South Caucasus – heartland of Asia, Europe and Eurasia, candidate for conflicts and center of geopolitical interests. After the collapse of the USSR, emerged new independent countries had to determine their new political course toward their neighbors and new partners. To survive from the geopolitical point of view and political triumph of the countries does not only depend on its geopolitical and geo-economical position in the region. The key factor is also strategic performance of political leader. In this context, Azerbaijani case is noteworthy.
Recent political developments in the region push Azerbaijan forward to determine multilateral strategy toward neighbors. Thus, recent political course of Azerbaijan is noteworthy. We can summarize multilateral diplomacy of Azerbaijan as following:
1. Azerbaijani – Armenian relationship: Mountainous-Karabakh issue
Historical chronic of the Azerbaijani – Armenian relationship is quite clear to majority. The point is, Azerbaijani policy toward Armenia strategically blocked Armenia both from the east (Turkey) and west (Azerbaijan). Because of hostile and destructive policy of Armenia, country still remains in economic blockade. Armenia managed to keep their relationship with only Iran, Georgia and Russia. Unbalanced and destructive foreign policy of Armenia keeps it away from regional cooperation with Azerbaijan and Turkey and bypasses it from energy projects. In this context, Azerbaijan can keep its pressure on Armenia bypassing it from regional (particularly energy) projects and transportation infrastructures. As Armenia deprived Azerbaijan to develop its regions which under the occupation of Armenia, as Azerbaijan can make retribution response in turn.
2. Azerbaijani – Iranian relationship: Israel factor
It is hard to evaluate recent development of this relationship in a positive way. After the speculative information issued in Foreign Policy magazine about the lease of the military unit of Azerbaijan by Israel to attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure, Azerbaijani-Iranian relationship suddenly spoiled. Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan refused these allegations. This kind of decision might jeopardize national security and foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Because, in case of war between Iran and Israel, and attack from the territory of Azerbaijan to Iran might cause followings:
– Damage to Azerbaijani-Iranian gas pipeline which goes through Iranian territory to Nakhchivan and it will cause gas shortage for Autonomic Republic.
– Military back response from Iran to Azerbaijan energy and civil infrastructures, consequently oil and gas cuts to Europe;
– Mass movement of population of Northern Iran (which majority are ethnic Azerbaijanis) to/through Azerbaijan to Russia.
– Iran’s support to Armenia in Mountainous-Karabakh issue;
However, Ministry of Defense repeatedly stated that, Azerbaijan will not allow any country to use its territory for foreign military operations and open any military base in its territory due to Military Doctrine of Azerbaijan (Article 29).
From the one hand, taking into consideration geography and tension between Turkey and Israel, it is impossible to fly to/from Azerbaijan through Turkish territory. Unless Israel will not solve his problem with Turkey it cannot use Turkish airline. From the other hand, besides Azerbaijan, Israel might have two additional options to attack Iran as well: First, through Syria and Iraq; Second, through Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
3. Azerbaijani – Israel relationship: Iranian factor
After the deterioration in Turkey-Israel relationship, Israel tries to keep its relationship with Azerbaijan balanced. Due to tensions in Azerbaijani-Iranian relationship, Azerbaijan also tries not to lose control of its foreign policy toward Iran because of Israel. Due to military cooperation with Israel, Iran blamed Azerbaijan for preparation of ground for Israel’s possible military attack against Iran. But, Azerbaijani Government stated that, this kind of military preparation intends to enhance military capacity of Azerbaijan against Armenia.
Apparently, development of Azerbaijani-Israel relationship is another gateway for USA to the region. As I mentioned above, penetration of Israel military forces of to Azerbaijan territory might cause serious incidents in terms of military and national security for Azerbaijan. There is such an Azerbaijani proverb: “They say to rabbit: RUN! Then, they say to greyhound: CATCH IT!”. But, original one sounds better.
4. Azerbaijani – Russian relationship: Gabala Radar Station (Daryal) factor
Frequently discussed issue is the Gabala Radar Station factor in Azerbaijani – Russian relationship. Lately, one can see numerous of news in media about the enhancement of annual lease fee (from 7 mln. USD to 300 mln. USD) for radar station by Azerbaijani Government. Recent visit of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov to Azerbaijan (under the flag of 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan) included itself the talks about radar station as well. Seems, Azerbaijani Government will not compromise to Russia in this issue. Because, radar facilities are the key equipments in the provision of Russian Military Security in the region against any military (missile, aircraft) attacks. In this regard, Gabala Radar Station might be used as an instrument of pressure on Moscow in Mountainous-Karabakh issue.
5. Azerbaijani – Turkish relationship: Energy factor
Energy! Notwithstanding it is an economic factor, it can occur as a political factor in both bilateral and multilateral relationships as well. As energy rich country Azerbaijan evaluates its energy resources through very well thought diplomacy. Since, Southern Gas Corridor could not come to force with the efforts of European Union, Azerbaijani Government signed Memorandum of Understanding with Turkey on the construction of Trans-Anatolia Gas Pipeline (TANAP). TANAP automatically turned NABUCCO to Nabucco-West concept and European hope for Southern Gas Corridor reduced from Turkish-Georgian border to Turkish-Bulgarian border. In this regard, there was not another way, to consider Nabucco-West as a continuation of TANAP. Taking into consideration these entire developments, one cannot exclude the enlargement policy of SOCAR toward Southern European Market.
Expert on Russia, Caucasus and Energy Studies
Strategic Outlook Research Organization
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