Millennium Challenge Funding in Armenia



Abstract: The Millennium Challenge Corporation is likely to achieve its proclaimed goal of reducing rural poverty in Armenia, but it will do this by accelerating economic and demographic trends already in process, notably the concentration of ownership in agricultural land and further displacement of the rural population. Funding through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, moreover, has provided the U.S. State Department with additional leverage to push the Republic of Armenia into one-sided foreign policy commitments that have compromised Armenia’s relationship with some of its most helpful neighbors and endangered the lives of thousands of Armenians in the Middle East. Notable among these commitments was the deployment of an Armenian contingent to Iraq as part of the Bush administration’s Coalition of the Willing. These developments reveal something about the limits of national sovereignty among the so-called Newly Independent States, and they cast additional doubt on recent claims to the effect that imperialism has given way to a new form of sovereignty that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have dubbed “Empire.”



The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is the largest NGO funding program active in Armenia today.1 Its advertised mission is “reducing poverty through growth,” but closer inspection reveals that its reach in Armenia extends beyond economics, narrowly defined. This paper examines the likely demographic fallout of MCC funding in Armenia, and then describes an instance of the diplomatic dependency that MCC funding has helped foster. The final section presents a broader lesson, suggesting that this sort of “bilateral cooperation” clashes with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s influential picture of a new global order that they describe as Empire. The MCC appears to be an instrument and an effect of twenty-first century imperialism in the “classical” Marxist sense of the word.

First, though, a few words by way of background information about MCC funding in Armenia.

Reducing Rural Poverty by Reducing the Rural Population :

On February 27, 2006, representatives of the Republic of Armenia in Washington D.C. signed a multi-million dollar compact with the MCC, securing funding that will total some $235.64 million.2 The compact officially entered into force on September 29, 2006, and funding was to be spent over the course of the next five years. The stated aim was to reduce rural poverty through a sustainable increase in the economic performance of the agricultural sector. If things proceed according to plan, this will happen thanks to a five-year program of strategic investments in rural roads, irrigation infrastructure and technical and financial assistance to improve the supply of water and to support farmers and agribusinesses.

The government of Armenia established a state agency, the Millennium Challenge Account-Armenia (MCA), to oversee and implement the compact. MCA program requirements provide for an elected fifteen-member Stakeholder’s Committee dedicated to transparency and publicizing of the program, as well as other provisions for monitoring and evaluation.3 According to the MCA, “The program will directly impact approximately 750,000 people, or an estimated 75 percent of the rural population, and is expected to reduce the rural poverty rate and boost annual incomes.”4 As we will see, however, the program will likely impact more people indirectly, in several ways—unfortunately for most of them.

The contribution of agricultural production to Armenia’s GDP has increased in recent years, after having decreased for decades during the Soviet period. In the course of the Soviet years, Armenia transformed itself from a largely agricultural country to one of the most highly industrialized republics of the USSR. Armenia exported industrial, military, and high technology goods, mainly to the other Soviet republics, and in turn relied heavily on those other republics for key inputs. By the 1970 ’s and 1980 ’s, Armenia imported much of its agricultural produce. During these same years, non-agricultural industry employed half a million workers in a republic with 3.5 to 3.8 million inhabitants, accounting for more than two-thirds of Armenia’s net material product.5

The 1970’s and 1980’s, however, were decades of declining productivity in Armenia and throughout the Soviet Union. On top of that, the December 1988 earthquake in northern Armenia devastated the country, even as strikes and upheaval related to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh further disrupted production and internal markets. With the final collapse of the Soviet order, industry in Armenia also collapsed—GDP fell by 37.5 percent between 1990 and 1992 6-- and agriculture assumed a much more prominent role in the GDP.7Armand Sarian, an economic advisor to the Levon Ter-Petrosyan government from 1993 to 1996, reports that, mainly thanks to the rapid privatization of land by the country’s post-Soviet leaders, the contribution of the industrial sector to Armenia’s GDP dropped from 60.21 percent in 1980 to 48.20 percent of the national income in 1994.8 In five years, from 1990 to 1994, Armenia changed from a country where growth was driven by nonagricultural industry to a country dependent on agriculture.

