Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez Reiterates Key Concerns
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the final days of the 115th Congress, last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed by a voice vote Ambassadorial nominees Lynne M. Tracy and Earle D. Litzenberger to represent the United States in Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively.
Last month, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) business meeting on the nominations, Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) explained his support for both candidates, as well as the importance of strong U.S.-Armenia relations.
“Armenia and the Caucasus region will continue to be vital to regional and global security. According to the OSCE, Armenia’s elections over the weekend met international standards. I look forward to supporting the government’s efforts to build strong democratic institutions, a vibrant Armenian economy, and oppose any efforts to violate Armenia’s sovereignty,” Ranking Member Menendez said.
During Ambassador-designate Tracy’s nomination hearing she promised to support Armenia’s “remarkable” democratic reforms. As to questions at the hearing by SFRC Ranking Member Menendez and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) on the Armenian Genocide, she agreed that “1.5 million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their death in the final years of the Ottoman Empire” in 1915, but fell short of properly categorizing the killings as genocide.
“Throughout my time in the Senate, I have advocated for an honest accounting of the Armenian genocide. I believe we have a moral imperative to recognize the atrocities that were committed against the Armenian people. Ms. Tracy’s experience in Russia and Central Asia positions her to help navigate U.S. policy in this critical time. I support this nomination, but expect to work closely with Ms. Tracy on how she will encourage an honest acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, support Armenia’s ongoing efforts to ensure accountable, citizen-responsive governance, and support efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added.
During the SFRC business meeting, Senator Menendez also noted the importance of safety in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and his expectations for the U.S. Ambassador selected to be the representative in Azerbaijan.
“I support Mr. Litzenberger’s nomination and expect to have close and continuing dialogue with him on how he will urge the Azeris to step back from any threatening behavior that could disrupt the line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh, support respect for human rights, and support efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” Senator Menendez said.
The hearing for Ambassador-designate Litzenberger occurred in October, wherein he restated the U.S. position condemning violence along the line of contact, which undermines the peace process and violates the 1994 cease-fire agreement.
“We appreciate the important issues raised by Senators Robert Menendez and Ed Markey during the confirmation process. We look forward to working with the new Congress to ensure robust assistance to further Armenia’s democratic development,” Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills, concluded his tenure in Yerevan in October 2018, whereas former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Robert Cekuta, concluded his tenure in Baku in March of 2018. Interestingly, the post of U.S. Ambassador in Ankara has been vacant since October 2017, with no nomination pending.
Lynne M. Tracy of Ohio is a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serving as Senior Advisor for Russia Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State; Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; and Principal Officer at the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Astana, Kazakhstan. Additionally, Ms. Tracy served as the Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, where she was awarded the Secretary’s Award for Heroism. She is the recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award. Ms. Tracy earned her B.A. from the University of Georgia and J.D. from the University of Akron.
Earle (Lee) Litzenberger is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor. He has served as the Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) since January 2018. Mr. Litzenberger has served as Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Mission to NATO, Brussels (2014-2017), the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia (2010-2013) and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (2006-2009). He was the NATO Deputy Senior Civilian Representative in Kabul, Afghanistan (2013-2014). His other overseas assignments include the U.S. Mission to the European Union, Brussels, and the U.S. Embassies in Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Algeria, and the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille, France. Mr. Litzenberger has also served at the Department of State in Washington, in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He holds a B.A. in History from Middlebury College and an M.S. in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Mr. Litzenberger speaks French, Russian, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian.
On his first trip to Armenia, former New York City Mayor and personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, Rudy Guiliani visited the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum-Institute in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on October 22, ARMENPRESS first reported.
After touring the museum, Giuliani laid flowers at the memorial and planted a symbolic tree in the park in honor of Armenian Genocide victims.
He also signed the guestbook at the memorial.
“The Armenian Genocide should not be forgotten because to do so is to make possible similar horrific acts of terror in our era and in the future,” Giuliani wrote. “The recognition of this Genocide will help prevent such inhumanities in the future. God bless the souls of all who died and may they rest in peace with God.”
Speaking to reporters about possible U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, he said that the genocide is a historical fact, but “I am not here in my capacity as a private lawyer to President Trump. I am here as a private citizen. It’s up to the [Trump] administration to make their own conclusion,” Giuliani said.
