance of nations and nationalities,” Armenian expert Gevork Pogosyan says. Yet, as the post-Soviet period demonstrates, that can happen even to larger nations that have lost population numbers as a result of declining birthrates and increasing outmigration and assimilation (see EDM, December 11). One such country now facing a demographic collapse is Armenia, whose population has dropped by nearly 1.5 million since 1991 and is projected to decline by that much again over the next several decades (Kavkazoved.info, December 6).

Such declines call into question the long-term survival of Armenians as a nation, the director of the Yerevan Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law suggests. But more immediately, they have significant security implications given that those leaving Armenia are the most educated portion of the population rather than the working class. And furthermore, Armenia remains locked in a conflict with its neighbor, Azerbaijan, over Karabakh and the other Armenian-occupied territories of Azerbaijan. But like the other Muslim republics of the former Soviet space, Azerbaijan is experiencing rapid population growth and is predicted to continue to do so for some time to come.

Between 1920 and 1991, Pogosyan says, Armenia’s population rose from 880,000 to approximately five million; but after 1991, it began to lose population and will continue to do so. In part, this reflects the decline in the birthrate by 50 percent over that period; but to a greater extent, it is the product of outmigration, something many Armenians thought might be temporary but which is proving to be permanent. “Hundreds of thousands have left, but only a handful have returned,” Pogosyan notes. And because it is the young who are leaving most often, the number of women in prime childbearing age groups is falling, which will push the population down even more, perhaps to only 1.5 million by mid-century. Moreover, that population will be far “grayer” than the current one.

Some of this reflects the real absence of opportunities in Armenia, the Yerevan scholar argues. But part of it signifies a spiritual crisis in which Armenians increasingly feel that they and their children have no future in a country that is locked in what appears to be a permanent, if undeclared, war and whose government has done little to fight domestic corruption or crime. The authorities, meanwhile, have often reacted with indifference to this trend or even welcomed it: One former prime minister said that if Armenians were not leaving the country in massive numbers, there would be a revolt at home.

If the problem is to be addressed, Pogosyan says, the government must first admit that the problem exists, something it has not been willing to do; and it must then adopt policies intended to change the existing national psychology. At the same time, it must recognize that some of the things it is doing to save the Armenian economy may be destroying the country’s demographic future. Entering the Eurasian Economic Union, for example, will make it even easier for Armenians to leave their country and never return. It is already the case, he says, that there are almost as many ethnic Armenians in Russia as there are in Armenia.

Moreover, he continues, it is not just a question of gross numbers. If many international guest workers from Muslim republics are low-skilled people, between 55 and 60 percent of Armenians leaving to work elsewhere are highly trained professionals. That further depresses the future of Armenia. And this trend gives no sign of easing. According to research his institute has done, Pogosyan says, “up to 40 percent of young people are set on leaving the country, either to study, for to work, or to live there and marry. This is a very bad symptom.”

Yerevan cannot hope to stop outmigration, Pogosyan asserts, but what it must do if the nation is to have a future is to promote “circular migration,” in which Armenians go abroad for part of their lives and then return to Armenia. That is the pattern in Europe, and Yerevan must take steps to make it the pattern in Armenia as well. At the same time, it must do more to attract Armenians from the eight-million-strong Armenian diaspora. To date, however, Yerevan has not been doing that. For example, he says, it has taken in only 7,000 Armenians from Syria out of an Armenian community there of 150,000.

But the situation is even worse than those figures suggest, Pogosyan states, because many of the Syrian Armenians who have come to Armenia are using it as a way station until they can move to Europe or the United States. He says he has a neighbor from Syria, a doctor with his own clinic in Armenia. But now that neighbor is selling his clinic and apartment and planning to move to France. He and his family “lived in Armenia only a year, and you already cannot keep him” there. “That is the reality” of Armenian life now; as a result, the scholar says, “depopulation continues.”


Source: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=44899&

‘Russia has de facto occupied Armenia,’ Yerevan expert Paul Goble says

Russian soldiers stationed at a military base in Armenia (Image: armenianow.com)

Moscow has taken control of Armenia’s economy and restricted its domestic and foreign policy options to the point that one Yerevan commentator says it has “de facto” occupied that south Caucasus country, a possible indication of just what Vladimir Putin may hope to do in other post-Soviet states if he has the chance. Ruben Mergrabyan, the editor of the Russian Service of the 1in.am internet portal, says that Moscow has moved to establish its control over Armenia by “cleverly playing” on the Karabakh issue and by exploiting Armenia’s dependence on energy supplies from abroad.

The first, he says, helps the Russian government to silence any objections to what it is doing inside Armenia while the second excludes from his country all foreign firms and especially energy suppliers like neighboring Iran that might allow Yerevan to take a more balanced approach. Moscow used both the fear of Azerbaijani attacks and of the loss of energy supplies to force Yerevan to join the Eurasian Economic Union when in Mehrabyan’s words, the Russian side “made a proposal that [Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan] could not refuse.”