In the first years of the post-Soviet era, agriculture accounted for 44 percent of employment in the Armenia; nevertheless, agricultural productivity has been “very low” because farmers have lacked economies of scale, farm equipment, fertilizers, and irrigation systems.8 It is not surprising, then, that poverty has overtaken rural Armenia, and that e conomists have blamed persisting rural poverty for the ever-wider gap between rich and poor in the country.9 Faced with these realities, commentators in the diaspora joined Ter-Petrosyan’s successors in the Robert Kocharyan government in welcoming MCC support, with the advertised aim of assisting the rural poor.

Advertised aims, however, are not always the same as foreseeable results. In the case at hand, envisioned improvements to roads and irrigation systems have increased the value of the land, including land that the big landowners have long since snatched up at or below market prices. Thus, capital improvements courtesy of the MCC have increased available capital in the form of equity for the large landowners, putting the land barons in an even better position to buy out more small farms from their desperately impoverished owners.10

It is not surprising, therefore, that MCC funding appears to be accelerating the process of concentration of ownership in agricultural land , driving small farmers out of business and aggravating the exodus from the countryside.11 These trends will further increase the already-vast gap between the rich and the poor in Armenia.12

Under the circumstances—notably, high unemployment and underemployment in Yerevan--out-migration from the countryside has resulted in emigration from the Republic of Armenia itself. In a replay of a scenario familiar in so many other countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, tens of thousands of impoverished, internally displaced persons from the towns and the countryside have flooded into the capital city or have left the country altogether, seeking employment of any kind. With few job prospects in Yerevan, many Armenians from the towns and the countryside have sought their fortunes in Krasnodar, Moscow, and farther afield. Largely as a result of this, Armenia has registered a net loss of around 30% of its population since the end of the Soviet period.13 As we have seen, there is good reason to believe that the MCC will exacerbate this demographic trend.


Policy Repercussions:

It is perhaps easy to forget that only twenty years ago Armenia was not an international beggar. During the first sixteen years of the Soviet period, Yerevan’s population increased six-fold, as a dusty town of perhaps 30,000 inhabitants and thousands of starving refugees transformed itself into Alexander Tama ni an’s city of fountains, boulevards and parks. Sixteen years after the restoration of capitalism in Armenia, by contrast, the country’s proudest achievement is a beggar’s cup filled by a distant “altruistic hegemon.” Cold Warriors who used to denounce Armenia’s economic reliance on inputs from other Soviet Republics now celebrate the country’s integration into an interdependent global market.14 But none other than Jagdish Bhagwati, one of the most articulate cheerleaders for economic globalization, has reminded us that:

interdependence is a normatively attractive, soothing word, but when nations are unequal, it also leads to dependence and hence to possibilities of perverse policy interventions and aggressively imposed coordination of policies with outcomes that harm the social good and the welfare of the dependent nations while advancing the interest of the powerful nations.15

“So when I read about interdependence,” Bhagwati continues, “a red light goes on inside my head that flashes dependence.” Again, this is from a man who is an intellectual battering ram for “globalization.”16

As it turns out, Millennium Challenge funding might well have contributed to one of Bhagwati’s “perverse policy interventions,” notably Armenia’s enrollment in President George W. Bush’s Coalition of the Willing. In a closed-door meeting on the evening of December 24, 2004, Armenia’s National Assembly green-lighted the deployment to Iraq of somewhere around fifty volunteer soldiers. The decision took place in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, after the Kocharyan Administration applied much pressure to the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court.17 Less than one year later, the MCC Board of Directors selected Armenia as one of seventeen beneficiary states eligible for funding.

