Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
American marines in Armenia…
The embassy of any country in a foreign state works within the powers of defined bi- and multi- lateral interstate agreements, which includes, first of all, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. In particular, it clearly regulates the number of employees of embassies, especially those who are given diplomatic privileges and immunities. The total number of employees, as a rule, directly depends on the level of relations between states, the scale of the host country, etc. And the areas of ambassadorial premises are usually directly depend on the number of employees.
It would be possible to assume that the embassies in London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, Moscow, and the capitals of some other states having an important place in the US’ foreign policy should be the largest for the United States. It was approximately like this in the 20th century, but then the picture started to change considerably.
America’s largest embassy in the world today is its embassy in Iraq. This ambassadorial complex resembles a fortress that can exist in an autonomous regime. The embassy fortress in Baghdad is well protected against possible attacks not only with machine guns, but also artillery and rockets. The walls of all facilities have a margin of safety that is more than double (in comparison with the usual construction norms). According to the information in the American media, before 2012 2,000 diplomats and 14,000 contract employees worked in the American Embassy in Baghdad. Then their quantity decreased, but the embassy in Iraq is still considered to be the largest American diplomatic mission.
And the embassy in Armenia (!) is in second place among the American diplomatic missions abroad. This republic has a population of less than 3 million people (136th place in the world) and a territory of 29,743 sq.km (138th place). About 2 million people now live in Armenia. According to the Armenian media, there are 2000 American diplomats in the country. According to other sources – 2500 diplomats, one for every 1200 citizens of the host country. For comparison: in Russia the number of diplomats from the US before the last ones were expelled was 455 people. And one more comparison: the number of employees of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Armenia on the eve of the “velvet revolution” in the spring of 2018 totalled about 60 people.
Maybe, the US Embassy in Armenia indeed has fewer employees than the embassy in Iraq, but in terms of the total number of employees (including contract employees) with diplomatic passport it can claim first place in the world.
The US Embassy in Armenia, built near Yerevan Lake, is stretched out across an area of 9 hectares; the Americans obtained this site from the government of Armenia for only $5 million.
The ceremonial opening of the new embassy took place on May 6th, 2005. Five buildings with a total area of 14,000 sq.m are located across nine hectares. The walls of the buildings have a thickness of 50 centimeters and are built from monolithic concrete with metal gauze. The embassy will have an autonomous energy supply and its own reservoir, noted the American diplomats at the opening ceremony with pride. One of the buildings is intended for marines. At the time of opening of the embassy there were only six people. However, according to the Armenian media, by 2013 their number reached 800. As one of the Armenian journalists wrote back then, “a fully-fledged US naval base appeared in the center of Yerevan”.
Why does Washington need such a huge complex of ambassadorial buildings in a small country that has neither sea access, nor big mineral deposits, nor large investment projects (the sale of the Vorotan Cascade to the Americans became the only such “project”)?
The answer is given by the American expert Daniel Gaynor, who is an employee of the Truman Center for National Policy. Here is a fragment from his article titled “US Relations with Armenia: In Facing Middle East Adversaries, America Has a Secret Weapon”:
“The best explanation is a real estate mantra: location, location, location. Armenia, a landlocked country with just 3 million people, might be in the roughest neighborhood in the world. But in America’s eyes, it might be in the most important position of any U.S. ally to advance President Obama’s foreign policy agenda. What Armenia lacks in natural resources – it has little oil, gas or jewels – it makes up for in geography. Few countries are in better position to shape U.S. foreign policy than Armenia. Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran. As a part of the former Soviet Union, it relies on nearby Russia extensively for trade and military backing. The U.S. has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims”.
That object that is called the “new US Embassy in Armenia” can be attributed to the “secret weapon” mentioned in the title of the article of Daniel Gaynor. By the time that the new American ambassadorial complex in Yerevan opened not many people doubted that it’s not so much a diplomatic mission as it is a military-intelligence center.
The Armenians say that a number of local NGOs helps the Americans expand the secret-service network in the republic. The total number of these “non-governmental organisations” in the small republic reads off scale: according to the data of the national statistical service of Armenia, there are more than 200. The US allocates almost $250 million annually for their activity. The work of the Armenian NGO is being coordinated by the American Embassy and such structures as USAID, NED, and the Soros fund. In addition, radio-reconnaissance aimed at the border and nearby states – Turkey, Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, etc – is being carried out from the new ambassadorial complex in Yerevan.
Here is what one expert wrote about the new American Embassy in Armenia: “In fact, America doesn’t have an embassy in Armenia in its classical definition, it has an intelligence center, a complex of specific facilities. From this intelligence center information that is of interest to the Americans is collected, processed, and transferred to the center of intelligence information on a large scale. There aren’t any special secrets in Armenia that America isn’t aware of, and it means that their intelligence center is sharpened against the whole region under diplomatic cover”.
Should one be surprised that the “velvet revolution” flared up in Armenia in the spring of 2018 in such an environment?
It should be noted that Iraq and Armenia aren’t exceptions. The “next generation” of US Embassies are being opened in other states too. Thus, in 2012 the US opened a new embassy building in Ukraine. The total area of the territory of this American Embassy totals 4.5 hectares, the area of the premises is 15,000 sq.m, and they are designed for more than 700 personnel. Today the American ambassadorial complex is the largest diplomatic mission in Kiev. One more example is the US Embassy in Macedonia, where the population is less than Armenia’s. In Macedonia the construction of a complex of the American Embassy across a territory of 6 hectares was recently completed; the roofed areas total 18,000 sq.m. It is only left to guess the kind of work that is being carried out by the Americans in these ambassadorial buildings.
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