US to Slash Aid to Armenia
Today I received a newsletter from the Armenian National Committee of America which printed a very disturbing article. The Bush administration has been cutting aid to Armenia for the last several years but now they want to drastically slash funding. The excuse used recently was that the Millennium Challenge Account funds allocated to Armenia--amounting to $235.65 million--was more than enough to last for the next several years to help reduce poverty and rebuild the failing infrastructure in rural areas of the country. Yet Georgia, which is also benefiting from MCA funding, will still receive substantial aid from the US. The expected aid package allocated for Armenia for fiscal year 2009 will be $24 million, down from $58 million allocated for 2008.
The President's budget recommends 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 Karabagh.This is not good news at all. Hopefully additional lobbying in Washington by ANCA activists will turn the tide and Congress will reject the proposal, calling for a more modest cut in funding or no further reductions. We'll see what happens, nevertheless this issue seems to be the most important one on the Armenian lobbying plate.
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).
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.