“This is something we will be following closely,” Tracy told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in an interview. “USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) will be providing some technical assistance to the Central Election Commission as well as helping with voter information.”
“What we certainly hope to see is that Armenia is able in the conduct of its elections to meet or even exceed that very good, high bar that it set in 2018. And we think … that’s very achievable,” she said.
The elections expected in late June are meant to end a serious political crisis sparked by last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Opposition groups blame Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war, having tried to topple him with street protests. National security is therefore expected to be the main theme of the unfolding parliamentary race.
“What I think we will see in this election is an opportunity for candidates to talk about how they intend to help secure Armenia’s future,” said Tracy. “That’s what a free and fair election is all about.”
Both Pashinian and most of his political opponents stand for a further deepening of Armenia’s defense and security ties with Russia. The prime minister has indicated his desire to see more Russian troops deployed in the country and its southeastern Syunik province in particular.
Russia already dispatched soldiers and border guards to Syunik late last year in addition to 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to Karabakh.
Asked whether Washington regards increased Russian military presence as a threat to Armenia’s sovereignty, Tracy said: “We think that while obviously Russia is a partner for Armenia in certain spheres such as the military … it’s important that Armenia has options and choices, has diversity in its economy, energy spheres so that it can make the kinds of choices that are in the best interests of Armenians.”
“There is military security but there is also other kinds of security,” she said. “There is economic security. There is security in having strong, resilient institutions of governance that are deeply rooted in integrity … And so these are areas that the United States can contribute to.”
“I think it’s more concerning to see an overdependence on one particular partner. So we think that we have a role to play here and we would like to be able to continue working in these areas of good governance and economic growth,” added the envoy.
Citing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments made earlier this year, Tracy also said that the Biden administration plans on “reinvigorating” U.S. involvement in international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict.
“The fighting is stopped but what we see is that there are still some very critical issues to be addressed: the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the issues of displaced persons,” she said. “So there are a number of issues that still very much remain on the agenda for the United States and the other Minsk Group co-chairs (Russia and France), and we intend to stay engaged on those issues.”