One of the most influential weapons that Armenia has in its foreign policy toolkit is its US-based diaspora lobby in California, which supports their homeland’s most nationalistic and firebrand policies. Instead of behaving as a responsible and pragmatic instrument of the Armenian government in what could have been a calculated policy to balance between Great Powers, it’s oftentimes the case that the roles are reversed and Yerevan is used as an instrument and tool of the US-based Armenian lobby in working against the country’s national interests in order to promote the US’. All states aspire for their people to build robust and influential diaspora communities abroad, but the Armenian one is heavily politicized and regularly exerts negative influence on Yerevan in order to bring it under further American control.
To explain, the US-based diaspora lobbied to bring several congressmen to Armenia in mid-September, though instead of only touring the country and conducting their affairs within it, they were also whisked off on a highly publicized visit to the occupied regions of Western Azerbaijan. It can be strongly inferred that all of this was planned in advance given the close relationships that the US-based Armenian lobby has with some of those politicians. This inflammatory visit was designed to trigger a scandal in American-Azerbaijani relations, one which would work out in favor of the pro-American diaspora in getting Yerevan to side closer with Washington. The grand geopolitical realignment taking place in the Caucasus is to Russia’s overall strategic detriment, and Armenia’s US-based lobbying groups are keenly aware of this and fully support it.
The Politics Of Language
In fact, they want to do everything that they can to ruin the historic Russian-Armenian friendship in their feverish attempt to tear Yerevan away from Moscow and bring it under Washington’s proxy tutelage. A perfect example of this is the scandal which erupted in early September after the Armenian Culture Ministry announced that it will provide more support to Russian language programs. Instead of being celebrated as a wise decision to cement the partnership between the two states, it served as a trigger for the most nationalist elements of Armenian society to loudly protest against the move on the anti-Russian grounds that this was supposedly a precursor to their country eventually becoming a “Russian colony”. Such xenophobic rhetoric closely aligns with the positions pushed forth by some elements of the US-based diaspora and their American-linked associates in Armenia.
Even more disturbingly, however, it harkens back the anti-Russian mood which swept the country during the summer 2015 “Electric Yerevan” protests, some of which devolved into violent riots and were actively encouraged by US-linked Armenians, including the California diaspora. It’s perhaps for this reason why the Education Ministry felt pressured to cave in to their diaspora’s demands and reaffirm that Armenian is the only national language for the country. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a controversial pronouncement, but it’s the exact manner in which Education Minister Levon Mkrtchyan went about it which is raising concern in Russia. He said that “The only official language in Armenia is and will remain the Armenian language, since we are an independent, sovereign state…This is an axiomatic truth, all other languages are foreign.” The way that he phrased his statement implies that only non-independent, non-sovereign states allow foreign languages to become national ones or be afforded any special status.
This is extremely inflammatory because it suggests that the Russian Foreign Ministry’s efforts to preserve the legacy of the Russian language among its own diaspora in the former Soviet space, particularly in Ukraine and the Baltic States, is tantamount to violating the independence and sovereignty of those countries. Whether he intended to or not, Mkrtchyan fell into the information warfare trap laid out for him by the cunning minds organizing the US-based diaspora’s political activities abroad. Based on the way that he phrased his nationalist, and one can even say xenophobic, statement, the Armenian Education Minister is essentially saying that Kazakhstan isn’t an independent and sovereign state because Russian enjoys equal standing alongside Kazakh as enshrined in the country’s constitution. One should bear in mind that Armenia and Kazakhstan are both members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), so this amounts to Yerevan trying to sow the seeds of discord between two of its members at the behest of the US-based Armenian lobby.
It may sound conspiratorial but the Armenian lobby in the US is very similar to the Gulenists in Turkey, in that they represent a shadowy power network with a concrete geopolitical agenda advanced through manipulative means, and both serve the interests of Washington against their homelands. The Armenian government gains nothing to its advantage by inviting American congressmen to the country and then scandalously sending them on a so-called “tour” of the occupied lands of Western Azerbaijan, nor does it stand to benefit from being pressured into obliquely denouncing the socio-cultural efforts of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the former Soviet space and implying by degree that Kazakhstan isn’t an independent state because it grants the Russian language the same status as Kazakh. These actions only work to the US’ geostrategic advantage by provoking manufactured problems with Azerbaijan which could then be used as the pretext for Washington to degrade relations with Baku and put even more pressure on it, just as the other related scheme weakens the fraternal bonds which have connected Russia and Armenia for generations.
Given their timing, it can’t be ruled out that these two provocations against Azerbaijan and Russia were coordinated with one another for maximum effect and also meant to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly. Reflecting on the success of these two high-level influence operations, it’s clear that the US-based Armenian lobby is getting dangerously close to seizing full control over their homeland’s foreign policy. Moreover, given how the California lobby is Armenia’s version of the Gulenists in the sense that they secretly work against their country’s national interests, it’s indeed possible that they’ll try to stage an event of similarly disruptive strategic magnitude to the Gulenists’ 2015 Su-24 provocation which almost brought Russia and Turkey to the brink of war. In this case, however, it would be carried out in a completely different manner which would more realistically suit their specific goals of using Armenia to trigger the further deterioration of American-Azerbaijani relations, and with the other intended objective of a separate provocation being to use hyper-nationalist forces to inflict the same amount of destructive harm on Russian-Armenian relations as EuroMaidan did on Russian-Ukrainian ones.
(originally written for the Moscow-Baku.ru online information portal)
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.