What has occurred in Armenia is something “unnatural,” the Armenian commentator continues. It is next to Iran, a major exporter of gas, but it imports its gas from Siberia, as the result of agreements that do little more than “legalize [Armenia’s] occupation.” Indeed, under the terms of those accords, Yerevan can’t make a deal with Tehran unless Moscow agrees. Russia’s goal, he says, “is to liquidate any chance for Armenia to establish economic ties with Iran.” Without such ties, Armenia must seek to go through one of its three other neighbors, with one of which (Azerbaijan) it is at war, with a second (Turkey) longstanding hostility, and with the third (Georgia) it has difficulties precisely because of Yerevan’s Russian orientation.

Moscow has then used this situation to take control of Armenia’s domestic energy infrastructure, acquiring ownership in “property for debt” swaps that Yerevan has little choice but to accept, given that its own economy is in a shambles. But Russian control imposes new and heavy costs. Mehrabyan says that in Armenia “Russian government companies now are involved in activities which resemble the methods of organized criminal groups” bringing with them the illegalities characteristic of their branches in Russia itself, including massive corruption and direct involvement in Armenian politics on behalf of Moscow.

At the same time, Moscow has done everything it can to “undermine the work of the OSCE Minsk Group,” claiming it supports a resolution but in fact providing offensive arms to Azerbaijan and looking the other way when Baku officials make statements suggesting they are about to launch an attack on Armenian-controlled portions of Azerbaijan. That has allowed Moscow to issue statements suggesting that it alone “can defend Armenia” not only from Azerbaijan but also “from its historic enemy.” All this, Mehrabyan says, has left Armenia “a hostage of the imperial policy of Russia,” one whose dimensions are obscured by massive Kremlin-backed propaganda about a possible war with Azerbaijan.

Now it appears Moscow is about to take the next step in this neo-imperialist game, inserting its own “pocket” candidate for president of Armenia, Ara Abramyan, the chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia, who recently returned to Yerevan to signal his political plans. Mehrabyan says that Abramyan’s involvement in Armenian politics not only threatens to turn Armenia into something Russia can trade but also represents “the final degradation of the [Armenian] political system.” Indeed, the commentator says, for Vladimir Putin, Abramyan is “the Armenian Yanukovych.” One can only hope that that Russian project in Armenia will suffer the same fate the analogous Russian project met in Ukraine. But if Mehrabyan is correct, the chances of that unless there are serious changes in Yerevan’s relations with its own people and the outside world are significantly less.

Source: http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/10/22/russia-has-de-facto-occupied-armenia-yerevan-expert-says/#arvlbdata

Armenia, Karabakh Remain "Partly Free" According to Freedom House

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Nagorno-Karabakh remains a “partly free” territory governed by a less repressive administration than Azerbaijan, the U.S. human rights group Freedom House said in an annual survey released this week. Freedom House evaluated “political rights” and “civil liberties” in 195 countries and 15 territories, including Karabakh, on a 7-point scale, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. It again rated both Karabakh and Armenia “partly free” and kept Azerbaijan in the “not free” category of nations surveyed. What is more, the “Freedom in the World 2016” survey further downgraded Azerbaijan’s ratings, giving the authorities in Baku a median score of 6.5.

“Azerbaijan’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to an intensified crackdown on dissent, widespread irregularities surrounding the November parliamentary elections, and serious violations of the right to a fair trial in cases against journalists, opposition activists, and human rights defenders,” it explained. “President Ilham Aliyev’s government used the polls to show its teeth to the democratic world, barring several foreign journalists from covering the process and imposing restrictions on international observer groups that led some to suspend their monitoring missions,” adds the report.

By comparison, Karabakh’s political rights and civil liberties ratings remained unchanged at 5. Freedom House upgraded the status of the Armenian-populated unrecognized republic, which broke away from Azerbaijani rule in the early 1990s, from “not free” to “partly free” in 2013. The watchdog attributed that to Karabakh’s “competitive” July 2012 presidential election which it said featured a “genuine opposition.”

The Azerbaijani government on Thursday condemned the U.S. watchdog’s latest evaluations of Azerbaijan and especially Karabakh. “Setting aside the separatist regime created in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in the latest annual report is yet another instance of bias shown by Freedom House,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev said, according to the APA news agency. Hajiyev said that previous reports also exposed “Freedom House’s biased attitude towards Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

Like other Western human rights groups, Freedom House has repeatedly decried the arrests and imprisonment of dozens of Aliyev critics in recent years. In 2014, it urged the United States and the European Union to consider imposing sanctions on Azerbaijani officials involved in human rights abuses.


