This was first published in the September 12, 2009 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan
U.S. appoints seasoned diplomat as next Karabakh envoy
Ambassador Robert Bradtke will serve as the U.S. co-chair of the international mediation group tasked with managing the Karabakh peace process, the State Department reported on September 7. The group, known as the OSCE Minsk Group, is co-chaired by Russia and France as well as the United States.
The State Department announcement reiterated the commitment of the Obama administration and Secretary Hillary Clinton "to doing everything possible" to bring about a "peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." The newly appointed envoy is due to make "his first trip to the region in the coming weeks."
The appointment of Ambassador Bradtke is part of the larger transition from the Bush foreign policy team to the Obama team. It also marks a return to the past State Department approach, where the Karabakh issue was assigned to a senior diplomat as that diplomat's primary responsibility, rather than by the deputy assistant secretary in charge of regional affairs, as has been the case since 2004.
Mr. Bradtke is the ninth diplomat to serve as U.S. envoy for the Karabakh talks. Prior to this appointment, he served as ambassador to Croatia (2006-9) and before that as deputy assistant secretary of state dealing with Balkan and European security issues (2001-6).
A 36-year veteran of the Foreign Service, Mr. Bradtke worked at U.S. missions to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. He was also executive assistant to Secretary of State Warren Christopher (1994-96) and executive secretary for President Bill Clinton's National Security Council (1999-2001).
As a congressional fellow in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mr. Bradtke worked for the offices of then-Senator Charles Mathias (R.-Md.) and Rep. Dick Cheney (R.-Wyo.), who went on to become vice president of the United States.
A native of Chicago, the new envoy is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and di graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University and University of Virginia.
According to media reports, for the past several months the outgoing U.S. envoy for Karabakh, Matt Bryza has been under consideration for an assignment as the next U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. But Mr. Bryza has also been a target of criticism over his allegedly close personal ties to Georgian and Azerbaijani leaders.
In an August 20 letter to Secretary Clinton, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) charged Mr. Bryza with anti-Armenian bias.
U.S. agency keeps Armenia aid cut in place
The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) board held its regular quarterly meeting on September 9, with no new decisions on Armenia made public.
Last June, MCC cut $67 million out of Armenia's $235 million aid program, citing the Armenian government's handling of the 2008 presidential elections and subsequent opposition protests. With no new decisions taken, the aid cut in effect remains intact.
According to the agency's press release, its acting chief executive officer, Darius Mans, noted, "MCC is rapidly approaching cumulative disbursements of $1 billion and contract commitments of $2 billion focused on programs" in several dozen countries worldwide.
Among continuing programs is MCC's effort in Honduras, where an elected president was overthrown by the military earlier this summer. MCC said that it would hold $15 million in fresh funds, but will "continue with existing activities for which funds have been contractually obligated." The total MCC compact in Honduras is $215 million over five years.
The MCC board is chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rankings measure economic competitiveness, extent of state failure
Armenia is behind its neighbors when it comes to the ability to attract foreign investments and do business, while it has done a relatively better job establishing state institutions, recent studies say.
According to the Global Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum and released on September 8, Armenia's ranking was unchanged at 97th, behind Azerbaijan (51st, registering improvement from 69th place last year), Turkey (61st, up from 63rd), Russia (63rd, down from 51st), and Georgia (90th, with its rank unchanged in spite of last year's conflict) out of 133 countries ranked.
The index, published since 2004, takes into account factors that normally serve as a draw for foreign investments. These include wealth, economic and social development, and stability, as well as market size; this leaves countries with smaller populations with a built-in disadvantage. These data is then combined with executive opinion surveys conducted among individuals doing business in particular countries.
The World Bank's Doing Business Report, released on September 9, put Armenia (ranked 43rd) behind Georgia (11th), Azerbaijan (38th), but ahead of Turkey (73rd) and Russia (120th).
That report focuses on the legislative framework for doing business and considers criteria such as the availability of credit, employment regulations, and the ease of getting permits.
Meanwhile, the latest Failed States Index, published by the journal Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace, identified Armenia as the only country in its neighborhood to avoid being described as "in danger" of state failure.
In reverse rankings, where the lower the rank the better off the country is believed to be, Armenia was ranked 101st and described as a "borderline" case, with Turkey (85th), Russia (71st), Azerbaijan (56th), Iran (38th), and Georgia (33rd) exhibiting various degrees of state failure.
The index, published since 2005, looks at state cohesion and performance in 177 countries studied.
While the two surveys might seem to produce contradictory results for Armenia and its neighbors, there is substantial overlap when it comes to identifying the most competitive and least failing states.
Coming up: Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Turkish officials in the U.S.
On September 14, European Union officials will gather in Brussels for a fresh review of the EU's policy in the South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov will arrive in Washington the week of September 14 for the annual bilateral security dialogue session. On the 18th Mr. Azimov will join Undersecretary of State Bill Burns, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, and former State Department and congressional official David Kramer at a Georgetown University event.
Also is Washington next week will be Georgia's Deputy Prime Minister Georgi Baramidze. On September 15 he will discuss his country's priorities at the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Between September 20 and 23, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and then in Pittsburgh for the summit of the world's 20 largest economies (the G20) on September 24-25.
Before proceeding to the G20 meeting, the presidents of the United States and Russia plan to meet in New York on September 23; the U.S. secretary of state will follow up on the talks with a visit to Moscow next month.