The most significant feature of modern Armenia is its continual loss of population as Armenians leave for Russia or Los Angeles in order to escape pervasive poverty. A steady stream of 100,000 or so Armenians leaves Armenia permanently every year. The country’s population has declined by 1.5 million people since 1991.
The second massive feature is political corruption as evidenced by wide-spread criminal charges being pressed by the new government of Armenia. Unfortunately, Armenian corruption has spread out from Yerevan to Los Angeles and, it appears, to California’s capital, Sacramento.
Corruption 7100 miles from Los Angeles wouldn’t normally be of concern except that four California state elected officials have just returned from a junket to Armenia. Assuming they didn’t pay for the trip themselves, they are performing as what Vladimir Lenin infamously called “useful fools” or “useful idiots” by helping spread Armenian corruption in California’s state capital.
The worst, State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino; he represents much of the San Fernando Valley in the Senate. He thumbed his nose at official and long-standing bi-partisan United States foreign policy by undermining its Caucasus-region policy.
The United States policy on the former Soviet Caucasus Republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan has been — since 2002 — to encourage their emergence as democratic republics. It has contributed millions of dollars to the region.
Armenia’s American lobby was able to hobble American help to Azerbaijan until President George W. Bush waived the blockage and helped Azerbaijan with formerly denied funds; to wit: the de facto military alliance with and encouragement of energy cooperation it extends to the Republic of Azerbaijan rooted in Azerbaijan’s help in the war on terrorism and in Afghanistan. .
The United States recognizes the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia. The United States does not recognize an occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region as an independent state as it is proclaimed by occupying foreign Armenian forces.
They militarily-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s and renamed it “Artsakh.” No country in the world, including Armenia, officially recognizes the so-called “Republic of Artsakh.” Illegally occupied Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani no matter what Armenians call it.
Portantino didn’t just visit Armenia, he left Armenia and illegally crossed into the internationally recognized sovereign territory of Azerbaijan without a visa from its government. Just like the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan et al, Azerbaijan requires any visitor to have an official visa to visit its territory.
Portantino has done this before, twice, in fact. And, like previous American politicians, he has been banned from visiting Azerbaijan. Portantino is persona non grata by a friendly nation of the United States.
Apparently, being designated persona non grata means nothing to Portantino. He works “full time” at representing Armenian interests in Sacramento that are the opposite of American interests in the region.
This wouldn’t matter much if Azerbaijan was poverty-stricken and losing population like Armeniaexcept that Azerbaijan is a thriving, growing energy producer that, unlike Armenia, is a U.S. ally in the war on terror and has been since hours after the 9/11 attack on the United States.
Armenia’s military is run by Russia. It mans Armenia’s borders, provides air defenses and bases 5,000 Russian soldiers in Armenia proper. That Russian Army base in Armenia is larger than most bases in Russia. Armenia “buys” hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of lethal military equipment from Russia using financial “credit” granted by Russia.
Hosted and “taken care of” by ANCA (Armenian National Committee of America) — Armenia’s political arm and “lobby” in the United States — does Portantino know about or care about the corruption in Armenia that paid for his junket? Or about the state-directed terrorism Armenia supports against its next door neighbor?
Armenia’s long-time President Serzh Sargsyan was term-limited out of the presidency — so he had partisan allies in the Armenian parliament change the governmental structure from an executive presidency to a parliamentary prime minister system, a job Sargsyan claimed for himself when the governmental change went in effect in the Spring.
Portantino’s previous visits to Armenia and the occupied territories in Azerbaijan were organized by former President Sargsyan’s corrupt government and its lobby group in the United States — ANCA.
Sargsyan was not only a wartime leader of Armenian forces when they invaded Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, he was guilty of war crimes committed by his forces in the massacre at Khojaly in February, 1992, when Armenian forces killed over 600 men, women and children, infant children. In his infamous interview with British Caucasus scholar Thomas De Waal he praised the “massacre” as notice to Azerbaijanis that Armenians were not fooling around.
The junket to Armenia consisted of two California state assembly legislators, Autumn Burke and Evan Low and two state senators, Henry Stern and Anthony J. Portantino; Democrats all. Only Portantino illegally visited Azerbaijan territory.
These questions were asked (by e-mail) of Portantino:
- Who paid for the trip? ANCA? Armenia? Russia?
- Did Senator Portantino have a visa to visit internationally recognized Azerbaijan territory?
- Armenia is a military and political ally of Russian Federation leader Vladimir Putin; Does Portantino know this?
- Does Senator Portantino support massive Russian terrorism and illegal invasions and military conquests of Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula by Russia as does Armenia’s government?
- If so, does he support Armenia’s 25 year-long illegal occupation of 20 percent of the nation of Azerbaijan in violation of four United Nations resolutions?
As for support for a country that favors massive terrorism and illegal military occupations and aggression the United States opposes, thatdefines elected officials in the Russian Federation, but should it define American elected officials in the California Legislature in Sacramento, as well?
Contreras is the author of “The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade;” he formerly wrote for the New America News Service of the New York Times and was a member of the International Seafarers Union in the 1960s.
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