Note to our readers: Background Notes are no longer being updated or produced. They are being replaced with Fact Sheets focusing on U.S. relations with countries and providing links to additional resources. For archived versions of Background Notes, see http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bgn/.
Area: 29,800 sq. km. (11,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland.
Terrain: High plateau with mountains, little forest land.
Climate: Highland continental, hot summers, cold winters.
Nationality: Noun--Armenian(s). Adjective--Armenian.
Population: Estimates range from 2,967,004 (CIA World Factbook, July 2009 est.) to 3,259,000 (Armenia National Statistical Service, October 1, 2010 est.).
Ethnic groups: Armenian 97.9%; Yezidi 1.3%; Russian, Greek, and other 0.8%.
Religion: Armenian Apostolic Church (more than 90% nominally affiliated).
Languages: Armenian (96%), Russian, other.
Health: Infant mortality rate--20.21/1,000. Life expectancy--72.68 years.
Work force (1.481 million; 7.1% unemployed): Industry and construction--15.6%; agriculture and forestry--46.2%; services--38.2%.
Constitution: Approved in July 1995 referendum, amended in November 2005.
Independence: 1918 (First Armenian Republic); 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Branches: Executive--president (head of state) with wider powers relative to other branches, prime minister (head of the ministerial cabinet). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly (parliament). Judicial-- Constitutional Court (constitutional matters exclusively); Court of Cassation, Appeals Courts (Civil and Criminal), Courts of First Instance.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 marzes (regions) and capital Yerevan.
Political parties represented in the National Assembly: Republican Party of Armenia, Prosperous Armenia, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARF), Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir), and the Heritage Party. Other political parties and movements include: the Armenian National Congress, People's Party of Armenia, Free Democrats Party, Republic Party, Armenian National Movement, and dozens of other registered parties, many of which become active only during national campaigns, if at all.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP: $9.8 billion (National Statistical Service of Armenia).
GDP growth rate (National Statistical Service ): 4.6%.
Per capita GDP PPP (World Bank): $5,600.
Inflation (National Statistical Service): 7.7%.
Natural resources: Copper, molybdenum, zinc, gold, silver, lead, marble, granite, mineral spring water.
Agriculture: Products--fruits and vegetables, wines, dairy, some livestock.
Industry: Types--diamond-processing, metal-cutting machine tools, forging-pressing machines, electric motors, tires, knitted wear, hosiery, shoes, silk fabric, chemicals, trucks, instruments, microelectronics, jewelry manufacturing, software development, food processing, brandy.
Trade: Exports--$1.3 billion: pig iron, unwrought copper, nonferrous metals, diamonds, mineral products, foodstuffs, energy. Export partners (2011)-- Russia 16.4%, Bulgaria 11.7%, Germany 12.1%, Netherlands 9%, Iran 8.3%, U.S. 7.8%, Belgium 5%, Canada 5%, Georgia 4.6%. Imports (2011)--$4.1 billion: natural gas, petroleum, tobacco products, foodstuffs, diamonds. Import partners (2010)-- Russia 16%, UAE 9.4%, Georgia 6%, China 5.1%, Ukraine 5.1%, Iran 5.5%, Turkey 4.8%, Germany 3.8%.
PEOPLE AND HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS
Armenia first emerged around 800 BC as part of the Kingdom of Urartu or Van, which flourished in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor until 600 BC. After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, the first Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. At its zenith, from 95 to 65 BC, Armenia extended its rule over the entire Caucasus and the area that is now eastern Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. For a time, Armenia was the strongest state in the Roman East. It became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC.
In 301 AD, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, establishing a church that still exists independently of both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Since then, the Armenian nation has depended on the church to preserve and protect its national identity. From around 1100 to 1350, the focus of the Armenian nation moved south, as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, which had close ties to European Crusader states, flourished in southeastern Asia Minor until it was conquered by Muslim states. Between the 4th and 19th centuries, ethnic Armenians were conquered and ruled by, among others, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottoman Turks.