In his first two years as President, Donald Trump has issued statements that echo former President Barack Obama and those before him that have sidestepped the issue in order to appease Turkey, a NATO ally.
Giuliani was also asked about the expansion of U.S.-Armenia relations. “It’s up to the two governments,” he said. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is currently in Moscow and will travel to Yerevan later this week.
As the Mayor of New York City at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, Rudy Giuliani, who owns a home in Palm Beach, FL, is a former Republican presidential candidate, and a public figure well known to Armenian Americans, tens of thousands of whom call New York City, and Palm Beach County, home. In fact, several Armenian Americans were among those killed on 9/11.
“I’m here as a private citizen, just to learn some facts in my first time in Armenia. I know the Armenian community in America very well,” he said.
Rudy Giuliani was invited to Armenia to participate in the Eurasian Forum by Ara Abrahamyan, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and President of the Union of Armenians of Russia who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During his trip, Giuliani visited Armenia’s Minister of Defense and met with Davit Tonoyan, acting Defense Minister of Armenia. Tonoyan and Giuliani discussed the current security environment in Armenia and the South Caucasus. They exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues.
Over the last two decades, U.S. engagement in the South Caucasus has been sparse, allowing Russia to strengthen it’s grip. However, the low flame of U.S.-Armenia relations has found new fuel since Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ earlier this year. The latest color revolution to hit the former Soviet space, hundreds of thousands of people descended onto the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s President-turned-Prime Minister (the Armenian Constitution was amended by the President’s ruling party in 2015, thus transferring greater power to the Prime Ministerial post as Sargsyan’s Presidential term was coming to an end).
The largest citizen assembly since the country declared its independence in 1991 worked, and Sargsyan stepped aside without a single shot being fired. The peaceful revolution symbolized a clear rejection of the Putin style of authoritarian democracy that has expanded in the region (see Azerbaijan, Turkey) and across the globe.
During the Eurasia Forum, Armenia’s new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan commented on the recent and upcoming visits of senior U.S. officials and ties between to the two countries. “Unfortunately, as for the U.S. our contacts were not so intensive until now.” On October 15, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent visited Armenia and met with Pashinyan. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected later this week.
“We are going to intensify our relations,” Pashinyan said.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that he will be traveling to Russia and all three Caucasus nations this month for talks with senior officials.
In a tweet on October 11, Bolton said he would depart on October 20 for Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Bolton’s visit to the Caucasus comes on the heels of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in Yerevan on October 15. During that meeting, Pashinyan reiterated that “Armenia is moving forward on [a] path to democracy, which is an inner belief and value for our society,” according to a tweet from the Armenian government. The “Fight against corruption, reforms in different spheres & #NKconflict” were also discussed.
While in Russia, Bolton will meet with senior Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
The scheduled Bolton visit to Russia comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.
In August, Bolton told Patrushev that the United States “wouldn’t tolerate meddling” in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. Bolton also said U.S. sanctions against Russia would remain in place until Moscow changes its behavior.
Therefore, it was no surprise that on October 19, the day before Bolton was scheduled to depart on his trip, the Justice Department brought its first criminal case over alleged Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections.
According to POLITICO, “Elena Khusyaynova, 44, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based accountant, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the United States for taking part in a scheme to spend in excess of $10 million since the beginning of the year on targeted social media ads and web postings intended ‘to sow division and discord in the U.S. political system.’”
In a tweet on October 12, Georgian Foreign Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said the upcoming visit of Bolton to Georgia would “further strengthen the deep friendship and strategic partnership between” the United States and Georgia.
It is interesting to observers that in September President Trump announced his nomination of a new U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Lynne Tracy, as current U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills wraps up his three year tour. Meanwhile, there has been no U.S. ambassador in Azerbaijan, or Turkey, since Trump took office two years ago. The fact that there is no gap in the high-level U.S. presence in Armenia, and that President Trump only last month nominated a representative to the the one of the two hostile muslim countries, indicates the strengthening U.S.-Armenia partnership, and symbolizes the decreased importance of Turkey and Azerbaijan as they continue to engage in activities that run counter to U.S. interests in the region.