There is evidence that the prospect of Millennium Challenge funding has played a role in the decision of governments to join the Coalition of the Willing.18 Among the seventeen recipients of MCC largesse , five of them—Armenia, Georgia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mongolia-- were or had been members of the Coalition by 2005, when the MCC Board of Directors selected them as eligible for funding under the Millennium Challenge Account.19 Among the MCC beneficiaries, the Republic of Georgia has contributed the largest number of troops to the Coalition by far—some 2000 troops as of late 2007.20

A former U.S. ambassador to one of the Gulf States explicitly made the connection between U.S. “foreign aid” and Armenia’s membership in the Coalition of the Willing. In late 2004, this former ambassador warned: “If Armenia is to receive all sorts of benefits from USG [the U.S. government] from political to economic, military/strategic assistance, it had better side with the USG foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East.”21 MCC funding might well have counted as one of the economic benefits of compliance.

In addition to the carrot, of course, the Bush Administration also had a stick, namely the threat to Armenian diplomacy posed by Azerbaijan’s larger and more visible participation in the Coalition.22 Baku’s ostentatious participation in George W. Bush’s War against Terrorism, and the early deployment of Azerbaijani troops to Iraq were obvious gestures intended to curry favor with “the sole remaining superpower” vis-à-vis terms of the eventual settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh. Armenia’s subsequent deployment has all the hallmarks of a tit-for-tat maneuver intended to neutralize the Azeri initiative. 23

Azerbaijan and Georgia, however, had considerably less to lose by participating in the deployment than did Armenia. For one thing, there are no sizeable Azeri or Georgian populations in Iraq, while at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Armenian community of Iraq counted some 25,000 members. In addition, Armenia ’s contribution to the occupation of Iraq has compromised its relations with Russia, Iran, the democracies of Donald Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe,” and close regional allies, notably Syria. Moreover, Armenia has very real diplomatic concerns in relation to its Muslim neighbors and the future status of Nagorno-Karabagh. Armenian participation in the extremely unpopular occupation of Iraq has highlighted the Clash of Civilizations tableaus of neocons in Washington DC and some Islamists who wish to present Nagorno-Karabagh as just another flashpoint of Crusader aggression.24

It is a matter of speculation whether or not Armenia would have received MCC funding even if it had refused to join the Coalition of the Willing. What is less a matter of speculation, however, is that the very same U.S. State Department that administers the MCC benefited from Yerevan’s contribution to the occupation of Iraq. In light of the fact that the decision to deploy Armenian troops to Iraq took place behind closed doors and in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, it is interesting to review how the MCC describes its selection criteria:

The MCC Board selects countries to be eligible for MCC program assistance based on their demonstrated commitment to policies that promote political and economic freedom, investments in education and health, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.25

It would seem, then, that the very same U.S. administration that claims to select recipients of MCC funding on the basis of transparency and respect for democratic procedures has used that funding to push and pull leaders of Armenia into the Coalition of the Willing, in defiance of those very same principles. Armenians who point with pride to their country’s MCC recipient status appear to have missed the irony.

On October 7, 2008, the Republic of Armenia officially ended its mission in Iraq, as part of the Polish-led “multi-national” division. After nearly four years of helping to provide international cover for the U.S. occupation of Iraq—four years in which the Armenian community in that country has been decimated—the fifty or so soldiers from Armenia left Diwaniyah province in the control of local pro-Iranian factions.


Empire or Imperialism?

In their famous book published a year before the 9/11 attack, Richard Hardt and Antonio Negri claimed that the era of imperialism is “over,”26 superseded by an era of Empire, conceived as “ a universal republic, a network of powers and counterpowers structured in a boundless and inclusive architecture.”27 According to the authors, t he sovereignty of nation states has declined across the board, both in the case of the former imperialist-dominated countries and in the case of the former imperialist states. To the extent that rivalries among erstwhile imperialist states still exist, these rivalries are the fading residue of a bygone age. But sovereignty as such has not diminished; rather, it has taken a new form composed of a series of national and supranational institutions and practices united under the new global regime that Hardt and Negri call Empire.28

Without launching into a review of Hardt and Negri’s book,29 I would like to tease out a lesson from the preceding discussion. For our purposes, there are two points to emphasize here:

