BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The White House announced recently that it has invited over 100 countries to a virtual ‘Summit for Democracy’ on Dec. 9 to 10.
Among the invitees to the Summit are Armenia and Georgia, but not Azerbaijan and Turkey which are dictatorships. Interestingly, the latter two countries did not complain about their absence from the Summit until they found out that Armenia was invited.
The White House announced that President Joe Biden has said: “the challenge of our time is to demonstrate that democracies can deliver by improving the lives of their own people and by addressing the greatest problems facing the wider world.” The President “has rebuilt our alliances with our democratic partners and allies, rallying the world to stand up against human rights abuses, to address the climate crisis, and to fight the global pandemic, including by donating hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to countries around the globe.”
The White House announcement also stated that this Summit is “to be followed in roughly a year’s time by a second, in-person Summit. The virtual Summit, to take place on December 9 and 10, , will galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. Following a year of consultation, coordination, and action, President Biden will then invite world leaders to gather once more to showcase progress made against their commitments. Both Summits will bring together heads of state, civil society, philanthropy, and the private sector, serving as an opportunity for world leaders to listen to one another and to their citizens, share successes, drive international collaboration, and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy so as to collectively strengthen the foundation for democratic renewal.”
After the White House made this announcement, a heated discussion broke out as to why certain countries were invited to the Summit, while others were not? Obviously, this Summit is intended to form a coalition led by the United States against its rivals, China and Russia. Do some of the invited leaders have any concerns about being viewed as “pro-Western” and “anti-China and Russia?” This is a particularly sensitive issue for Armenia which has strong military and economic ties with Russia, and is in the process of establishing closer relations with China. How will China and Russia view Armenia’s participation in such an adversarial Summit? Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has accepted the U.S. invitation, has to give serious thought to the negative Russian reaction for his participation in such a Summit. However, the refusal to participate would also have consequences with the United States.
While Armenia welcomes its invitation to the Summit for Democracy, Pashinyan has regrettably regressed from his initially-declared democratic values by harassing or jailing protesters, muzzling the media, and taking unilateral decisions without any input from the public or even those in his ruling circle. For someone who came to power by espousing democratic ideals, Pashinyan bizarrely campaigned during the June elections while holding a hammer in his hand and threatening to bash the heads of his political opponents.
By inviting Armenia to the Summit, the United States is probably enticing the Armenian government to come closer to the West. A U.S. official “involved in the planning of the summit told Reuters that invites were sent to countries with different experiences of democracy from all regions of the world. ‘This was not about endorsing, ‘You’re a democracy, you are not a democracy.’ That is not the process we went through.’ Biden administration officials say they had to ‘make choices’ to ensure regional diversity and broad participation,” Reuters reported.
Naturally, Azerbaijan and Turkey were not too pleased that Armenia was invited to the Summit, while they were excluded. In an article published by AzerNews newspaper, titled, “Democracy summit or clear example of double standards,” Ayya Lmahamad quoted Vugar Iskandarov, a member of Azerbaijan’s Parliament, complaining: “it is ridiculous that countries such as Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Hungary are not invited to the summit, where the level of democracy is much higher than that in the majority of invited countries.” Iskandarov must be completely blind to the grave human rights abuses and absence of democracy in the autocratic regimes of Azerbaijan and Turkey.
The Azeri news website Day.az went even further by claiming that Armenia was invited due to the influence of Armenian-Americans in the United States: “No need to go deep into the previous years, it is enough to see what has been happening and continues to happen in Washington-Armenian Diaspora relations over the past year. The curtsies of American diplomacy towards Yerevan, the endless anti-Azerbaijani discussions and decisions made at the insistence of the Armenian lobby speak for themselves.”
While this Azeri website made a completely exaggerated assessment of the power of Armenian-Americans in Washington, nevertheless, it is a welcome compliment. Azerbaijan and Turkey may not fear Armenia, but they seem terrified of the political clout of the Armenian lobby in the United States!