For a brief period from 1918 to 1920, Armenia re-emerged as an independent republic. In late 1920, local communists came to power following an invasion of Armenia by the Soviet Red Army, and in 1922, Armenia became part of the Trans-Caucasian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1936, it became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 1991.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 that gave 83% of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of government in 1990, when the Armenian National Movement defeated the Communist Party. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996 in a disputed election. Following public demonstrations against Ter-Petrossian's policies on the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh that is located within Azerbaijan, the President resigned under pressure in January 1998 and was replaced by Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, who was subsequently elected President in March 1998. Following the October 27, 1999 assassination in Parliament of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, Parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian, and six other officials, a period of political instability ensued during which an opposition headed by elements of the former Armenian National Movement government attempted unsuccessfully to force Kocharian to resign. Riding out the unrest, Kocharian was later reelected in March 2003 in a contentious election that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the U.S. Government deemed to have fallen short of international standards.
The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have been critical of the conduct of national elections in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2008, as well as the constitutional referendum of 2005. The new constitution in 2005 increased the power of the legislative branch and allows for more independence of the judiciary; in practice, however, both branches remain subject to political pressure from the executive branch, which retains considerably greater power than its counterparts in most European countries.
The unicameral National Assembly has a total of 131 seats: 90 seats are elected by proportional representation (party list), and 41 are single mandate districts. Armenia held its most recent parliament elections in 2007, when the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) won 33 percent of the votes cast, followed by Prosperous Armenia (15 percent), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) (13 percent), Rule of Law (7 percent), and the Heritage Party (6 percent). This election as well was marred by irregularities. The RPA and Prosperous Armenia joined to form a governing coalition which secured an absolute majority of parliament seats. The ARF negotiated a cooperation agreement with the governing coalition in exchange for ministerial positions, but declined to join the coalition formally, instead reserving the right to support its own candidate for the February 2008 presidential election.
Following the 2008 presidential elections the Republican Party of Armenia, Prosperous Armenia, the Rule of Law, and the ARF signed a new coalition agreement on March 21, 2008. The ARF dropped out of the coalition in April 2009 citing differences over the conduct of foreign policy.
Armenia held presidential elections on February 19, 2008. While originally deemed by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to be “mostly in line” with OSCE standards, the elections were later seen to be marred by credible claims of ballot stuffing, intimidation (including beatings) of poll workers and proxies, vote buying, and other irregularities. Recounts were requested, but ODIHR observers noted “shortcomings in the recount process, including discrepancies and mistakes, some of which raise questions over the impartiality of the [electoral commissions] concerned.”
Mass protests followed the disputed vote. For 10 days, large crowds of pro-opposition demonstrators gathered in Yerevan’s downtown Freedom Square. Police and security forces entered Freedom Square early in the morning on March 1, 2008, ostensibly to investigate reports of hidden weapons caches. This operation turned into a forced dispersal of demonstrators from Freedom Square by massed riot police. Following the clearing of Freedom Square, clashes erupted in the afternoon between massed demonstrators and security personnel, and continued throughout the day and evening, leading to ten deaths and hundreds of injuries. President Kocharian decreed a 20-day state of emergency in Yerevan late on March 1, which sharply curtailed freedom of media and assembly. Dozens of opposition supporters were jailed in the wake of the violence, in proceedings that many international watchdog groups have criticized as politically motivated. Armenia's media freedom climate and freedom of assembly remained poor overall, though somewhat improved after the state of emergency was lifted. In June 2009 and May 2011, President Sargsian proposed and the Parliament approved two general amnesties which resulted in the release from jail of all those detained in connection with the March 2008 events. In the spring of 2011, the leading opposition group was also able to resume -- after a three-year prohibition -- the holding of authorized rallies in Yerevan’s Freedom Square. In April 2011, President Sargsian called for a more meticulous examination of the violence that followed the elections-related protests in 2008. Those responsible for the 10 deaths have not yet been identified and held accountable.
Upcoming elections will be held in May 2012 for the Armenian National Assembly and February 2013 for the Presidency.
Principal Government Officials
Speaker of Parliament —Samvel Nikoyan
Prime Minister—Tigran Sargsian (no relation)
Foreign Minister—Edward Nalbandian
Defense Minister—Seyran Ohanian
Ambassador to the U.S.—Tatoul Markarian
Ambassador to the UN—Garen Nazarian
Armenia's embassy is located at 2225 R Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008; tel: 202-319-1976; fax: 202-319-2982.
