BY VACHE THOMASSIAN
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Earlier this month, the Armenian National Committee of America assigned U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy an “F” grade for her failures on a broad array of fifteen metrics during her tenure at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
The grade is not a personal vilification of the Ambassador, who I’m sure is a nice and well-meaning person. The grade is a professional assessment of her spectacular failure to advance America’s values and interests in the Republic of Armenia, as part of a broader collapse of U.S. diplomacy in confronting Azerbaijani aggression. The ANCA’s judgement was not measured against the high standard set a century ago by U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, but rather against the benchmark of basic competence expected of a U.S. ambassador-level diplomat.
Let me take you back to May of this year when Ambassador Tracy held a Facebook Live event during which she announced the U.S. Government would be ending all support for de-mining in Artsakh. For those who have followed this issue, you will know that for nearly two decades the ANCA has worked with a bi-partisan and bi-cameral group of stakeholders in Congress to deliver millions of dollars in U.S. aid to ensure that the mines and other ordnance scattered across Artsakh are identified and safely removed. This effort, by all accounts, has saved many lives in Artsakh and prevented the loss of limbs – especially among children – that are so often associated with the detonation of anti-personnel mines in Artsakh.
Why, you might ask, would the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, with so much of Artsakh still to be cleared of mines, prioritize ending de-mining programs for Artsakh – when it is the U.S. Congress that has been funding this effort for two decades? The answer to this question – in Ambassador Tracy’s own words (U.S. Embassy-Yerevan, Facebook Live, May 21, 2020) – is that American funding would go instead to “prepare populations for peace.” Here is her full quote:
“And so what we are starting to look at now as our involvement in the de-mining activity [in Artsakh] has concluded – is to turn to another area – preparing populations for peace – which is in support of the Minsk Group to see what kind of activities we can conduct in this space to help toward that goal of achieving a lasting and peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
It is unusual for an American Ambassador to so publicly dismiss the will of the U.S. Congress, disrespecting the legislators who have long appropriated funds for de-mining Artsakh. As the Ambassador should know, the U.S. Congress is vested with the power of the purse, consistent with Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution. More shameful is that even as she announced the shuttering of a life-saving U.S. humanitarian program – supposedly to prepare Armenians for “peace” – the U.S. government was shipping over $120 million in military aid to an Azerbaijan government that was openly and aggressively preparing for war.
The ANCA report card lists each of Ambassador Tracy’s failings, any one of which would merit her recall. Perhaps the most obvious of these was her silence in the face of Azerbaijan and Turkey’s genocidal attack against Armenians in their indigenous homeland of thousands of years. She found time to offer hollow lectures about democracy – the type of U.S. sermon you rarely see directed at Azerbaijan’s corrupt petro-monarchy – but not to organize the delivery of meaningful U.S. humanitarian support for tens of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing from Artsakh. Not a word of American sympathy or human solidarity with the Armenian people as they suffered the loss of yet more of their ancient homeland
The list goes on. She could not find the courage to challenge Turkey’s recruitment of jihadist terrorists from Syria to Azerbaijan, even after Ankara’s actions were widely known through open source intelligence in early September of this year. She failed to reprogram sufficient U.S. assistance for Armenia to address the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing instead the allocation of American tax dollars to her preferred civil society organizations. More broadly, she has nothing to show in terms of expanding U.S.-Armenia strategic relations, bilateral trade and investment, or the U.S.-Armenia military partnership.
On issue after issue she failed. With nothing positive to show for her tenure, she will, sadly, be remembered for her silence.
Vache Thomassian is a practicing attorney with twenty years of experience in Armenian community activities in Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk, and abroad. He holds a Bachelors from the UC Berkeley (Legal Studies), Juris Doctor from Loyola Law, and a Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University.