Why Armenians are successful everywhere except Armenia


One of my American colleagues who lives in Boston and always keeps in touch with the local Armenians, last year visited Armenia as a volunteer firmly intending to assist in fixing some social problems in Armenia. After working for more than a month in Armenia we finally met just before his departure to the USA. He was sad and perplexed. “I know many Armenians living in Boston, New York and New Jersey,” he said, “they are very successful in their respective fields and live safe and prosperous lives. Many of them emigrated from Armenia during the last 15–20 years; and I treat the Armenians with admiration. 

Now, when I have visited various towns and villages in Armenia, met people, listened to them about their and the country's problems, I'm just stunned. How is it possible that a country with such a talented and hard-working people, and such a diverse diaspora that sends billions of dollars to Armenia every year, can remain so underdeveloped and poor?”

Indeed, Armenia was well-known in the Soviet Union for its highly skilled population, its industrial, scientific and educational potential, and its healthcare. Now Armenia has become one of the poorest countries in the world. The average monthly salary in Armenia is $370 (USD), the average monthly pension is $90, and 20% of children under five years old have health problems caused by undernourishment. The economy is suffering under the yoke of the local oligarchs and Russian monopolies. The authorities have signed many disgraceful agreements with Russia, which force Armenians to buy gas and oil exclusively from Russia at the highest price possible, when oil and gas prices have fallen elsewhere in the world.  

There is no serious local or foreign investment in Armenia not only because of the unfavourable economic conditions (some patriotic Armenians from the diaspora are ready to make substantial investments even in these conditions), but also because of the unwritten laws of systemic corruption. Every investor planning a significant project in the country is obliged to donate a substantial portion of its investment to the current president's family in order to be able to operate without obstruction. For example, the current president’s brother, Sashik Sargsyan, is known in Armenia as Mr. “50%.” 

The systemic injustices and illegalities in Armenia, as well as the alienation of ordinary citizens from their own country's government, have led to widespread apathy and despair. People, who could develop Armenia, are leaving the country for Russia, Europe, USA, Ukraine, Canada and Australia. The current emigration rate of 4–5% of the whole population annually is the highest in the world and is simply disastrous. During the 25 years of Armenia's independence, more than 2 million people left the country, almost the same number of people who remain there today. Moreover, half of those emigrants left Armenia in the last 8 years, during Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency.

The government, through sophisticated and unlawful practices, has left the country’s citizens bare-handed in face of a mighty criminal gang that has seized power in Armenia. The people cannot affect this situation in any way and their participation in the elections serves as a smokescreen for the ruling clan to demonstrate formal conformity with the democratic standards imposed in Armenia by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is difficult to find another country in the world, where the ruling party has so many members with mafia-style nicknames

On February 2013 the West turned a blind eye to the reproduction of Serzh Sargsyan’s power through massive electoral fraud, as Sargsyan had promised to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. But the previous four years of successful negotiation process with the EU was not a classic episode of the Eastern Partnership but rather a vivid example of eastern cunning aimed at getting support from the West during upcoming presidential elections.

The post-election protest campaign, organized by Raffi K. Hovannisian, who was actually elected as a president by absolute majority, was denied any political support from the West and gradually faded away. Just four months after the demise of this powerful anti-governmental movement, Serzh Sargsyan not only refused to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, but during his meeting with Putin in the Kremlin made a solemn pledge to integrate Armenia into the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

It is noteworthy that Raffi Hovannisian’s "Heritage" party was the only one, whose faction in the Parliament voted against Armenia's integration to the EEU. As a result the authorities worked incessantly to exacerbate the rivalries within the party and its parliamentary faction and eventually to eviscerate it. Now the parliamentary faction of the "Heritage" party essentially has only one member instead of its previous five. Today the authorities promote puppet “pro-western” parties, which are fully under its control.   

On December 6, 2015, Serzh Sargsyan called a referendum on constitutional "reforms" and laid the groundwork to reinforce and perpetuate his power in a weakened Armenia. Currently in his second and final term as President, these changes are designed to enable him to retain power as Prime Minister or Speaker of the Parliament. No wonder that the results of the referendum were rigged. Thanks to the opposition and civil society efforts, the law enforcement authorities have had to file dozens of criminal cases on numerous electoral frauds during the referendum.

None of these criminal proceedings have been initiated as a result of the intervention by the Police or National Security Service. And this all happened despite the fact that the opposition parties are not funded from any sources, except the annual state financial subsidy of a mere 7–10 thousand dollars, which is provided by law (other sources of opposition financing, such as financial backing from business sector, are strictly forbidden, and carry penalties for the sponsors that can lead to their bankruptcy: we have such examples).