Armenia is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. Armenia is a landlocked country between the Black and the Caspian Seas, bordered on the north by Georgia, to the east by Azerbaijan, on the south by Iran, and to the west by Turkey. Up until independence in 1991, Armenia's economy was based largely on industry--chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textiles--and highly dependent on outside resources. Agriculture accounted for only 20% of net material product and 10% of employment before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Construction, which was the leading sector of the economy for the past eight years, constituting 27% of the country's GDP in 2008, declined by 34.6% in 2009 and 3.3% in 2010. In 2011, the sector continued to shrink, with a decrease of 11.5 percent compared to 2010. The beginning of the slowdown in construction coincided with the tense political situation connected to the presidential election campaign and the post-election civil unrest in 2008. Market saturation, a drop in demand related to the global economic crisis, and a steep decline in foreign remittances contributed to the further slowdown.
Like other New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's economy still suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of former Soviet trading networks. While investment from these states in support of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, and few major enterprises are still able to function, Russian entities have nevertheless increased their ownership in the mining, energy, telecommunications, and transportation sectors. In addition, the effects of the 1988 earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still being felt, though international donors and diaspora Armenian groups continue to fund reconstruction efforts in the earthquake zone.
Although a cease-fire has held since 1994, the 20-year-old conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. While intensive efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group are ongoing in pursuit of a settlement, the closure of both the Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has prevented Armenia from realizing its economic potential. Armenia's economy depends heavily on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. While land routes to Turkey are closed, regular and charter air connections operate between Yerevan and Istanbul and Antalya; land routes through Georgia and Iran raise the risk and cost of transport.
The structure of Armenia's economy has changed substantially since independence in 1991, with sectors such as construction and services replacing agriculture and industry as the main contributors to economic growth. The diamond processing industry, which was one of the leading export sectors in 2000-2004 and a major recipient of foreign investment, faced a dramatic decrease in output since 2005 due to raw material supply problems with Russia and an overall decline in international diamond markets. Other industrial sectors driving industrial growth include energy, metallurgy, and food processing.
Despite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Government of Armenia has been able to carry out wide-ranging economic reforms that have paid off in dramatically lower inflation and relatively steady growth. Armenia registered strong economic growth after 1995, with double-digit GDP growth rates every year from 2002 to 2007.
After rapid expansion in 2001-2007, economic and financial conditions worsened rapidly in Armenia in 2008, due to a drop in international metals prices and a downturn in the Russian economy following the collapse of oil prices in late 2008. The end of a remittance-fueled construction boom that had driven growth in recent years resulted in a 14.4% drop of real GDP for 2009 (compared to 6.8% GDP growth in 2008), with about 80% of this decline due to a plunge in the construction sector. Since 2008, Armenia has experienced a significant drop in investment, exports, and real incomes primarily caused by the global financial crisis. The Government of Armenia’s (GOAM) anti-crisis measures, additional loans and budgetary support from international donors helped to avoid further economic decline in 2010. However, economic indicators, while on the rebound, still fall short of the pre-crisis growth trend for the two decades following independence. Gradual recovery of remittance flows in comparison to 2010 also contributed to the slight upturn. Nevertheless, poverty and prices remain high, and the sustainability of growth remains a concern. Some of the major impediments for potential investors remain the lack of transparency in the tax and customs administration, the unpredictability of doing business in Armenia, and unequal competition between domestic and foreign firms.
Armenia maintains a floating exchange rate regime with no explicit exchange rate target. The nominal exchange rate of the Armenian dram with major currencies was fairly stable between 1998 and 2003. During 2003-2007, the Armenian Dram appreciated sharply against the U.S. dollar by around 45%, mainly due to significant growth in remittances, growth of exports in absolute terms, the de-dollarization of the economy and weakening of the dollar in international markets. The appreciation of the dram affected negatively the traditional export industries, including information technologies, diamond cutting, the wine industry, and textiles. Exporters responded to the increased costs by either reducing their capacities of production or by reducing their number of employees in order to stay afloat. During 2008, the exchange rate was mainly stable at around 300 drams per dollar, until March 2009, when the Central Bank stopped its heavy intervention in the foreign exchange market and announced that it would adopt a floating currency regime. As a result, the Dram devalued by around 25%. It remained at this rate until a smooth devaluation took place throughout 2011, after which the Dram reached its current level of approximately 390 drams per dollar.
Armenia is highly dependent on the import of energy fuel, mainly from Russia. The Armenia Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) at Metsamor provides around 40% of electricity generation for the country, and hydro and thermal plants provide roughly 30% each. Armenia imports most of its natural gas from Russia, which provided significant discounts to Armenia until 2009. Russian import gas prices rose from $110 to $154 per thousand cubic meters in April 2009, and increased further to $180 in April 2010. The gas price was set to further rise in April 2011 to approach the international market price, but this has been temporarily averted as a result of extensive negotiations between the Russian and Armenian governments. However, the current price is still below the international average of over $300, and in the coming years the price is expected to converge with market prices.
