Biden promises support for Russian ally
US President Joe Biden pledged on Thursday to support Armenia’s “sovereignty and security,” a week after more than 100 of Yerevan’s troops were killed in clashes with Azerbaijan’s forces. While multiple US officials have declared their support for Armenia, the White House also provides military aid to Azerbaijan.
“We will continue to support the Armenian people’s democratic aspiration, sovereignty, and security,” Biden’s message to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan read, according to the Armenian media.
The message, marking Armenia’s Independence Day, continued with a promise by Biden to “redouble our diplomacy so Armenia can look to a prosperous and peaceful future, which includes normalization of relations with neighbors.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan are at odds over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the 1990s, but is claimed by Baku as its own. Clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh erupted last Tuesday, with both sides accusing each other of instigating the violence. Armenia, an ally of Russia, appealed to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for assistance, and while the CSTO refrained from sending troops, Azerbaijan offered a truce shortly afterwards.
Yerevan said afterwards that it had lost 135 troops in the fighting, while Baku put its own death toll at 79 soldiers. The conflict was the second time in two years that the neighboring countries have fought over Nagorno-Karabakh, with a 44-day war in 2020 leaving more than 6,000 dead before it ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
While Biden’s message did not spell out what the US would do to bolster Armenia’s security, it echoes statements by other top American officials. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Yerevan last week, where she condemned the “illegal and deadly attacks by Azerbaijan” and declared “the territorial security and sovereignty of Armenia” to be a priority for Washington.
In his own Independence Day message to Yerevan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated Biden’s promise of support for “the Armenian people’s democratic aspiration, sovereignty, and security” verbatim.
However, according to a Government Accountability Office report, the US gave Azerbaijan over $164 million in military aid between 2002 and 2020, with successive presidents waiving a 1992 prohibition on arms shipments to Baku. Armenian activists in the US have repeatedly called on the White House to stop all military aid to Azerbaijan, but Biden again waived the prohibition in June.