But even the court cases of the criminals who rigged the results of the referendum bring no results as they are released one-by-one after simply paying small fines; in fact the maximum punishment for such an offense as state capture in Armenia is a fine of $ 1000. And even if some will be imprisoned, certainly very soon they will be released under amnesty, granted by their main customer, the president, as has happened during the last years of independent Armenia.

Thus, in Armenia catching criminals and handing them over to be tried and punished is the direct responsibility of the opposition and civil society, while the absolute right of the authorities is to release those criminals, who will continue to falsify elections, capture the state, plunder the state budget, and simply sending to prison those who actively resist these electoral crimes. There are 13 political prisoners in Armenia today. This fact has been unanimously accepted not only by the opposition and human rights organizations, but also in Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, which has urged Armenia’s authorities to release them many times.

The reaction of the West to the rigged referendum last December compared to the 2013 presidential election was tougher. The West, through  the US Ambassador and the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia have demanded the punishment all the criminals, who committed electoral fraud, and prepare an electoral code with the  involvement of civil society and the opposition, and thus take steps to restore public trust towards the electoral system.

But these statements have made little difference. Recently the Government of Armenia received a “yellow card”: on March 18, a few days after the publication of authorities’ anti-democratic draft of the Electoral Code, "Moody's" downgraded Armenia's long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings from Ba3 to B1. But the debate on the Electoral Code in Armenia shows that, even with pressure from the West the authorities will not be pushed to accept any real reform of the Electoral Code for one simple reason - election laws, which guarantee free and legitimate elections, will be the end of their power.

And any government elected by the people will uncover a long series of the economic and criminal offences, such as the mass shooting at the Parliament in 1999, the murder of 10 peaceful demonstrators in 2008, the falsification of at least 5 presidential elections, the extradition of a huge section of Armenia's economy to Russia for a low, sometimes symbolic, price, and the continual looting of the state treasury.

But if until recently Armenia’s democratic society has had no hope of a regime change in the country, now, in the light of economic and geopolitical weakening of the Serzh Sargsyan's main sponsor Kremlin, such hopes are beginning to revive. The opposition, supported by the civil society, will try to change the government for the first time in the history of Armenia and to establish a democratic regime.  In this regard, the situation has a number of similarities with that of Ukraine, and the current president of Armenia resembles President Yanukovych, the former ruler of Ukraine. Serzh Sargsyan enjoys the support of only 7–8% of the population and is widely mistrusted by the general public.

The Yanukovych precedent is instructive, particularly since many people in Armenia have been excited about the popular revolution in Maidan, as they were in 2011 about the Arab Spring. In Armenia the more or less positive attitude towards Russia that has existed for 20 years is taking some sharp turns. The only factor that still keeps Armenia in Kremlin's orbit is the Turkish-Azerbaijani threat, expressed, on one hand, through the ongoing illegal blockade of Armenia by Turkey as well as the refusal by Ankara to ratify the Armenian-Turkish protocols, signed under the auspices of the USA, EU and Russia. 

On the other hand, there are the statements by the leadership of Azerbaijan about the possibility of conquering the self-determined Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (the last one, by the way, according to the Freedom House index “Freedom in the world”, has much more democratic political system and more liberal economy than Azerbaijan). But even these factors will be unlikely to hold back the people when the last drop will overflow their cup of patience. "It is enough to establish legitimate government in Armenia based on the people’s choice, and I am sure, that Armenia will blossom in a short time," said my American friend before leaving. Armenians hope that this day is not so far.


Armenia Has the Highest Cancer Death Rate in the World

cancer-armenia

Armenia has been placed first in a ranking of countries with highest rate of deaths caused by cancer. The list has been compiled by the World Life Expectancy research center. Zimbabwe and Hungary are ranked second and third respectively.  According to the study, the death rate in Armenia is 229.84 per 100 thousand people.  Armenia’s partners in the Eurasian Economic Union are ranked as follows: Kazakhstan – 14th, Russia – 15th, Belarus – 56th, Kyrgyzstan – 99th.  Neighboring Georgia is placed 85th, Azerbaijan is 72nd, Turkey is 40th and Iran is 113th.  The research shows that the deaths caused by cancer are in no way related to the level of development of the country or the weather conditions. The United States is ranked 43rd in the list, while France and Germany are placed 22nd and 41st.

Source: http://asbarez.com/144543/armenia-has-the-highest-cancer-death-rate-in-the-world/

Armenia’s Russia problem


In Armenia’s post-independence period, debt-for-asset swaps, many of which were negotiated personally by now-President Serzh Sargsyan, turned over critical assets to Russian SOEs in exchange for debt relief. Many top Armenian government officials, not to mention the Armenian public, were left in the dark as these backroom deals were executed. Since, Russian companies have used various tactics, including debt-for-asset swaps, or the offer of discounts on natural gas prices, to gain economic concessions. As recently as August, Armenia was reportedly mulling the sale of the Yerevan Power Plant to Gazprom (indebted to the company for $52.3 million).