(1) As we have seen in the first section above, the MCC exercises great influence over an important part of Armenia’s domestic economic policy. According to the MCA, this influence will directly affect about one-quarter of the population of the country, and if the present discussion is on the mark, it is also likely to accelerate sweeping demographic trends already underway. Although the MCC is a tax-financed corporation within the U.S. State Department, it accomplishes the same function as the international financial institutions (IFI’s). Like those two paradigmatic IFI’s, the IMF and the World Bank (and like that third member of the multilateral triumvirate, the U.S. Treasury Department), the MCC is an instrument for controlling resources and markets, promoting capital accumulation, and otherwise advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Armenia is land-locked, it is a former Soviet Republic, and it is located in Russia’s “near-abroad.”30 Thus, presumably, it is not as deep in Uncle Sam’s pocket as fellow Coalition Partners such as Rwanda, El Salvador, or Palau.31 And yet, as we have seen, Armenia’s rulers have been incapable of regulating “their own” domestic economic and cultural exchanges, let alone conducting an independent foreign policy. Armenia’s membership in the Coalition of the Willing is at once an effect, a partial cause, and an instance of this declining sovereignty.32 In this respect, Armenia is typical of dozens of other countries under “imperial” or imperialist tutelage.

It may sound strange to some ears that Armenia, having just emerged from its Cold War status as a “captive nation,” should now exemplify Hardt and Negri’s “declining sovereignty of nation states.” True, there are occasional discrepancies between the announced policies, domestic or foreign, of Yerevan and Washington D.C.—votes and abstentions at the U.N., and so forth. But these discrepancies can almost always be ascribed to Armenia’s proximity to Russia (or perhaps to a lesser extent, Iran). So despite Armenia’s unique situation—or perhaps because of this--it takes much special effort to try to fit Armenia into Hardt and Negri’s picture of “the global constitution,” and at the end of the day, it is an unrewarded effort.

(2) Hardt and Negri wrote that "the American world policeman acts in the interests of the Empire and not in the interests of imperialism.”33 But is U.S. foreign policy imperial in Hardt and Negri’s sense of the word, or imperialist? Are Hardt and Negri correct in claiming that the United States has lost sovereignty to Empire even as countries like Armenia have lost state sovereignty?

Without pretending to provide a conclusive answer to this crucial question, the case of MCC funding in Armenia provides insights. As we have seen, it is more than likely that the George W. Bush administration used Millennium Challenge funding as one among many carrots in a large bag of carrots and sticks, to expand what the Institute for Policy Studies in February 2003 dubbed “the coalition of the coerced, the cowed and the co-opted.”34 Expansion of the Coalition, presumably, would contribute to the success (however that word has been defined, redefined, and left undefined) of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But Operation Iraqi Freedom--a massive, open-ended, trillion- dollar strategic commitment--bears little resemblance to an imperial undertaking on behalf of a universal global republic. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have taken place against the bitter protestations of leaders in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and other world capitals; against the objections of the U.N. Security Council (let alone the General Assembly), and against desperate pleas from Washington’s regional clients in Riyadh, Cairo, Ankara, Amman, and elsewhere. F unded by U.S. taxpayers and manned ten-to-one by U.S. military personnel, Operation Iraqi Freedom appears, both at first blush and upon persistent inspection, to be a clear case of yet another imperialist war on behalf not of a “universal republic,” but of America’s imperialist ruling class.35

Hardt and Negri’s book is enormously suggestive and it is worth serious consideration. In its major contention, though, there is much evidence that the authors are off the mark: unfortunately for most Armenians and for billions of fellow earthlings, too, imperialism is not at all “over.” The case of the MCC in Armenia underscores the continuity of imperialism—of the state power of the United States of America projected beyond its borders--rather than Hardt and Negri’s picture of a universal republic “structured in a boundless and inclusive architecture.”



