A growing number of Democrats in Congress are calling for the Trump administration to suspend military aid to Azerbaijan, as fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces continues in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Trump presided over a major increase in security aid to Azerbaijan. From 2016 to 2017, the Azeris received $3 million in aid from the US. From 2018 to 2019, the number increased to around $100 million. The US maintains its neutrality in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but it delivers a disproportionate amount of security assistance to the Azeri side. Armenia received $4.2 million in security aid from the US in 2018.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and ten other Senate Democrats called for the suspension of aid to Azerbaijan. The Democrats blamed Azerbaijan for instigating the fighting and criticized Turkey for supporting the Azeris.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, said he had been warning the administration for months over the possibility of a war breaking out in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing joint Azeri-Turkish military drills and the rhetoric coming from Baku.
Rep. Pallone also questioned the administration on the increase in military aid to Azerbaijan and warned it could be used against Armenia. “If you give them $100 million to pay for things, that’s $100 million extra for things that could be used against Armenia,” Pallone told Defense News. “The concern we had, that was justified, was that you had this money going toward military purposes at the very time we knew there was this [military buildup].”