Breaking it down sector by sector, the level of control by Russian state-owned companies is staggering. The country’s energy sector, in particular, is inordinately dependent on Russian state owned, or state linked, enterprises. These companies own or operate an array of power generating assets and chemical plants in the country. Those such assets that remain in Armenian government hands, like the Metsamor nuclear power plant, often still depend entirely on Russian fuel. Many of Armenia’s thermal power plants, for example, are powered with natural gas, the majority (80%) of which comes from Russia and passes through a distribution system fully controlled by Gazprom (via Gazprom Armenia). While the country’s sources of oil imports are more diversified, all oil products are moved via the country’s railway system, which is managed and operated Russian Railways. This Russian economic dominance extends to other of Armenia’s strategic sectors, including mining, banking and telecommunications.

Even in the more traditional soft power realm, Russia holds significant sway over the Armenian public. Roughly 49% rely on Russian television as their daily news source, and just 16% of Armenians watch no Russian television news at all. Outside of Armenia proper is a diaspora community of roughly 2.3 million, the majority of which resides in Russia. Keeping in mind that Armenia itself is home to just 2.9 million - one-third of whom live in poverty - the country’s inordinate dependence on remittances is blatant. Between 2010 and 2014, remittances constituted roughly 19% of Armenia’s total GDP, and those originating from Russia comprise some 70% of the total.

The question of how exactly this economic dominance translates into political control is not easy to answer, but it starts with the presence of oligarchs friendly to Moscow, who themselves control certain of the country’s most lucrative businesses. Made up of a circle of roughly forty individuals, included amongst the country’s oligarchs are members of the major political parties and Armenian presidents. The deals struck with Russian companies operating in the country serve often to enrich the oligarchs who facilitate the deals or partner with these firms. Thus, Moscow is often able to force Yerevan to make political or economic decisions that fall in line with Moscow’s broader agenda (for example the country’s joining of the Eurasian Economic Union).

There is no clearer recent example of Moscow’s close ties to the Armenian oligarchic class than that of newly appointed Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who led Gazprom Armenia for some time and was later Vice President of Gazprombank. Even if Karapetyan’s appointment is simply a placeholder until the April 2017 elections, it speaks volumes symbolically. The Prime Minister’s brother, Samvel Karapetyan, heads Tashir Group, which purchased Armenian Electric Networks, which controls the country’s power grid, from Russia’s Inter RAO following the Electric Yerevan protests.

Due in large part to these strong economic ties, Armenia is, in effect, trapped in Moscow’s strategic orbit, despite growing public frustration with Russia. Moscow’s continued defense sales to Azerbaijan continue to be a thorn in the side of Armenia, though the government has found itself able to do little about it. Likewise, Western assistance dedicated to enhancing the country’s democratic institutions, including the recently publicized effort to provide financial support for a new voting process, will not be enough to counter Moscow’s interest in maintaining the status quo. Without accounting for the economic role of Russia in Armenia, any efforts to enhance the country’s democratic institutions will largely fall flat.


Source:http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/309980-armenias-russia-problem

US Ambassador: Putin's Newest Satellite State: Armenia

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Two days before Christmas, as American policymakers were settling into the holidays, Russia quietly signed a sweeping air defense agreement with Armenia, accelerating a growing Russian military buildup that has unfolded largely under the radar. It was the most tangible sign yet that Putin is creating a new satellite state on NATO’s border and threatening an indispensable U.S. ally. The buildup in Armenia has been glossed over in Washington, despite being a key piece of Vladimir Putin’s plan to dominate the region — along with its proxy Syria and growing military ties with Iran. Most importantly, Armenia shares an approximately 165 mile border with Turkey, a NATO member and the alliance’s southern flank.  Over the last six months — as Russia’s war in Syria and pressure on Turkey has intensified — the flow of its arms and personnel into Armenia has escalated to include advanced Navodchik-2 and Takhion UAV drone aircrafts, Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Iskander-M ballistic missiles. Last July, Putin ordered snap combat readiness checks in Armenia to test the ability of his forces to react to threats to Russia’s interests abroad. Earlier this month on orders of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Russia began a massive military exercise in its “southwestern strategic direction,” which includes Armenia. The total strength of the regional operation included approximately 8,500 troops, 900 ground artillery pieces, 200 warplanes and 50 warships. The growing Russian military presence in Armenia is but the latest indicator of a worrisome trend: Putin’s threat to NATO and America’s interests in Europe. 

