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Is Tiny Armenia’s Out-Sized Political Clout in Washington Being Used by Russia? – IPD

Published: 11-22-2017

If there were ever any Russian efforts to co-opt either of the Armenian lobbying groups in the US, one might expect American policy makers to take notice, said the article published in the International policy digest (IPD).

The article by Neil Richards says that something under half of one percent of Americans can trace their ancestry back to the tiny South Caucasus nation of Armenia.

There are probably three times as many Welsh Americans, but despite the numbers, Armenian Americans have extraordinary influence in Washington, DC, where not one but two well-funded and aggressive lobbying organizations toil on their behalf, the author wrote.

“The two, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian Assembly of America (the Assembly), are rivals in a sense, with ANCA focusing on grass-roots activity and fund-raising and the Assembly relying principally on funds raised from major Armenian-owned businesses Yet they share largely the same primary goals,” said the article.

The author says that on their websites, both organizations boast of their close relations with senior Congressional figures.

“And because of its grass-roots activism and heavy concentrations of Armenian Americans in specific areas, ANCA has electoral clout too. In fact, the ethnic Armenian lobby is so effective that the embassy of Armenia in Washington hardly needs to lobby at all. And that’s the strange bit. Armenia has in effect out-sourced its lobbying in the US to these American non-profit organizations,” said the article.

The author notes that yet the Republic of Armenia is effectively a Russian client state, heavily reliant on Moscow’s trade and funding.

“So if there were ever any Russian efforts to co-opt either of the Armenian lobbying groups in the US, one might expect American policy makers to take notice. For instance, when Moscow-born Sergey Sarkisov was named Consul-General for Armenia in Los Angeles questions could have been raised. The insurance magnate — he’s the 96th richest man in Russia — currently represents Armenia to 13 western US states,” said the article.

Richards further notes that there’s even evidence of what might be politely termed a confluence of interest between the Armenian lobby and Russia, concerning Iran, a Russian ally.

“Russia is strongly opposed to the White House’s announced intention to seek amendment of the Iran nuclear deal. As it happens Armenia is opposed also. And now Armenian Americans are being urged to oppose any changes as well. There is some tortured logic behind this. As Armenian analyst Areg Galstyan recently wrote, US relations with Armenia have been closely tied to attitudes towards Iran. Galstyan sounds a warning that “…the Armenian lobby, which is mainly focused on the Democratic Party, should be interested in blocking any initiatives against Iran,” said the article.

The author asks an obvious question: is that advice purely for Armenia’s own benefit or is the Russian big brother’s interest reflected in it as well?

By Leman Zeynalova – Trend.Az