WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) sent letters to the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence expressing concern regarding the undue influence of Azerbaijan on America’s democratic institutions.
In their letter to the Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), House Intelligence Chairman David Nunes (R-CA), and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated: “We are writing to express our concern regarding the undue influence of yet another foreign government on America’s democratic institutions, namely Azerbaijan. We are deeply troubled by recent reports about Azerbaijan’s ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its nexus to both the Mammadov family and the highest levels of the Azeri government. We therefore respectfully request that the congressional investigations of Russian influence be expanded to include Azerbaijan’s influence peddling and any materials it may have potentially compromising U.S. officials.”
The Justice Department has previously brought some cases involving Azerbaijan through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), but much more is needed. According to the “Azeri Oil Money Got a Pass From This Ethics Committee” article in Bloomberg News, Azerbaijan continues to shell out over $45,000 monthly to the Podesta Group, of which the columnist states “It’s hard to tell whether it’s this creativity and generosity or any real U.S. strategic interest that makes the U.S. overlook the country’s brutal dictatorship. A combination of both is likely: Without the ‘caviar diplomacy,’ Azerbaijan might be considered too small to defy declared U.S. values and principles for its sake.”
“When it comes to the integrity of America’s democracy, the rule of law, and our governance process, we must not turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s influence peddling, authoritarian regime and human rights atrocities,” Assembly Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian said. “Further, we must ensure that Azerbaijan’s rampant corrupt practices do not compromise U.S. policies and objectives. Additional evidence on Azerbaijani as well as Turkish wrongdoing is available and growing; we would welcome the opportunity to help advance a thorough investigation and United States response.”
In addition to the U.S., Azerbaijan’s caviar diplomacy is also amply documented in the December 2016 European Stability Initiative (ESI) report, wherein expensive watches, jewelry, computers, and large sums of money, among other gifts, were provided to several politicians from a number of countries in Europe. ESI states that “the ease with which democratic institutions and safeguards can be undermined has emerged as a fundamental threat to European democracy.”