1.) The Millenium Challenge Corporation, founded in 2002, is a federal corporation managed by a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the U.S. President, confirmed by the Senate and overseen by a Board of Directors composed of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Administrator of USAID, the CEO of the MCC and four public members, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The U.S. Secretary of State is the Chair of the Board of the MCC and the U.S. Secretary of Treasury is the Vice Chair. According to the homepage statement on the MCC website (http:// , the corporation handles development assistance “provided to those countries that rule justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom.” In 2005, the MCC Board of Directors selected seventeen out of sixty-four beneficiary states as eligible for funding under the Millennium Challenge Account. These countries were : Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu.

2.) This includes $67.10 million earmarked for rural road rehabilitation; $113.25 million earmarked for “infrastructure activity” (largely having to do with irrigation); $32.42 million for water-to-market projects; and $22.87 million for monitoring, evaluation, and program administration.

3.) More information is available at the MCA’s official website:

4.) MCC-Armenia, “Agreement Signed between MCA-Armenia and the Water Sector Development and Institutional Improvement PIU State Institution,” news article dated February 23, 2007. (accessed May 2007).

5.) USAID/Armenia Planning Document, “Strategy for 2004-2008,” released March 19, 2004. (accessed February 12, 2008), p. 17. The CIA World Factbook’s 2005 estimate put the total labor force at 1.2 million.

6.) Sarian, p. 196.

7.) Ibid. p. 196-7.

8.) Ibid. p. 198-9.

9.) For example, David A. Grigorian, an economist at the IMF, registered “ Armenia’s markedly improved macroeconomic situation” in the late 1990’s, but also noted that “the challenge of income distribution stemmed from the persistent steady rural poverty in Armenia.” (Anahid Ugurlayan and Alec Gevorkyan, “Grigorian Discusses Economy with New York Armenians,” The Armenian Weekly (June 4, 2005), p. 6.) This conclusion is not uncommon in the literature. (See, for example: Khanjian.)

10.) Alec Yenikomshian, a trained economist with years of experience with charitable work in Yerevan, outlined this scenario in a telephone discussion with the author on April 4, 2006. Revelations since then have confirmed the scenario. In a representative passage from an April 2007 report by investigative journalist Edik Baghdasaryan, for example, we read:

A considerable portion of the land in the provincial region of Armavir has been bought by officials and oligarchs. The Millennium Challenge program implementation in this region is set to become a means for the fulfillment of their needs. (Edik Baghdasaryan, “Land Grabbed from Villagers,” news article dated April 9, 2007., an online source for the Independent Investigative Journalists of Armenia (accessed April 12, 2007).)

11.) These were my tentative conclusions in a paper I presented at the Armenians and the Left Conference at the CUNY Graduate Center on April 8, 2006. In that paper I noted that freer trade with Turkey and the impending value-added tax on farm produce are likely to further accelerate this process. (For a longer version of the paper, see Melkonian.) Co-authors Minasyan and Mkrtchyan, employees of the IMF and the UNDP respectively, have drawn a similar connection between privatized agriculture and persisting rural poverty in Armenia:

The increasing role of commercial firms in production of agricultural products may have driven some rural households out of business, thus becoming a factor behind declining farm incomes of rural households in the context of the continuous real growth in agriculture. Commercialization of agriculture is believed to increase the inequality of farm income distribution as households engaged in farming can be put out of business by commercial firms. (Minasyan and Mkrtchyan, p. 8.)

12.) This gap is persisting and well documented in the case of Armenia as elsewhere. (See, for example: Khanjian.) Although living standards have plummeted for most citizens of Armenia, recent years have seen economic growth. Economic growth, however, does not automatically translate into poverty reduction. In the case at hand, Armenia ’s economic growth expressed in per capita GDP went from $350 to more than $800 on average between 1995 and 2003. This was one of strongest growth trends in the CIS during that period. And yet, as Sarian notes:

The rise of social inequality and unequal distribution of income is one of the general characteristics of post-Soviet economies. In the case of Armenia, this proves that a healthy set of macroeconomic indicators in the context of strong economic growth can be compatible with high levels of poverty and a low level of redistribution and circulation of economic resources. (Sarian, p. 216 )

This observation alone should cast doubt on the MCC’s proclaimed mission of reducing poverty through growth.

