Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Caucasus Report

Azerbaijan Steps Up Cooperation With NATO

U.S. and Azerbaijani soldiers participate in a joint NATO military exercise outside Baku in April 2009.
U.S. and Azerbaijani soldiers participate in a joint NATO military exercise outside Baku in April 2009.
Just seven months after joining the Non-Aligned Movement, Azerbaijan is now revitalizing its engagement with the NATO alliance.

Does this apparent inconsistency reflect diverging priorities within the upper echelons of the country's leadership? Or are both moves part of a complex and far-reaching strategy focused on winning back control over Nagorno-Karabakh?

The "National Security Concept" approved by President Ilham Aliyev in 2007 affirms that "Integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic political, security, economic, and other institutions constitutes the strategic goal of the Azerbaijan Republic. The Azerbaijan Republic views its partnership with the Euro-Atlantic structures as a means for contributing to security, economic prosperity and democracy in the whole Euro-Atlantic area."

But the "National Military Doctrine" adopted by parliament in 2010 does not list such "integration" as a strategic goal, although it does affirm Azerbaijan's continued willingness to cooperate with NATO. 

Azerbaijan has successfully implemented two successive Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAP) with NATO, in 2005-07 and 2008-09. But already in 2008, opposition politicians and Baku-based military analysts were voicing concern that NATO membership was clearly not a priority for the country's leadership.

NATO's Parliamentary Assembly for its part highlighted areas in which Azerbaijan still failed to meet key criteria, such as strengthening parliamentary control over the armed forces and the country's questionable record on human rights.

Azerbaijan's third two-year IPAP, for the period 2012-13, was approved only last month. Armenia's was approved one month earlier. Within days, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry published a list of three NATO training courses in which Azerbaijani servicemen will participate during the first six months of 2012. There will also be a working meeting in Brussels next week, and talks in Baku with German defense specialists.

In late November, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov reportedly attributed the delay in finalizing Azerbaijan's third IPAP to objections by unnamed NATO member states. But Cesur Sumerinli, head of the Doktrina Center for Journalistic Military Analysis, said it was the result of Azerbaijan's failure to comply with some requirements of the second IPAP concerning civilian oversight over the armed forces and increasing civilian representation in the upper echelons of the Defense Ministry.

Some commentators construed Azerbaijan's accession to the Non-Aligned Movement as evidence that the country had turned its back on NATO. Military expert Uzeir Jafarov termed it "a blow to everything done to date to promote cooperation with NATO." 

Addressing the Bali meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement at which Azerbaijan was formally accepted as a member, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov explicitly noted that membership would give Azerbaijan "an additional platform" for promoting the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

If Baku regards the Non-Aligned Movement primarily as a forum for exerting diplomatic pressure on Armenia, then by the same token Azerbaijan's renewed cooperation with NATO is presumably intended to enhance the military's capability to make good on Aliyev's periodic warnings that if diplomacy fails, Azerbaijan will have no choice but to resort to force to bring Nagorno-Karabakh back under its control.

Tags: Nagorno-Karabakh

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Adil from: Washington DC
January 11, 2012 18:21
Liz Fuller once again ignores many facts and important aspects in her analysis. She never once mentioned the 2008 invasion of Georgia, and its effect on any security-related decision-making post-2008 in the Caucasus, but has been bending over backwards in speculating that Azerbaijan regards all of this as a platform to bring Armenia to account and liberate its occupied territories such as Karabakh from Armenian occupation (thus, apparently Ms. Fuller is soliciting criticism of Azerbaijan by the international community for violating the "spirit" of integration and cooperation - although never one mentioning the same motives for Armenia). Armenia's IPAP approval a month earlier is presented as something extraordinary and beneficial, while at the same time she fails to criticize Armenia for it not mentioning "integration" with NATO, West, U.S., EU in its military doctrine. All independent and U.S. military experts agree that Azerbaijan is far ahead in its NATO cooperation than Armenia, but Ms. Fuller's analysis ignores that.

by: Vahe Khachaturian from: USA
January 11, 2012 20:58
The title of the report does not reflect the body of the report. Please stop sensationalizing the news, that is, if you can call this article "news".
In Response

by: Thor Petterson from: Stockholm
January 12, 2012 16:47
Hey Vahe --
Yes it does! "Stepping Up Cooperation" with NATO is exactly what Baku is doing, with Azerbaijan agreeing to participate in three separate NATO training courses in six months (that's in the text, my friend). You'll just have to get over the fact that Yerevan is still in bed with the Russians militarily while Baku is starting to look West.

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
January 11, 2012 22:44
And we all thought the NATO boys would help the azeri facebookers for another `arab` spring by bombing the palaces and harems of the most corrupt khanate in history,but alas the demockratic west has sided with the gang of Ali Baba Ilham and his gang of now 41 thieves.Once again azeri money talks,and NATO walks.

by: John from: Canada
January 12, 2012 17:38
whoever wrote this report, have no clue what is happening in the region.

by: Thorsten B. Pfeifer from: London, UK
January 14, 2012 16:34
People know that Azerbaijan Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov is going behind his government's back, right? The article mentions NATO and the country's leadership, but the real concern is Sharifov's undermining of Azerbaijan's national security concept. Keep an eye on him!

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.