Since May 2006 Armenia has also received natural gas from Iran through a direct pipeline between the two countries, in addition to tanker trucks. As a result of a Gazprom-brokered deal, Armenia and Iran participate in a program of direct exchange of natural gas for electric power, which has diversified Armenia’s supply of gas products.
Armenia imports nearly all of its refined petroleum products through Georgia. The August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia resulted in periodic disruptions of fuel and food imports, and highlighted Armenia's vulnerability to disruptions in this primary transit corridor.
Armenia has received significant support from international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries, particularly Russia, are extending considerable grants and loans. These loans are targeted at reducing the budget deficit, stabilizing the local currency; developing private businesses; energy and the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and health and education sectors. In 2009 Armenia received more than $ 1.5 billion in donor financing for budget support and different government-led anti-crisis programs. In 2011, the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), an economic organization in which Russia is a principal participant, provided a loan of $500 million to finance Armenia’s external debt and restructure a number of branches of the Armenian economy, in return for the transfer of major assets. Further, Russian energy conglomerates have pledged to invest $71 million in natural gas and electricity distribution networks in Armenia.
Continued economic growth will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection, improving the investment climate, and combating significant corruption. A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on Privatization was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property privatization. Armenia joined the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2003. Armenia recently acceded to the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement which imposes an obligation to improve its existing procurement practices.
See also U.S. Assistance to Armenia below.
Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. The Ministry of Nature Protection has introduced a pollution fee system by which taxes are levied on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal, with the resulting revenues used for environmental protection activities. Deforestation by mining concerns in certain parts of the country, especially the Teghut Forest in the Lori marz (region), have resulted in periodic protests by environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and stirred controversy over government policies to support investment in the mining sector. Armenia is interested in cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--a group of 11 former Soviet republics) and with other members of the international community on environmental issues. Armenia has been under strong pressure from the international community to close its thirty-five-year-old nuclear power plant (ANPP) at Metsamor by 2016. This pressure has only increased in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011. Given that Armenia depends on the ANPP for roughly 40% of its electricity, the Armenian Government sees no alternative to construction of a new nuclear plant. The Armenian Government is continuing to plan for a new plant. The U.S. Government will continue to provide technical assistance to support the Armenian Government’s efforts to ensure that any nuclear unit meets proper safety and environmental standards.
DEFENSE AND MILITARY ISSUES
Armenia established a Ministry of Defense in 1992. Border guards subject to the National Security Service patrol Armenia's borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan, while Russian Border Guards continue to monitor its borders with Iran and Turkey. In August 2010 the Government of Armenia signed an extension to this agreement with Russia, providing for a continued Russian border guard presence until 2046.
The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was ratified by the Armenian parliament in July 1992. The treaty establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of military equipment, such as tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat helicopters, and provides for the destruction of weaponry in excess of those limits. Armenian officials have consistently expressed determination to comply with its provisions in spite of their concerns about Azerbaijan exceeding its treaty limits. Armenia has provided data on armaments as required under the CFE Treaty and is receptive to CFE inspections. Armenia recently passed laws to control export of military and dual use goods to fulfill its arms control obligations. Armenia is not a significant exporter of conventional weapons, but it has provided substantial support, including materiel, to ethnic Armenian separatists in the disputed and predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh located within Azerbaijan's borders.
In March 1993, Armenia signed the multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention, which calls for the eventual elimination of chemical weapons. Armenia acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state in July 1993. In July 2008 the U.S. and Armenia signed an action plan to partner on Combating Smuggling of Nuclear and Radiological Materials under the U.S. Department of State's Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative (NSOI). In the same framework, Armenia is participating in the U.S.-led Preventing Nuclear Smuggling Program (PNSP). In April 2010 Armenia's President Serzh Sargsian attended the first-ever Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) that the U.S. hosted. Armenia also participates in the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). The U.S. and other Western governments continue to work with Armenia to strengthen export control systems.
In September 2010, Armenia and the U.S. signed an agreement to implement a Biological Threat Reduction Program, which will enhance U.S.-Armenia cooperation in preventing the proliferation of technology, pathogens, and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons.
Armenia cooperates with NATO through the Partnership for Peace program which it joined in 1994.