13.) Refer, for example, to the discussion and the bibliography of primary sources in Markar Melkonian, “The Karabagh Movement: A Balance Sheet,” in Chorbajian, ed., pp. 178-201.

14.) “Economic interdependence,” of course, has become a catchphrase. See, for example: “Statement by Dziunik Aghajanian, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Armenia to the Chairwoman, UNGA 61/Second Committee,”, (accessed June 28, 2007); The Armenia-Diaspora Conference, “Statement by the Armenia-Diaspora Conference,” September 1999, (accessed June 28, 2007), and many similar documents from a variety of forums. For a discussion of Henry Kissinger’s use of the word interdependence, see Boron, pp. 50-51.

15.) Bhagwati 2004, p. 227.

16.) In his influential book In Defense of Globalization, Bhagwati discusses various challenges for which, he says, economic globalization provides solutions. These include: poverty, child labor, women’s rights, democracy, cultural imperialism, wages and labor standards, and environmental degradation. It is instructive to note that in the case of Armenia the last sixteen years of capitalism has brought blight on every one of these topics, with the possible exception of democracy, in the limited sense of periodic multi-party elections (but in view of recent allegations by election monitors, even this exception is only partial at best). (See: Markar Melkonian, “The Karabagh Movement: A Balance Sheet,” in Chorbajian, pp. 178-201. For a discussion of persisting poverty in Armenia, see: Khanjian.)

17.) For details about this affair, visit: Follow the “ Armenia and the Coalition of the Willing” links.

18.) Incentives for Coalition membership have been extensively documented, as have many instances of “disincentives” that U.S. agencies have meted out to recalcitrant governments that put domestic popular opinion above Washington’s demands. In Greece, for example, a poll conducted in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom indicated overwhelming popular opposition to the U.S. invasion. When the Costas Simitis administration in Athens refused to join the Coalition, the Bush Administration abandoned its former neutrality in the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over recognizing the latter under its constitutional name, The Republic of Macedonia. In view of the timing of the Bush Administration’s decision and the rhetoric surrounding it, there would appear to be a causal connection between recalcitrance in Athens and Washington’s support of Macedonian nationalism.

19.) Pro-Washington incumbent leaders of Nicaragua and Honduras quietly pulled their boots off the ground in Iraq in February and May 2004 respectively, ahead of presidential elections in both countries. These incumbents were facing criticism from the opposition for having committed troops to an enormously unpopular war.

20.) See, for example: U.S.-Iraq Pro-Con. (accessed February 9, 2008).

21.) This former ambassador signed his open letter “Ambassador J.G.” Out of deference to him, the veil of anonymity--however diaphanous--will not be lifted here. The former ambassador claimed to have returned from an eighteen-month stint as an advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The passage quoted is from his open letter to Vartan Oskanian, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia, dated November 4, 2004 (reprinted at:

22.) The now-infamous list of forty-nine member countries of the Coalition posted on the White House web site in early 2003 included Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, but not Armenia . (The White House, “Coalition Members,” March 27, 2003. (accessed June 10 , 2007.) Since then, the list of Coalition members has varied.

23.) If this account is accurate, it would not be the only instance of such a maneuver by Coalition members. T wo other Coalition Partners, Ethiopia and Eritrea, have been locked in a territorial dispute, and it seems likely that both sides feared that by refusing to join the Coalition they would incur the displeasure of the sole superpower, putting them at a diplomatic or military disadvantage.

24.) Referring to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh, sociologist Hratch Tchilingirian writes: “In other parts of the world Islamic movements amplified the ‘religious dimension’ of the conflict and presented it as yet another ‘conspiracy’ against Islam.” (Hratch Tchilingirian, “Religious Discourse on the Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh,” in Religion in Eastern Europe., accessed February 18, 2008.) This view of the conflict is not limited to Islamic extremists. Foreign ministers of member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, for example, concluded a three-day meeting in Baku on June 21, 2006 with the adoption of a declaration that included a condemnation of Armenian "aggression" against Azerbaijan and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabagh and surrounding areas.