The Armenian-Russian alliance is gaining strength

The Armenian-Russian alliance is gaining strength. Armenia currently hosts an estimated 5,000 Russian military personnel and two Russian bases. In 2010, both countries signed an agreement that extended Russia’s basing rights in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044, and committed Moscow to supply the Armenian armed forces with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware,” according to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia — nearly 120 kilometers from the capital (and less than 10 kilometers from the Turkish border) — has become a crucial Russian beachhead. A similar Russian deployment on the borders of any other NATO member state would produce an outcry of outrage. Why are we staying silent in the face of this thinly veiled aggression against Turkey? And why are we not speaking up against Armenia for rolling out the red carpet for Putin’s shock troops? Turkey, after all, is a critical ally in the global fight against ISIS and is among the only members of the U.S.-led coalition with bases near strategic ISIS strongholds. In July 2015, Turkey and the U.S. finalized an agreement to work cooperatively to combat Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq, allowing the U.S. to launch air attacks from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey against Islamic State terrorist networks in northern Syria.

In international diplomacy, geography is everything

We ignore this threat at our peril. And in international diplomacy, geography is everything. Armenia borders three critical U.S. allies: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Russian forces currently occupy Georgian territory. Azerbaijan steadfastly resists intimidation from Moscow and is the linchpin in our efforts to wean Europe from dependence on Russian energy supplies. Make no mistake: The Russian military presence in Armenia represents a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO as the Armenia-Russian alliance strengthens. But while Moscow is rattling its sabers, Washington remains silent. Last August, The Moscow Times reported that President Putin told Turkey’s Ambassador to Moscow to “tell your dictator President he can go to hell along with his ISIS terrorists and I shall make Syria to nothing but a ‘Big Stalingrad.’” Histrionics aside, the intent is clear. Russia views Turkey as a hostile state and it will not back down. The picture that has emerged is unsettling: Armenia is enabling a bad actor, while Russia is using it to threaten our vital interests. America’s leaders must negotiate from a position of strength. Instead, we are acquiescing to Putin’s naked show of force. The history of the 20th century shows us that this will not end well. 

Mr. Ereli is also a former deputy spokesman of the State Department. He was U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain from 2007-2011.


The Russia-Armenia alliance is threatening Turkey, a critical U.S. ally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) speaks with US President Barack Obama (R) (File)

The Feb. 21 front-page article “For Turkey, high stakes as troubles intensify” highlighted a critical development: The growing military alliance between Russia and Armenia is threatening Turkey, an indispensable U.S. ally and partner in the fight against the Islamic State. The announcement that Russia is sending a new set of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base only 25 miles from the Turkish border is just the latest example of this alliance. The two countries’ economic and military ties run deep, bolstered by economic and security agreements and two military bases — including one just outside the Armenian capital. Most significant, Armenia is the only country in the region that shares a border with Turkey and has Russian troops permanently stationed. Although Armenia has welcomed thousands of Russian troops and advanced weaponry, these developments seemed to have escaped the notice of U.S. officials, who were settling in for the holidays while Russia and Armenia signed a sweeping air defense agreement two days before Christmas. It’s time for Washington to assess who our real allies in the region are. Andrew Bowen, Washington: The writer is senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.

Nuclear trouble in Azerbaijan: Russian missiles in Armenia threaten western energy interests

Russian Iskander Missiles in Armenia Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The Caucasus Mountains that run between the Black and Caspian Seas could soon turn into a nuclear flash point because of dangerous saber-rattling by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. Armenia has illegally claimed territory in western Azerbaijan, an assertion backed by military offensives against Azerbaijan, including a massacre of 600 citizens in 1992. Sadly now, Armenia may be taking the region to the brink of nuclear war.

Armenia received the Iskander missile system from Russia last autumn, a major provocation meant to send a message to Azerbaijan and NATO ally Turkey. This is consistent with Moscow’s policy of using missile deployments in Eurasia and the Middle East to threaten western interests. The Iskander short-range ballistic missile system is designed to destroy small targets at up to 300 miles. This means that Iskander missiles deployed in eastern Armenia could reach targets all over Azerbaijan, including the capital of Baku. Alarmingly, Iskander missiles are capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads.

As if the presence of the missiles were not a clear enough menace, Mr. Sargsyan visited the improperly held territories and bragged that his government possessed a “state-of-the-art, powerful striking force.” He went on to identify potential targets in Azerbaijan — “the most important infrastructure” — and followed up with a chilling pronouncement about his intentions as head of the Armenian military. “If needed, the commander in chief of the Armenian forces will without batting an eyelid order volley fire by Iskander,” he said.

This new round of warmongering is troubling in several respects and raises tensions in Baku and throughout the region. In addition to unnerving Armenia’s neighbors, Mr. Sargsyan’s statements raised concerns in Washington, D.C. The Jamestown Foundation recently held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to address the danger posed by Armenia’s deployment of the Iskander missiles, writing that the new weapons “threaten European stability, put U.S. allies at risk and potentially violate the 1988 [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty.”

