Ped­dling for Rus­sia in Wash­ing­ton

Ar­me­nia does Moscow’s bid­ding in re­turn for con­tin­ued sup­port

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Alexan­der Murin­son Alexan­der Murin­son, a se­nior fel­low at the BeginSa­dat Cen­ter and Bar Ilan Univer­sity, is the au­thor of “Turkey’s En­tente with Is­rael and Azer­bai­jan: State Iden­tity and Se­cu­rity in the Mid­dle East and Cau­ca­sus” (Rout­ledge, 2009).

Wash­ing­ton has been shaken to its core by al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sia’s hack­ing and in­ter­fer­ence. Fre­quently, Amer­i­cans hear more ac­cu­sa­tions about the ex­tent to which Rus­sia at­tempted and, in some cases, suc­ceeded in in­flu­enc­ing the na­tion. More is likely to be un­veiled, in­clud­ing com­plic­ity of home­grown ac­tivists, as in­de­pen­dent coun­sel and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions more for­ward.

Al­le­ga­tions abound that Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­eign pol­icy is in­flu­enced by close re­la­tions and be­hind-the-scenes con­tacts amongst him and his staff with Rus­sian lead­er­ship. The most re­cent “Rus­sian rev­e­la­tion” came in the form of ac­cu­sa­tions of back-chan­nel com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween pres­i­den­tial ad­viser and son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner and the Rus­sians — back chan­nels are a clas­sic and vi­tal facet of state­craft.

The point is that of Rus­sian in­fil­tra­tion.

If Rus­sia is proved to be in­volved in a cam­paign of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence against Amer­i­can in­ter­ests and there is ev­ery in­di­ca­tion they will, then it is vi­tal to ex­pose home­grown “ac­tivists,” who pro­mote Rus­sian in­ter­ests in Wash­ing­ton.

Ar­me­nia, a client state of Rus­sia in the post-Soviet space, en­joys a well-es­tab­lished eth­nic lobby in the United States. Dam­aged by its sup­port for so­cial­ist Bernie San­ders, in­stead of seek­ing to re­pair a sig­nif­i­cantly de­graded in­fra­struc­ture, it seeks now to en­gage in re­gional geopolitics. Once a two-is­sue lobby — geno­cide and Nagorno-Karabakh — the Ar­me­nian-Amer­i­can lobby now serves as a clandestine in­flu­ence ped­dler of Rus­sia.

A fairly sim­ple cal­cu­lus, Ar­me­nia can­not sur­vive without co­pi­ous Rus­sian largess; thus, the Ar­me­nian-Amer­i­can lobby does Rus­sia’s bid­ding in re­turn for con­tin­ued sup­port. It pos­sesses not only ac­cess, but a de­vout­ness of well-placed mem­bers of Congress. The web­sites and “in­for­ma­tional” emails of Demo­cratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Brad Sher­man, Jackie Speier, all of Cal­i­for­nia,and oth­ers sub­stan­ti­ate. The ques­tion­able at­ten­tion of cer­tain mem­bers of Congress with Ar­me­nia is not new — a mem­ber’s con­stituency not­with­stand­ing — does that mem­ber have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the U.S. first?

In a pe­riod when ten­sions be­tween the Western al­lies and Rus­sia are reach­ing a boil­ing point, Ar­me­nia’s sur­ro­gates are at­tempt­ing to dic­tate Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy in the South Cau­ca­sus. A re­sult of a clash of na­tional in­ter­ests in such global cri­sis zones as Syria and Crimea, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Trump, U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions have reached an “all-time low.”

The chat­ter­ing class in Wash­ing­ton seems to ig­nore the client-state sta­tus of the Repub­lic of Ar­me­nia and its role as a pro­moter of Rus­sian geopo­lit­i­cal and geostrate­gic ob­jec­tives in the Near East. Ar­me­nia’s open-source mil­i­tary and diplo­matic doc­trines em­pha­size strate­gic part­ner­ship with Rus­sia as its main pri­or­ity.

In the con­text of Rus­sia’s in­creas­ingly threat­en­ing and volatile be­hav­ior in Europe and the Mid­dle East, Rus­sia’s strate­gic al­lies can hardly be re­garded as friendly to the U.S. No longer can we ig­nore Rus­sian ir­re­den­tist poli­cies that would see much of the for­mer Soviet Union back in Moscow’s hands; this, in ad­di­tion to the global in­flu­ence Moscow would see with Ar­me­nia is a linch­pin.

