ANCA: House Foreign Aid Panel Maintains Military Aid Parity for

Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street NW Suite 904
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 775-1918
Fax: (202) 775-5648
E-mail: [email protected]

June 24, 2004
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918


— Allocates $65 million in Economic Assistance for Armenia; $5
Million for Nagorno Karabagh

WASHINGTON, DC – A key House Appropriations Subcommittee, yesterday
evening, voted to maintain parity in U.S. foreign military
financing (FMF) assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan, reported the
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The decision
counters President Bush’s FY 2005 budget proposal, which would have
broken an earlier agreement between the Administration and
Congressional leaders to ensure balanced military assistance to the
two countries.

The House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, chaired by Arizona
Republican Jim Kolbe, voted to allocate $5 million in military
assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, as opposed to
Pres. Bush’s request of $8 million for Azerbaijan and $2 million
for Armenia. The Committee also supported a hard earmark of $65
million in U.S. assistance to Armenia, and $5 million for Nagorno
Karabagh. By contrast, the Bush Administration had requested $62
million for Armenia and had not specified any funds for Nagorno
Karabagh. The Subcommittee’s decision would effectively reduce
U.S. assistance to Armenia by $10 million from FY 2004 levels. The
reduction reflects an overall reduction of U.S. assistance to
former Soviet countries.

In the months leading up to the Subcommittee mark up of the foreign
aid bill, Armenian American activists from across the country
participated in ANCA WebFax campaigns calling attention to
potential repercussions to breaking U.S. military assistance parity
between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In February, activists noted that
the brutal murder in Hungary of 26-year-old Armenian Lieutenant
Gurgen Markarian during a NATO language course underscored the
dangers posed by adopting President Bush’s policy. That tragedy
was followed by disturbing rhetoric by the Azerbaijani leadership
threatening to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh issue militarily. As
Armenians and Azerbaijanis were marking the 10th anniversary of the
Nagorno Karabagh ceasefire on May 12th, Azerbaijani President Ilham
Aliyev announced that, “We [Azerbaijan] must increase our military
potential. Our army is able at any moment to free our territory.”
Aliyev went on to note that military expenditures have grown over
the past several years and “it will keep increasing in the future”.

In a briefing paper faxed to House and Senate members earlier this
year, the ANCA noted that “a tilt in military spending toward
Azerbaijan would destabilize the region, emboldening the new
Azerbaijani leadership to continue their threats to impose a
military solution to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. More broadly,
breaching the parity agreement would reward the leadership of
Azerbaijan for walking away from the OSCE’s Key West peace talks,
the most promising opportunity to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh
conflict in nearly a decade.”

Members of Congress concurred with this assessment, with over 30
House members cosigning a February 24th letter to President Bush,
initiated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone
(D-NJ), stating that they “strongly believe that providing unequal
military assistance to Azerbaijan and Armenia will contribute to
instability in the region and could unintentionally tip the
military balance.” Earlier that month, on February 11th,
Representatives Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mi), Grace Napolitano (D-CA),
Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) pressed Secretary of
State Colin Powell to explain the Administration’s reasoning for
the proposed break in Armenia-Azerbaijan military parity in spoken
and written statements submitted during his testimony before the
House International Relations Committee.

In April, Rep. Pallone and New York Republican John Sweeney
initiated a letter to Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Jim
Kolbe and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) urging that military
parity be maintained. Foreign Operations Subcommittee member and
Congressional Armenian Caucus co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)
was outspoken in his efforts to maintain a balance in military
assistance to the two countries. During the ANCA Capitol Hill
Observance of the Armenian Genocide, Rep. Knollenberg stated,
“every single time we have gotten the federal government’s dollar
numbers for Armenia, they have always been down and we’ve always
had to bring it up. And we aren’t going to stop fighting to bring
it back and to ensure there is parity on the military issue.”

The foreign aid bill will likely be considered by the House
Appropriations Committee on July 9th, followed by a full House vote
thereafter. The Senate version of the bill will follow a similar