BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
A mere two days after publishing an expansive and informative exposé about foreign powers buying influence with US-based think tanks to affect US policy, The New York Times published a sloppy article by long-time Azerbaijani collaborator, Brenda Shaffer, who by using official Baku’s vernacular sounds the alarm for supposed plans by Russia to engineer another “land grab” in the region—this time in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In The New York Times article, “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks,” correspondents Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore diligently combed over hundreds of pages of documents to detail how foreign—among them Azerbaijani–monies to think thanks are adversely impacting academic research and are influencing US foreign policy.
It seems the Times frowns upon foreign powers influencing US policy, but its editorial board does not mind publishing pieces by known lobbyists who use their years of entrenched advocacy for foreign governments to advocate issues that official governments cannot and influence public opinion.
That’s exactly what Shaffer does in her piece, “Russia’s Next Land Grab” to convince the Russia-weary readers of the Times to beware of a supposed land grab that will adversely impact Baku’s interests.
Shaffer, who has been described by the Azerbaijani press as a “well-known Azeri government lobbyist,” last year vocally defended Aliyev’s re-election, which was panned by most observers including the State Department. Throughout her career as an “academic,” Shaffer has been a fixture at Azerbaijan-centric conferences and symposiums, always advocating on behalf of the Baku government and its oil riches.
The New York Times described Brenda Shaffer as “a professor of political science at the University of Haifa and a visiting researcher at Georgetown.” What the paper neglects to say is that Shaffer is also a visiting professor at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and has spent almost two decades lobbying for Baku by presenting testimony to Congress and speaking and international conference organized by some of the think thanks that were at the center of the New York Times investigation.
The premises she presents to convince readers that Russia’s “land grab” of Karabakh is imminent, are assertions that Russia’s interests in Armenia make Karabakh the natural choice for such a move, claiming, with substantial evidence, that Russia masterminded the Oct. 27, 1999 attack on the Armenian Parliament.
She also claims that the meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Sochi was a plan devised to move a military mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, a fact that was not reported by either party to the meeting. In fact, if such was the case, the US and France would not have welcomed Putin’s efforts to broker peace. It turned out that Putin’s meeting with Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev did not differ much from a meeting held last week between the presidents and Secretary of State John Kerry in Newport, Wales on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
By publishing the Shaffer piece The New York Times deflects the real reasons hampering a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict—Azerbaijan’s continued threats of war, violation of the cease fire and inciting anti-Armenian hatred—and blames the villain du jour, Russian President Vladimir Putin for the unrest in the Caucasus.