$100 Million in U.S. Military Aid to Azerbaijan Adds Capacity for Renewed Aggression against Artsakh and Armenia
WASHINGTON—The Trump Administration’s $100 million security and military aid package to Baku largely funds joint U.S.-Azerbaijani Iran-facing initiatives – while enabling new offensive capabilities and freeing up other military resources for the Aliyev regime’s ongoing aggression against Artsakh and Armenia – according to a review, this week, of detailed budget breakdowns provided by the Congressional Research Service.
The largest share of U.S. security assistance to Baku is the Administration’s allocation of $101.5 million in FY18 and FY19 for “Section 333 Building Partner Capacity” assistance for “Maritime Security for the Caspian Sea and Southern Border Security programs.” This section, of the National Defense Authorization Act, was established in FY17 to build the capacity of foreign national security forces, including for “maritime and border security operations” and “military intelligence operations.” Between FY04 and FY09, Azerbaijan received approximately $64 million in “Caspian Sea Maritime Proliferation Prevention Program (Cooperative Threat Reduction),” and roughly $10 million in FY11 “Section 1206 Global Train and Equip” assistance.
“We are troubled that the Trump Administration’s $100 million security aid package to Baku adds substantial new equipment, tactical abilities, and offensive capacities to the Azerbaijani arsenal, while freeing up its state resources for renewed cross-border action against Artsakh and Armenia,” said Armenian National Committee of America Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan. “American taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to provide a single dollar in military aid to an overtly and unapologetically aggressive Aliyev regime that – as recently as a week ago in Munich, Germany – renewed threats to attack Artsakh and publicly laid claim to Yerevan and all of Armenia as Azerbaijani territory. The Trump Administration should either stop sending military aid to Baku or start matching every dollar they send to Azerbaijan with another to Armenia.”
In testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Committee this week, the ANCA requested a provision in the foreign aid bill requiring that: “No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act may be provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
This testimony, submitted by Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, supported this request by citing Azerbaijan’s obstruction of the Royce-Engel Peace Proposals, opposition to the U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution (H.Res.452), and continued cross-border attacks against Artsakh and Armenia.
Congress Has Maintained Armenia-Azerbaijan Aid Parity on FMF and IMET Military Assistance
Relatively smaller levels of Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training – appropriated on the principle of parity with Armenia – have been provided to Azerbaijan since FY02 – the first year of the Section 907 presidential waiver. The Congress, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, granted the White House the authority to waive the Section 907 restrictions, enacted in 1992 with the support of the ANCA, on U.S. aid to the Azerbaijan government, contingent upon the President determining that such aid “will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.”
According to recent Congressional Budget Justifications, FMF assistance supports “Azerbaijan’s military professionalization and interoperability with NATO and coalition partners in multinational operations,” as well as “increased maritime domain awareness, with the goal of enhancing border security and protection of critical energy infrastructure.”
Additional U.S. security assistance has also been provided, at lower levels, for a range of other purposes, including nuclear and biological nonproliferation programs.
Congressional Alarm Bells on Increased Azerbaijan Military Aid Initially Raised in 2019
In September 2019, Congressional Armenian Caucus founding Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) expressed concerns to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper about the proposed dramatic increases in security assistance to Azerbaijan, noting that Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, adopted in 1992, places restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan due to its ongoing blockade and aggression against Armenia and Artsakh.
“While the State Department has the authority to extend a waiver of Section 907, we do not believe the waiver the State Department noticed on April 18, 2019 is an appropriate use of this authority considering Azerbaijan’s continued efforts to destabilize the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and given the ruling regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s documented culture of corruption and oppressive tactics against dissenters,” stated Representatives Pallone, Speier, and Schiff in their September 27th letter.
In response to State and Defense Department assertions that $102 million in security aid to Azerbaijan “will neither undermine efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, nor be used for offensive purposes against Armenia,” Representatives Pallone, Speier and Schiff were adamant:
“Without question, the increase of security assistance to Azerbaijan creates an imbalance in the region and ignores a 20-year precedent in U.S. foreign policy. We are concerned that rewarding Armenia’s autocratic neighbor with this windfall at such a time of historic change in Armenia sends negative signals about the importance we place on democratic values. Returning to parity in military assistance is the only way the U.S. will be able to retain its credibility as a regional power capable of bringing Azerbaijan and Armenia together.”
In their November 18th letter, the Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders requested that Armenia be provided with “training and equipment to build partner capacity that will help secure its borders and create military parity in funding with Azerbaijan. This funding would increase Armenia’s capacity for counterterrorism, counter-illicit drug trafficking, and weapons of mass destruction interdiction operations – especially on its southern border with Iran. We also ask for robust funding of confidence-building measures on each side of the border between Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Armenia – including those that would implement the 2015 Royce-Engel Peace Proposal – to establish a clearer pathway to peace for all parties in this conflict.”