Armenia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Neighborhood Program of the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization (BSEC), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Trade Organization.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 as a show of support for Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. On October 10, 2009, the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Armenia signed normalization protocols that called for the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border, establishing diplomatic relations, and the creation of a number of sub-commissions addressing bilateral issues. However, the protocols have not yet been ratified by either country, and Armenia formally suspended parliamentary consideration of the protocols in April 2010. The Armenian Government stressed its willingness to reactivate the process “when there is a proper environment in Turkey and there is leadership in Ankara ready to reengage in the normalization process.”
In 1988, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, voted to secede and join Armenia. This act was the catalyst that led Armenia and Azerbaijan into a full-scale armed conflict that claimed the lives of over 30,000 people from both sides. Armenian support for the separatists led to an economic embargo by Azerbaijan, which has had a negative impact on Armenia's foreign trade and made imports of food and fuel, three-quarters of which previously transited Azerbaijan under Soviet rule, more expensive.
Peace talks in early 1993 were disrupted by the seizure of Azerbaijan's Kelbajar district by Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian forces and the forced evacuation of thousands of ethnic Azeris. Turkey in protest then followed with an embargo of its own against Armenia. A cease-fire was declared between Azerbaijani and Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh forces in 1994 and has been maintained by both sides since then in spite of occasional shooting along the line of contact. All Armenian governments have thus far resisted domestic pressure to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," while at the same time announcing they would not accept any peace accords that returned the enclave to Azerbaijani rule. Approximately 572,000 of the estimated 800,000 ethnic Azeris who fled during the Karabakhi offensives still live as internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan (according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, quoting Azerbaijani Government statistics, June 2008 ), while roughly 3,300 of 360,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan since 1988 remain refugees.
Negotiations to peacefully resolve the conflict have been ongoing since 1992 under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by the U.S., France, and Russia. Negotiations have intensified since 2004. Ambassador Robert Bradtke became U.S. Co-Chair in 2009.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end to the Cold War and created the opportunity for bilateral relations with the New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and economic transformation. The U.S. recognized the independence of Armenia on December 25, 1991, and opened an Embassy in Yerevan in February 1992.
U.S.-Armenian Economic Relations
In 1992 Armenia signed three agreements with the U.S. affecting trade between the two countries. They include an "Agreement on Trade Relations," (which entered into force in April 1992) an "Investment Incentive Agreement," (which also entered into force in April 1992) and a treaty on the "Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investment" (generally referred to as the Bilateral Investment Treaty, or BIT, which entered into force in March 1996). The 1973 “Convention on matters of Taxation” concluded with the former USSR remains in force with Armenia. The 1994 Law on Foreign Investment governs all direct investments in Armenia, including those from the U.S.
In June 2011, the Department of State and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on unconventional and conventional energy resources. The MOU aims to enhance cooperation between U.S. and Armenian experts to assess Armenia’s potential energy resources, including shale gas.
Approximately 70 U.S.-owned firms currently do business in Armenia, including Dell, Microsoft, and IBM. Recent major U.S. investment projects include: the Hotel Armenia/Marriott; the Hotel Ani Plaza; Tufenkian Holdings (carpet and furniture production, hotels, and construction); several subsidiaries of U.S.-based information technology firms, including Viasphere Technopark, an IT incubator; Synopsys; a Greek-owned Coca-Cola bottling plant; jewelry and textile production facilities; several mining companies; and the Hovnanian International Construction Company.
U.S. Assistance to Armenia
The U.S. has made a concerted effort to help Armenia during its difficult transition from totalitarianism and a command economy to democracy and open markets. The cornerstone of this continuing partnership has been assistance provided through the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act, enacted in October 1992. In 2009, FREEDOM Support Act funds were merged with another account and was renamed Assistance to Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia (AEECA). Under this and other programs, the U.S. to date has provided Armenia with nearly $2 billion in development and humanitarian assistance. In addition, the U.S.-Armenia Joint Economic Task Force (USATF), established in 1999, is a bilateral commission that meets annually to deepen economic ties between Armenia and the U.S., advance market reforms in Armenia, and discuss opportunities for U.S. assistance to contribute to Armenia’s long-term economic development. The most recent meeting was held in Washington, DC, in September 2011. The next meeting in 2012 will be held in Yerevan.