Mr. Sargsyan’s inflammatory rhetoric destroys the myth propagated by separatists that the Armenian-seized Azerbaijani territory is an independent republic. Rather, the region occupied Azerbaijan and is now a staging area for missiles pointed at the rest of Azerbaijan. It is also clear that Mr. Sargsyan is using the missiles as a political weapon. Armenia’s president is seeking to stir his nationalistic supporters against Azerbaijan to increase voter turnout in elections. He is rejecting bids from more sober leaders in Armenia, including former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, for a plan that would reduce tensions between the two nations.

And then there’s the Russia question. Armenia is the only nation that has received the Iskander system from Russia. Why Armenia? Possibly because “the most important infrastructure” in Azerbaijan that could be targeted by the missiles includes companies owned and operated by Western entities, including American ones, that ensure Europe’s energy security. Natural gas from Azerbaijan flows by pipeline from the Caspian Sea west through Georgia and into Turkey and Europe. Should that flow be disrupted by military conflict, Europe would be at the mercy of Russia for its energy needs.

Another possibility: Russia might be attempting to rebuild its Soviet-era footprint in the Lesser Caucuses as it has done in Crimea and is attempting in Eastern Ukraine. It’s no secret that Russia and Armenia recently established a joint air defense pact. If Mr. Sargsyan’s troubling boasts about his willingness to deploy his new Iskander missile system were the only such noise coming from Armenia, it would be worrisome enough. But in the past six months, top members of his administration have made more than a dozen similar statements.

Azerbaijan has more than twice as many people as Armenia yet its Gross Domestic Product is nearly seven times greater. While Armenians have watched their leaders diminish their economy, Azerbaijan has prospered. Much like North Korea, military posturing is all Armenia has left. This is a dangerous time for Azerbaijan and the entire region because of Armenia’s reckless pursuit of offensive weapons and incendiary rhetoric. Azerbaijanis at home and in the United States have depended on America as a good friend and strong ally. The world can only hope that that will continue under the new Trump administration.

• Lloyd Green is a former staff secretary to the George H.W. Bush campaign’s Middle East Policy Group in 1988 and served in the Department of Justice between 1990 and 1992.

Source:http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/17/nuclear-turmoil-possible-in-caucuses/

If You Love A Country, Set It Free: The Case For Cutting Aid To Armenia

Protesters gather during a rally against a recent decision to raise public electricity prices in Yerevan, Armenia, June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo

Much ado is made by some members of the U.S. government about what is in fact an inaccurately perceived partnership with Armenia. However, the facts belie the rhetoric versus the seemingly blind support given to Armenia. Just last week, it is important to note that the European Court of Human Rights declared that Armenia controls the Nagorno-Karabakh territory of Azerbaijan. The essence of a longer judgment is that Armenia occupies part of another sovereign nation and has left more than a million refugees. This is a long understood fact that some in government seem to gloss over.

In addition, at the recent Riga Summit of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, the EU confirmed that Armenia remains out of step with Europe and the United States. Unlike the other two countries from the South Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia remained loyal to its Russian patron and failed to support the West’s condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Armenia’s actions confirmed its complete dependence on Russia for its foreign policy. This patron-client relationship leaves Armenia in a rut and further isolates this small country.

This unequal relationship, in which Russia serves the sole guarantor of Armenia’s security and economy, leaves the smaller country no choice but to blindly follow dictates from Moscow and continue its dependence on energy supplies from another international pariah — Iran. Because of the occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory of Azerbaijan, the largest regional oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, runs from Azerbaijan to Georgia and terminates in Turkey, purposefully bypassing Armenia. Thus, due to Armenia’s intractability over Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia is excluded from a lucrative share of Caspian oil to Europe. Instead of benefitting from the bountiful energy and transportation projects supported by the European Union, Armenia persists on its “go with Russia and Iran” policy. In the meantime, Azerbaijan and Georgia are building for the future with the West.

Armenia even joined the Organization of the Treaty of Collective Security (OTSC), the anti-EU, NATO, and U.S., Russian-sponsored military and political alliance. Armenia compromised its sovereignty by allowing Russian troops to be stationed on its territory, the last of the former-Soviet Republics to allow such an infringement … even sanctioning the Russians to patrol its borders and airspace. This agreement was recently extended to 2044.

Armenia also participates in the Russian-dominated military structure that provides air defense for the OTSC member states called the Commonwealth of Independent States United Air Defense System. Armenia seems to constantly seek expansion of its military ties with Russia, despite Russia’s growing international isolation. Russian diplomat, A. 

Dvinyaninov in 2007 advised the Armenian politicians. “That is the Armenian approach to Russia’s security is selective, and Russia seems ready for any eventualities of development of relations with Armenia.” In the meantime, Armenia provides a bridgehead for Russia’s power projection not only in the Caucasus, but also in the Near East. Another aspect of this “close cooperation” is that Russia executes effective military control in this South Caucasian republic.

