BY GAREN YAGPAIRIAN
This is about Mills, Ambassador Richard M. Mills, Jr., the ninth U.S. “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” to Armenia after Harry J. Gilmore, Peter Tomsen, Michael Craig Lemmon, John Malcolm Ordway, John Marshall Evans, Marie L. Yovanovitch, John A. Heffern (based on Wikipedia).
It’s an impressive sounding title these folks have carried, isn’t it? Yet, they are obligated to parrot the State Department and Oval Office policy line, regardless of how offensive, absurd, or just plain wrong it is. You may recall the fairly strident criticism I directed at Yovanovitch almost seven years ago in a piece titled “Yavan-oghloo” for the insulting mindset directed against our community and the unacceptability of her mouthings in the immediate aftermath of Obama’s first-of-seven denialist Genocide statements.
I saw Mills when he presented at the Western Prelacy on March 10. I had already heard about some of the things he was saying, specifically, from Boston, on his tour of Armenian communities. These tours by the ambassadors to Armenia are generally a good idea, are appreciated, and should continue. Their up-side is the opportunity they provide to get first hand impressions and information about U.S. activity in Armenia and, conversely, provide feedback. They also demonstrate at least a nominal, superficial, respect for the Diaspora. The down-side is having to stomach irritating (at best) and foolhardy positions espoused, repeated in city after city.
Mills’ presentation was generally upbeat and, unsurprisingly, consistent with his previous presentations. But, some of his comments may have been “refined” and “honed” to elicit less negative response. What he said in Boston regarding trade between Armenia and Iran, based on the information I received, was far less positive than what I heard. This is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about his comments regarding ISIS/Daesh-Turkey cooperation and Obama’s Genocide denialism.
Mills asserted there was no evidence of cooperation between Ankara and the crazies ravaging Iraq and Syria. That was coupled with a “disclaimer” that if militants did cross the border from Turkey into Syria, it was only because the border was left porous to allow refugees to escape from Syria! He also claimed there was no proof of Turkey buying Daesh oil, explaining how the latter sold the black ooze at the wellhead to independents, blah, blah, blah. I suppose those satellite pictures of the oil tanker trucks are figments of our imagination and Italy’s investigation of Erdogan’s son for money laundering is just for laughs.
As to Genocide recognition by Turkey, Mills repeated Obama’s “approach” of seeking a full, frank, and something-or-other (I would have made an effort to remember exact wording if it was even a remotely legitimate approach) discussion” in and by Turkey of the unspeakable word. Interesting, isn’t it? A full-frank discussion could be had without first saying what’s being discussed, based on this “brilliant” presidential approach.
In response to his Daesh and Genocide comments, I could not but ask the ambassador to stop disseminating this poppycock and insulting our intelligence, suggesting that the first thing to do when finding yourself in a hole is to stop digging. In this case, that “silence is golden” even if non-responsiveness to us about these issues is also unsatisfying, at least it’s not degrading!
To end on a positive note, I do have to give credit for the measured approach being taken towards and full awareness of corruption in Armenia. Mills described four areas prioritized by the RoA government to target and the financial support being provided to pursue the anti-corruption fight in those areas. He observed that the day-to-day corruption surrounding the life of citizens has improved slightly, with tax collections and pensions becoming more automated. This eliminates face-to-face opportunities for officials to seek bribes. But, he was honest in observing that the large scale, oligarch level, corruption is predatory and getting worse, with its attendant consequences of expatriation and disincentives to foreign investment.
Mills also suggested visiting the embassy when Americans want to engage in business in Armenia because they might be able to avoid some pitfalls by taking advantage of resources available to them.
Let officialdom – elected legislators and State Department functionaries – know what you think. Keep up the pressure. Remember, pearls are formed through the constant irritation caused by a grain of sand inside an oyster (I must give credit to the “Garfield” comic strip for this last pearl of wisdom).