U.S. assistance supports Armenia's transition into a stable partner at peace with its neighbors, fully integrated into the regional economy, where principles of democracy are respected, the benefits of economic growth are shared by all segments of society, and Armenia's human capital potential is fully realized. The U.S. provides multifaceted assistance to Armenia through a variety of programs designed to promote economic growth, encourage democratic governance, improve health and social protection systems, and enhance Armenia’s peace and security. The U.S. also provides humanitarian assistance to the poor, elderly, and other vulnerable groups. Assistance is provided through a “whole of government” approach that involves a number of U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Justice, and State, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps.
In 2006, Armenia signed a five-year, $236 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with the U.S. The MCA-Armenia program focused on reducing rural poverty through a sustainable increase in the economic performance of the agricultural sector. This included strategic investments in rural roads, irrigation infrastructure, and technical and financial assistance to water supply entities, farmers, and commercial agribusinesses. in 2009, MCC placed a hold on funding for a significant portion of the rural road rehabilitation project because of serious concerns about the 2008 presidential election. At the June 2009 MCC Board meeting, the decision was made not to resume funding for any further road construction and rehabilitation due to concerns about the status of democratic governance in Armenia. Funding for irrigation infrastructure and technical assistance, representing nearly $177 million of the compact’s value, remained in effect and was implemented. The compact concluded in September 2011. Beneficiaries included 420,000 rural residents in about 350 communities across Armenia.
Promoting Economic Growth
U.S. assistance addresses Armenia’s economic vulnerabilities, which have been exacerbated by the global economic crisis, while continuing to support economic competitiveness. The U.S. continues to work closely with international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help Armenia continue its transition to a robust free-market economy. USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implement the largest portion of U.S. economic assistance activities. In addition to its broader assistance programs, USAID implements a range of economic assistance programs designed to enhance Armenia’s macroeconomic foundation for growth, promote trade and investment, and focus on private sector competitiveness and workforce development in selected industries, including information technology and tourism, and development of the financial sector and fiscal authorities to achieve a business enabling environment.
The USDA Caucasus Agricultural Development Initiative provides targeted and sustained technical and marketing assistance to small and medium-sized agribusinesses, farmer-marketing associations, and the Government of Armenia. USDA's goal is to sustain the productivity of the agricultural sector by expanding access to markets and credit, increasing efficiency, and modernizing agriculture systems. USDA's priority assistance areas are: Farm Credit, Food Safety and Animal Health, support to the Armenian private sector through the NGO CARD, Agricultural Statistics and Agricultural Education. Also, as a training component of USDA projects in Armenia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cochran Fellowship Program provides training in the U.S. to Armenian agriculturists.
Enhancing Democratic Governance
U.S. assistance programs enhance the Government of Armenia’s capacity to govern justly and democratically. The programs strengthen democracy and the rule of law by improving legal education, promoting the capacity of both prosecutors and the defense bar, raising judicial ethics standards and human rights protections, fighting corruption and improving the transparency, accountability, and accessibility of government entities (particularly at the local level), increasing civic participation and government accountability by bolstering civil society, strengthening independent media and increasing access to information, and promoting free and fair elections and greater citizen participation in the political process. U.S. assistance also encourages adoption of best practices within the criminal justice system by reforming procedures to promote greater police accountability, judicial independence, and fairness for those accused of crimes. Additionally, U.S. programs support international and domestic monitoring of Armenia’s elections, thereby promoting transparency and democratic values.
Educational exchange programs also play an important role in supporting meaningful democratic and free-market reforms by instilling important core values in Armenia’s youth.
Professional exchange programs serve as a vehicle to share U.S. experience with Armenian government officials, NGO activists, women leaders, bloggers, journalists, lawyers, political party members, business people, and other influential figures. These exchanges have focused on a range of topics, including U.S. elections, law enforcement, the American judiciary, women in business, conflict resolution, the media, human rights, and youth leadership.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission—Bruce Donahue
Political/Economic Chief—Barton Putney
Assistance Coordinator— RaeJean Stokes
Management Officer—Veronica Hons-Olivier
INL Chief--Daniel Hastings
EXBS Advisor--Michael Seguin
Resident Legal Adviser--Steve Kessler
Regional Security Officer—Timothy Lance Leveque
USDA Marketing Assistance Project Director—Greg Booth
USAID Director—Jatinder Cheema
Public Affairs Officer—Karen Robblee
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, is at 1 American Avenue; tel: 374-10-46-47-00; fax: 374-10-46-47-42.