What is Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act of 1992?

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States of America has offered an enormous assistance program to the former Soviet Union republics to form new stable, democratic, and prosperous countries in this region. According to 2007 statistics, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the assistance programs implemented by the United States of America for 12 Former Soviet Union republics have cost more than $28 billion, and Washington continues to provide approximately $2 billion annually.[1]

The assistance programs, which go under the name FREEDOM Support Act (Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets Support Act-FSA), were adopted by the US Congress in October 1992 and were designed to help complete the transition to a democratic form of government and foster economic growth by facilitating the creation of democratic and market-based organizations in former Soviet Union countries. Although Washington argued that the essential aim of the program was political and economic reforms in the former Soviet Union countries, the high amount of FSA assistance also extended to humanitarian fields. It “helped reform antiquated health care systems, improve maternal and child health, and successfully treat tuberculosis… helps prevent the proliferation of WMD and related technology and expertise, and combats transnational threats such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and trafficking in persons.”[2]

According to this Act, the countries intended to receive aid were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.[3] However, all these countries were finally eligible to receive assistance from the USA under the FREEDOM Support Act, except Azerbaijan. Because of the tumultuous situation in the first two years of Azerbaijan’s independence, the Armenian lobby in America was able to push approval of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act through Congress in 1992, which banned direct aid by the USA government to Azerbaijan. As Svante Cornell explains, “the Armenian lobby in the U.S. Congress had already managed to hijack the FREEDOM Support Act…Armenian supporters, led by Senator John F. Kerry, had inserted text that prohibited U.S. government assistance to the Azerbaijani government because of its “aggression on Karabakh.”[4]

With the help of supporters in the USA Congress, the Armenian lobby was very influential in “convincing” members of Congress that Azerbaijan was an “aggressive country” and maintained a “blockade” on Armenia. However, it should be borne in mind that until that time, Armenia had managed to occupy not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also regions around it by using military force, thus creating a corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian Republic and expelling hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their historic lands. Regarding the approval of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, Cornell writes that “as bewildering as this legislation would appear only months later, when Armenia held the entire territory of Karabakh and had engaged in the ethnic cleansing of other Azerbaijani provinces.”[5] As a result of Section 907 of the FSA, the USA governmental aid to Azerbaijan was sharply restricted. The clause that banned the aid reads as follows:

United States assistance under this or any other Act (other than assistance under title V of this Act) may not be provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.[6]

Azerbaijan considered this amendment by the USA legislature primarily unfair. Azerbaijan, the victim of the conflict with one million refugees and internally displaced citizens, lost around 20 percent of its historical territories and was unjustly recognized as an aggressor country that “blockaded” Armenia. Therefore, after Section 907 of the FSA was approved, the Azerbaijani government worked hard to engage directly with the USA and to get Section 907 canceled. For a decade until the terrorist attack on US soil on September 11, 2001, this was challenging for Azerbaijan since fighting against the strong Armenian lobby in America and its supporters in the US Congress was difficult. However, the terrorist attack of September 2001 reshaped US foreign policy priorities. In the aftermath, when the US began its “war on international terror,” the importance of Azerbaijan increased since it allowed coalition forces to fly over its air space freely as part of their campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan.[7]

Regarding the Azerbaijani government’s reaction to the U.S. “war on terror,” Martha Brill Olcott mentions that “President Aliyev and his key advisors have hoped that the tragic events of September 11 would mark a new beginning for U.S. – Azerbaijani relations and that this would take the form of increased security cooperation.”[8] Consequently, in December 2001, the U.S. Congress lifted Section 907 of the 1992 FSA. It gave the President a broad waiver authority, which resulted in the decision by President George W. Bush to waive aid restrictions by the U.S. government on Azerbaijan in January 2002. According to U.S. officials, this act would improve cooperation between the USA and Azerbaijan in fighting terrorism and boost the negotiation process on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, a White House statement indicated that the goal was to “support U.S. efforts to counter international terrorism.”[9]

The wavier reads as follows:

Memorandum for the Secretary of State

Pursuant to the authority contained in Title II of the “Kenneth M. Ludden Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002” (Public Law 107-115), I hereby determine and certify that a waiver of section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-511):

  • Is necessary to support U.S. efforts to counter international terrorism;
  • Is necessary to support the operational readiness of U.S. Armed Forces or coalition partners to counter international terrorism;
  • Is important to Azerbaijan’s border security; and will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.

Accordingly, I hereby waive section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.

You are authorized and directed to notify the Congress of this determination and to arrange for its publication in the Federal Register.

Washington, January 25, 2002.[10]

The Armenian lobby, especially the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and its supporters in the U.S. Congress, reacted to the waiver of Section 907 of the FSA. Regarding this, the Armenian National Committee of America writes that

The waiver authority granted to the President undermines U.S. interests in the region by encouraging Azerbaijan to maintain its blockades and remain intransigent in the peace talks. The exercise of this waiver, in addition to representing a retreat from a principled stand against aggression and blockades, sends the dangerous signal to Azerbaijan that the U.S. will not respond decisively to renewed aggression against [Karabakh] or Armenia.[11]

It, therefore, strongly urged Congress to reassert its decision on canceling the waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act with Respect to Assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan. Despite the Armenian lobby’s significant efforts, the waiver is still in place and has played a crucial role in US-Azerbaijani relations and paved the way for a strong military and strategic cooperation.

[1] Tarnoff, Curt, “U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet Union,” CRS Report for Congress, March 1, 2007, p. 1.

[2] “FREEDOM Support Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-511)”. Retrieved from U.S. Foreign Assistance Reference Guide (Department of State Publication 11202, January 2005), p. 10.

[3] Dombrowski, Peter and Patricia, Davis, “Winding Down? International Assistance to the Former Soviet Union,” in Moses, Joel C., (ed.), Dilemmas of Transition in Post-Soviet Countries (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), p. 68.

[4] Cornell, Svante E., Azerbaijan Since Independence (M. E. Sharpe, 2011), p. 71.

[5] Cornell, Azerbaijan Since Independence, p. 71.

[6] “FREEDOM Support Act (P.L. 102–511): Sec. 907. Restriction on assistance to Azerbaijan,” Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2002 (Joint Committee Print, October 2003), Vol. I-B, p. 90.

[7] Murinson, Alexander, Turkey’s Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan: State Identity and Security in the Middle East and Caucasus (Routledge, 2009), p. 75.

[8] Brill Olcott, Martha, “U.S. Policy in the South Caucasus,” The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2002, p. 61.

[9] Blua, Antoine, “Azerbaijan: U.S. Lifts Restrictions On Aid,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 29, 2002; http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1098626.html. Accessed on December 2, 2022.

[10] “Waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act with Respect to Assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan,” Presidential Determination, No. 2002-06, January 25, 2002. Retrieved from Code of Federal Regulations: LSA, List of CFR Sections Affected (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2003), pp. 277-278.

[11] Moniquet, Claude and Racimora, William, The Armenian Job: The role of the Armenian lobby in the pattern of enmity in South Caucasus (European Strategic Intelligence & Security Center, 2013), pp. 25-26.