25.) MCC, (accessed May 30, 2007).

26.) Hardt and Negri, pp. xiii-xiv.

27.) Hardt and Negri, p. 166. “Classical” Marxist discussions of imperialism include Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), as well as Rudolph Hilferding’s book, Finance Capital (1910), Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913), and Nikolai Bukharin’s Imperialism and World Economy (1915). Subsequent discussions include the works of Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, Harry Madgoff, Maurice Dobb, Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein, André Gunder Frank, Eric Hobsbawm, James O’Connor, Samir Amin, and many others.

28.) Hardt and Negri, pp. xi-xii.

29.) Hardt and Negri’s book has been widely reviewed. For a perceptive critical review, see Boron. In opposition to Hardt and Negri’s thesis, Boron argues that an imperialist state, the USA, is the dominant transnational power at the turn of the twenty-first century.

30.) In the mid-nineties, during Boris Yeltsin’s tenure, a high-ranking official in one of the “power ministries” in Yerevan offered a different take on Armenia’s sovereignty. During the Soviet period, he said, Yerevan took its orders from Moscow. But now Armenia is “free ”; now Yerevan takes its orders from Moscow--but Moscow takes its orders from Washington D.C . (Personal communication with the author, June 1993.)

31.) A country’s geography, of course, does not determine its foreign policy priorities—not even in the Southern Caucasus. As a reviewer of this paper has noted, the Republic of Georgia is closer to Russia than Armenia and more important to it, and yet it appears at present to be deep in the pocket of the USA.

32.) One might describe this as declining sovereignty, or if one wishes, one might adopt the Orwellian formulation of the authors of “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” released on September 2002: in the case of Coalition Partners like the Republic of Armenia, it seems the George W. Bush administration has succeeded in “convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities.” (Quoted in Khalidi, p. 3.)

33.) Hardt and Negri, p. x.

34.) Quoted in Khalidi, p. 2.

35.) At the risk of kicking a well-kicked dead horse, let us remind ourselves that “Empire” does not appear at all to be "dedicated to peace" as Hardt and Negri have claimed. (Hardt and Negri, p. xv.) Operation Iraqi Freedom should be sufficient evidence of that. Here we have one of those “hard retorts of history” (las duras réplicas de la historia), to which Boron refers, quoting a phrase from Norberto Bobbio. (Boron, p. 9.)



Bhagwati, Jagdish. In Defense of Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Boron, Atilio A. Imperio y imperialismo: una lectura crítica de Michael Hardt y Antonio Negri (quinta edición). Buenos Aires: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales-CLASCO, 2004.

Chorbajian, Levon, ed. The Making of Nagorno-Karabagh: From Secession to Republic . Basingstoke, U.K./ New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio. Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Khalidi, Rashid. Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

Khanjian, Ara. “Government Pro-Poor Economic Policies and Poverty Reduction in Armenia,” paper presented to the UCLA Conference on Armenia in Honor of Professor Armen Alchian (May 6, 2006). Unpublished manuscript.

Melkonian, Markar. “Reducing Rural Poverty in Armenia by Reducing the Rural Population of Armenia,” posted Spring 2006,

Minasyan, Gohar and Mkrtchyan, Aghassi. “Factors behind Persistent Rural Poverty in Armenia,” unpublished manuscript prepared for the Third International AIPRG Conference on Armenia. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, January 15 to 16, 2005.

Sarian, Armand. “Economic Challenges Faced by the New Armenian State,” in Demokratizatsiya , Vol. 14, Issue 2 (Spring 2006), pp. 193-221.

Vardanyan, Manuk and Grigoryan, Vahagn. “Land Consolidation in Armenia: Progress Made,”, accessed May 27, 2007.


[Home] [More Information]