Economically, Armenian leadership showed a criminal abrogation of responsibility in its relations with Russia. Without putting up any resistance, Armenia’s precious few enterprises were transferred to Russia’s ownership. The current president, Serzh Sargsyan, was directly involved in the so-called 2003 Equity-for-Debt deal. Five major assets traded in the deal include key energy, research and development, and manufacturing facilities, such as the Metzamor nuclear power plant, which supplies about 40 percent of its domestic energy. Russia also controls Armenia’s energy sector and is dominant in its transportation, banking, and telecommunications.


With Russia strengthening its alliance with Armenia, it's time to cut off foreign aid to Armenia

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Just weeks ago, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced that his nation and Russia will discuss the creation of a joint military-industrial complex in the city of Gyumri, Armenia. This should raise alarms on the Capitol Hill and throughout Washington, as this is just the next step in a Russian military buildup utilizing its vassal Armenia as a proxy and launching point for operations against NATO. While the group of congressmen who form the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus continue their unflinching, if not brazen, financial and military support to this South Caucasus nation, it serves as a military outpost for saber-rattling Russia — Armenia even brands itself as one of Russia's important military outposts.

In an interview with Izvestia, a Russian daily, Sargsyan declared that Armenia is consistently building up its defense capability in the framework of military-technical cooperation with Russia. Also, he stressed the role of the 102nd Russian military base located in Armenian territory. And in November 2016, Armenia joined the anti-aircraft defense system of the Russian Federation.

The deepening Armenian military alliance with Russia poses a direct threat to NATO. According to Adam Ereli, former deputy spokesman at the State Department, speaking to Veterans Today, the agreement's reinforcement of the Russian troops in this region can threaten countries of NATO and their Western allies. Ereli noted specifically, "Over the last six months – as Russia's war in Syria and pressure on Turkey has intensified – the flow of its arms and personnel into Armenia has escalated to include advanced Navodchik-2 and Takhion UAV drone aircrafts, Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Iskander-M ballistic missiles."

The deployment of Iskander-M missiles significantly changes the military balance in the region. Iskander-M carries a warhead of 710–800 kg and has a range of 500 km. In February 2017, the Russians moved Iskander ballistic missile systems within strike range of anywhere in Turkey, Israel or Azerbaijan, some of the United States' closest allies. These developments are in sharp dissonance with the continued financial support for Armenia approved by Congress and President Barack Obama's administration. The main lobbying effort on behalf of Armenia is conducted by the Armenian Caucus. This caucus is currently co-chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Rep. David Trott, R-Mich., and Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.

The official mission of the caucus runs counter to U.S. interests, as it advocates for increased trade and assistance to Armenia, self-determination for Nagorno Karabakh, and supporting U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Caucus requested $40 million in aid for 2016. The Obama administration proposed $18.4 million in Economic Support Funds for Armenia in 2016. The Obama administration also approved a continued "parity policy" with Azerbaijan, an American partner in the strategically-important Caspian region, in terms of appropriated military aid, with International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance set at $600,000 and Foreign Military Finance (FMF) at $1.7 million. USAID has annually allocated $2,000,000 for the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh, the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan under the military occupation by the Armenian forces.

Adam Ereli pointed to a very weak, even non-existent, response by the West to the beefing up of the Russian-Armenian military alliance. Western experts concur that Russia is preparing a new military alliance with Armenia, which may serve a launching point to unexpectedly hit at the interests of the U.S. and NATO in the region.

In light of the strengthening military alliance of Armenia with Russia, the wisdom of continued support for Armenia needs to be not questioned, but openly condemned. Armenian "political" organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of America and others are, in fact, Russian puppets. They are completely dedicated to perpetuating within Congress the old and corrupt idea that relations with Russia are good for Armenia and that is, in turn, good for the U.S. This, while existing pro-Russia organizations do all in their power to sideline new Armenian organizations that are decidedly anti-Russian.

This unwarranted support by the Armenian national organizations in the U.S. for the anti-Western policies carried out by the Kremlin and Yerevan should be exposed. The new stage in Armenian-Russian strategic cooperation represents a military threat to the Western alliance. Members of the Armenian Caucus should be reprimanded and financial aid to Armenia must cease, especially when the post-war American allies in NATO are asked to increase their contributions in order to beef up Western defense against Russia.


Alexander Murinson is a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center and Bar Ilan University. He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and is the author of "Turkey's Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan: State Identity and Security in the Middle East and Caucasus."

Source:  http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/with-russia-strengthening-its-alliance-with-armenia-its-time-to-cut-off-foreign-aid-to-armenia/article/2622549