Alex­sei Ar­ba­tov, for­mer deputy chair­man of the Rus­sia State Duma’s De­fense Com­mit­tee, de­scribed Rus­sian-Ar­me­nian re­la­tions as a “clas­sic mil­i­tary-po­lit­i­cal al­liance.” He wrote, “Ar­me­nia will not sur­vive without Rus­sia, while, without Ar­me­nia, Rus­sia will lose all its im­por­tant po­si­tions in the Cau­ca­sus. … even though Ar­me­nia is a small coun­try, it is our fore­post in the South Cau­ca­sus. … I would say that Ar­me­nia is more im­por­tant to us than Is­rael is to the Amer­i­cans.”

Us­ing Ar­me­nia as a geopo­lit­i­cal and geostrate­gic out­post, Rus­sia projects its mil­i­tary might to Amer­i­can re­gional al­lies, Turkey, a NATO mem­ber, U.S. ally Azer­bai­jan and be­yond. Alexan­der Khram­chikhin, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Po­lit­i­cal and Mil­i­tary Analysis in Moscow, sheds light on the Krem­lin’s views of Ar­me­nia’s role in a re­gional con­flict: “Rus­sian mil­i­tary bases de­ployed in Gyumri and Yere­van guar­an­tee Ar­me­nia’s se­cu­rity in case of war, not only against Azer­bai­jan, but also Turkey. If we at­tack Turkey, it will be war against NATO. How­ever, we will never at­tack Turkey, it is clear. And if Turkey at­tacks Ar­me­nia and we have to save Ar­me­nia, it will be Rus­sia’s and Ar­me­nia’s war against Turkey. NATO will not get in­volved in this con­flict.”

In a sur­pris­ing analysis ti­tled “Trump, Iran, Karabakh and Ar­me­nian lobby,” pub­lished in Me­dia­max. am, well-known Ar­me­nian strate­gist Areg Gal­styan con­ceded that Azer­bai­jan is Amer­ica’s trusted ally and a pro­moter of U.S. and Western poli­cies in the re­gion: “Wash­ing­ton al­ready has some ex­pe­ri­ence of us­ing Azer­bai­jan as an in­tel­li­gence bridge­head. Prob­a­bly, in case an ap­pro­pri­ate po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion is made, Amer­i­cans will plan to strengthen their pres­ence in that coun­try.”

Also, in a po­lit­i­cal climate where Wash­ing­ton must meet chal­lenges posed by a resur­gent Rus­sia and bel­li­cose Iran over the cri­sis in Syria, it seems the Ar­me­nian lobby is ready to chal­lenge any U.S. pol­icy move to al­ter the Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “Iran deal.”

Mr. Gal­styan fur­ther stated of his ac­tivist col­leagues, “Un­doubt­edly, lead­ers of the Demo­cratic Party will mo­bi­lize all re­sources to pre­vent can­cel­la­tion of the signed agree­ment and new pack­age of sanc­tions against Tehran. Mean­time, that con­fronta­tion on the Ira­nian is­sue in Congress serves the in­ter­ests of Ar­me­nia and the ‘Nagorno Karabakh Repub­lic,’ since the un­cer­tainty of Amer­i­can pol­icy in the Ira­nian di­rec­tion de­tracts from the prospect of rap­proche­ment be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Baku.”

How­ever in­di­rectly, the Ar­me­nian-Amer­i­can lobby is, in fact, lob­by­ing Congress and the ad­min­is­tra­tion on be­half of Rus­sia and at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy for Rus­sia’s ben­e­fit.

The White House and Congress must see Ar­me­nia and its sur­ro­gates in Wash­ing­ton through lenses un­clouded by cam­paign fund­ing and even con­stituen­cies. Mil­i­tary and for­eign aid to Ar­me­nia and check­ing off Ar­me­nia in the friend cat­e­gory is dan­ger­ous to Amer­i­can na­tional in­ter­ests.

The only an­swer is a shift in pol­icy, one that takes a hard line on Rus­sia, as in the post­war pe­riod and con­cur­rently seeks a free and in­de­pen­dent Ar­me­nia, liv­ing within its own bor­ders and one not at war with its neigh­bors.

It seems the Ar­me­nian lobby is ready to chal­lenge any U.S. pol­icy move to al­ter the Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “Iran deal.”

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