Rarely is a diplomat profiled in Vogue and Vanity Fair, whilst being audited for every action in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Such is true for Samantha Power, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during President Barack Obama’s second term who serves currently as U.S. President Joe Biden’s Administer of the United States Agency for International Development.
On Monday, at Biden’s personal request, Power stepped off a jet at the Zvartnots International Airport tarmac onto an Armenian rug, landing in Yerevan to meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan among other senior government officials.
In a letter from Biden to Pashinyan released today by Armenia’s Ambassador the U.S. Lilit Makunts, Biden writes, “...we are also mourning the recent loss of life of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. I have asked Samantha Power, a key member of my cabinet, to personally convey to you the strong support of the United States and my Administration for Armenia’s pursuit of a dignified and durable regional peace that maintains your sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and democracy.”
Samantha Power is known in international and domestic American hierarchy as a celebrity diplomat who enters scenes of conflict in their most sensitive moments to negotiate, though from the sympathetic side of the victim.
As recently as July, Power was traveling by night on trains from Kyiv to Odessa to meet with Ukraine’s First Lady, local government officials, and displaced civilians from Russia’s invasion.
“One of the things I’ve always believed in terms of anything you want to do in the world, you have to meet people where they are,” she told New York Times columnist Bret Stephens while there.
It appears her rhetoric remains consistent with Armenia, as she is the first diplomat in her position within American democracy to make a trip to the country. While sent at the behest of President Biden to show “strong support”, Power has been a proponent supporter of Armenia’s former biggest cause in the United States: recognizing the Armenian genocide.
In 2002, Power published her eventual Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. The book was hailed for the stark terms used to analyze how America policymakers and human rights advocates fail to stop genocides, and what must change to prevent further strategic massacres.
In it, she laments on the Armenian Genocide’s unraveling and Turkey’s brashness in leveraging everything to stop the recognition of the genocide, and in such, continue the cycle of violence in the region.
In 2004, Power was named to Time’s list of 100 most influential people for her work.
Flash forward to 2013. Power has been promoted in President Obama’s second term to be the ambassador to the U.N., becoming the youngest American to be appointed.
Amidst navigating the destruction of Syria and an Ebola crisis in Africa, Power had an anniversary that was prime for her to continue her crusade against genocides. In 2015, the 100 year memorial of the Armenian Genocide was dawning on April 24th.
Power was already a lead advocate in having Obama officially recognize the Armenian genocide, and her push to convince the president to use his historic remarks to say the words “genocide” only grew, even though Obama had promised in his initial 2008 campaign trail to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Power reflects in an interview with Call Your Girlfriend regarding Power’s memoir The Education of an Idealist that she had a difficult time getting the President and relevant officials to have a sit-down to discuss the complicated decision. American soldiers were being pulled out of Iraq, and the US was looking to Turkey as a growing military ally in the region.
“Little Armenia, a little country, couldn't really compete with all the gravity pulling us towards Turkey and what it wanted. And I was so frustrated because I couldn't figure out the mechanics of how to make the process work so at least President Obama would get to hear the counter-argument to that which he was being offered by some of his closest advisers.”
April 24, 2014 is upon us, and Power, who at the time is eight months pregnant, learns Obama is not recognizing the genocide.
“I'm at an event the day before our statement is about to come out not recognizing the Armenian genocide, so I know I've lost…that was just so painful, that we were going to give that beautiful speech on the eve of, then not recognizing the genocide as we had promised. So I'm wandering around and a security guard thinks I'm a threat because I didn't bring my badge or my ID.
…he's about to escort me out and the next thing I hear the voice behind me, the familiar voice saying ‘Hey, she's with me!’ And it was President Obama who had just stepped out of a kind of greenroom in order to use the restroom, and so I kind of confronted him. Instead of -- he's trying to ask ‘Oh, how's the president? How're you doing? How much more time?’ and sort of sizing me up. And I'm like ‘I'm really worried about the Armenians.’
And so we end up having this super tense, not at all friendly . . . he just wanted a conversation about baby names and I'm dragging him into the muck in part because what I was doing was no more noble from a process standpoint than what others had done which was I wanted to have the conversation just in a one-on-one channel. I wanted to win the argument.
So anyway either at that moment or within the next hour my water broke a month early so I ended up giving birth to my son Declan on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day almost as a monument to my failure to get that across the finish line.”
In 2017, after leaving her post upon Donald Trump’s presidency, Power released a public statement on Twitter apologizing for not succeeding in rectifying the Armenian Genocide during her time.
With a similar U.S. administration back in power, Power had her nomination for head of the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) confirmed in May of 2021, immediately jumping in to ensure foreign aid is administered to combat COVID-19.
During her meeting Monday in Yerevan with Armenia Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has faced a ravaging of protests calling for his resignation across both Armenia and the diaspora, Power iterated Biden’s letter, copy pasting a statement on Twitter that “the U.S. stands with Armenia and supports Armenia’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and democracy.”
Power, who was also joined by Yuri Kim, the former ambassador to Albania who in July assumed the role of Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, makes a poignant visit to Armenia while just a couple hundred miles away Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev are meeting in Azerbaijan’s enclave Nakhchivan.
Speculation and past actions assert both countries are planning an attack on sovereign Armenia, with ambitions to build more transports of trade through Armenia, but also existentially and territorially, to take over all of Armenia, which Aliyev and Azeri statement media consistently claims as “Western Azerbaijan.
After joint military exercises took place between the USA and Armenia earlier this month, a military intervention, which Power has been criticized for being a proponent of, still appears unlikely but perhaps more possible if Russia remains idle and an Azeri/Turkish military escalation is soon.
USA has failed to provide significant military aid to Armenia, but with western mainstream media outlets reporting on the mass exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of Azerbaijan’s military attacks, it is clear we are in unclear waters on an American stance to maintain democracy in the region.
Samantha Power left her meeting with Pashinyan and took a visit to Yerevan’s Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, commemorating the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks.