By Pamela Steiner
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
In April 2021, President Biden became the second US president to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. In this context, President Biden’s recent nomination of former US Senator Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey raises difficult questions. Flake is certainly able, thoughtful, and a Republican who did not support Trump and did support Biden’s presidential candidacy. But why nominate him for the position in Turkey when, as a member of the House and Senate, he repeatedly voted against Armenian Genocide resolutions?
Although I do not know the answer, I offer some possible reasons why Flake voted as he did on the resolutions. One is that it was to conform with the position of some members of his party. Another possibility is that he had accepted meaningful financial support for his congressional campaigns from the substantial Turkish lobby and felt he owed them. Another is that he did not believe there was a genocide.
Whatever the actual reason(s), would Flake, as ambassador, be convincingly able to help restore trust in the United States as supportive of human rights? Does Flake’s nomination, which is of course political, suggest that Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide had political strings attached? That seems very unlikely, since it’s on the Congressional record that Biden has supported Armenian Genocide recognition since 1990 (Arm. Mir-Spec., 6/24/21).
What seems more likely is that in Biden’s mind, his 2021 recognition settled the U.S. stance on the reality of the Genocide, freeing him to choose someone able to oversee the US’s other important concerns, interests, and complex relations with Turkey. If so, the issue of his anti-Genocide recognition vote will nonetheless be raised. Of the greatest importance and perhaps even more unknown is how the U.S. will deal with possible further threats and aggressive actions to Armenia and Karabakh by the Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance.