WASHINGTON–President George W. Bush, in his last budget proposal to Congress, continued his Administration’s track record of recommending dramatic reductions in U.S. economic aid to Armenia and seeking to tilt the military aid balance in the region in favor of Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The President’s budget recommen’s cutting U.S. economic aid to Armenia from the FY2008 estimated level of $58 million to a proposed FY2009 level of $24 million–a cut of nearly 60% and $11 million less than his FY2008 request. This dramatic reduction to Armenia, a nation economically blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan, takes place against the backdrop of assistance proposals to other Independent States of the Former Soviet Union that are either remaining constant or experiencing increases. According to the President’s figures, Georgia, for example, would receive $52 million, while Azerbaijan, which is collecting billions in oil revenues, is set to receive $19.5 million. The President’s budget proposal does not include any specific assistance figures for Nagorno-Karabakh.
The President’s budget, in yet another clear breach of the White House’s agreement with Congress in 2001, seeks to tilt the military aid balance toward Azerbaijan. His proposal includes three times as much International Military Education and Training aid to Azerbaijan ($900,000) than Armenia ($300,000). Foreign Military Financing is kept constant for both countries at $3 million. No specific dollar amounts are allocated for either Armenia or Azerbaijan in the President’s request for Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Program (NADR) funds. The President’s budget estimates that, in actual practice, the U.S. government spent three times more IMET assistance in Azerbaijan ($952,000) than Armenia ($286,000) during FY2008, despite the fact that the U.S. House specifically stated that equal amounts of IMET aid ($500,000) should be given to both nations.
"The President, in his last year in office, has, unfortunately chosen to leave a legacy of eight straight years of proposing sharp reductions in Freedom Support Act aid to Armenia. Even worse, he is, once again, seeking to tip the military aid balance in favor of Azerbaijan, at a time when leaders in Baku are escalating their threats to renew their aggression against Armenia’s," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "If the President’s figures are accepted, he will have succeeded, during his time in office, in presiding over the reduction of U.S. economic assistance to Armenia from more than $90 million, when he took office, to less than $25 million."
The State-Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriation Committees will now review the budget and each draft their own versions of the FY2009 foreign assistance bill. The agreement to maintain parity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan was struck between the White House and Congress in 2001, in the wake of Congressional action granting the President the authority to waive Section 907 restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan. The ANCA has vigorously defended this principle, stressing that a tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan would destabilize the region, emboldening the Azerbaijani leadership to continue their threats to impose a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. More broadly, the ANCA has underscored that breaching the parity agreement would reward the leadership of Azerbaijan for obstructing the peace process, and undermines the role of the U.S. as an impartial mediator of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.