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Azerbaijan Adopts Military Doctrine At Long Last

Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan's military doctrine refers to the 'separatist regime...on Azerbaijani territory' as a top threat.
Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan's military doctrine refers to the 'separatist regime...on Azerbaijani territory' as a top threat.
Azerbaijan's parliament on June 8 approved by a vote of 110 in favor, with two against and one abstention, the draft military doctrine that is intended to complement the National Security Doctrine ratified by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in May 2007.

The draft was first submitted to parliament three years ago, but ratification was repeatedly delayed, and it was apparently amended in the wake of the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008.

The doctrine lists the perceived main threats facing the Azerbaijan Republic; the military and strategic basis of national security; the main objectives of the armed forces both in war and in peacetime; and the prospects for further strengthening the country's military potential, presidential administration official Fuad Alesqerov told on June 4.

The first of those threats, according to Alesqerov, is the continued occupation by Armenian forces of Azerbaijani territory. In that context, the doctrine affirms that "any political, military, economic, or other support provided to the Republic of Armenia and to the separatist regime created with Armenia's support on Azerbaijani territory with the aim of [securing] official recognition of the results of occupation will be interpreted as an act directed against the Azerbaijan Republic."

Other threats enumerated by Alesqerov include possible foreign military interference in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs; claims by neighboring states on Azerbaijani territory; actions aimed at destabilizing the domestic political and economic situation, including support for separatist and extremist religious movements; and the infiltration of illegal armed groups and terrorists into Azerbaijan. "Azerbaijan jamaat" was among the militant groups listed as having sent a representative to a meeting on May 30 of subdivisions in Azerbaijan of the North Caucasus insurgency.

Alesqerov also mentions "violation of the regional military balance," or the deployment of troops close to Azerbaijan's state borders or territorial waters; participation of neighboring states in interstate conflicts (i.e. a replay of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war); and "the existence of domestic conflicts or armed riots," implying that the state reserves the right to use military force against its own citizens. Azerbaijani officials never miss an opportunity to condemn Armenia for having done precisely that in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election.

An article published in the September 26-October 2, 2007, edition of "Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurer" enumerates further threats that figured in the initial draft doctrine, including attacks on sites of military or economic importance (presumably meaning in the first instance oil and gas export pipelines and pumping stations); organized crime, terrorism, and smuggling; and information warfare.

The doctrine affirms that Azerbaijan has no intention of beginning military operations against any other state unless it becomes "the victim of aggression." It also rules out war as a means of pressure on the independence of other states, or as a means to resolve international conflicts.

The doctrine does not provide for the deployment on Azerbaijani soil of foreign military bases, except in circumstances envisaged by international treaties that Azerbaijan has ratified. Nor does it list as a strategic goal integration with Euro-Atlantic structures. That omission is hardly surprising in light of Azerbaijan's clear lack of interest, despite statements to the contrary, in joining NATO.

By contrast, the initial draft doctrine summarized by "Voyenno-Promyshlenny kurer" singled out as of specific significance military cooperation with Turkey, with NATO, and with fellow GUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova).

Zahid Orudj, who is a parliament deputy and deputy chairman of the pro-regime Ana Veten party, pointed out to Caucasus Knot that the final version of the doctrine does not name Turkey (or any other state) as an ally. That failure can possibly be attributed to Baku's profound anger at Turkey's initial moves last year towards rapprochement with Armenia.

As for GUAM, Georgia is presumably no longer considered a reliable strategic partner in the wake of the miscalculation that precipitated the August 2008 war. Since Viktor Yanukovych's election in January as president of Ukraine, Kyiv has abandoned its pro-Western foreign policy, and Moldova has opted for neutrality.

The final doctrine does, however, still affirm Azerbaijan's continued willingness to cooperate with NATO.

A working group was tasked with drafting the military doctrine in 2004, shortly after Ilham Aliyev's election as president. Why it has taken so long for the parliament, in which the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party holds the overwhelming majority of the 120 mandates, to vote on it is not clear. Parliament First Deputy Speaker Ziyafet Askerov was quoted by on December 23, 2006, as saying the doctrine would be approved during the spring 2007 parliament session. It was not.

When he signed the National Security Concept in May 2007, President Aliyev gave the government three months in which to complete the Military Doctrine and present it to parliament, according to on February 15, 2008.

The draft doctrine was submitted to NATO for feedback, and on October 17, 2007, Askerov told the same news agency it "is already ready" and would be voted on during the fall parliament session. But the vote did not take place.

On February 5, 2008, Askerov told that the parliament had received the draft doctrine and would vote on it during the spring session. But in early July, he told fellow parliamentarians that it had not been endorsed due to the changing geo-political situation, according to on July 15, 2008. He added that the doctrine would, nonetheless, be adopted during the fall parliament session.

In February 2009, Lieutenant-General Vahid Aliyev, who is Aliyev's military advisor, told Azerbaijan Press Agency that the doctrine "might" be submitted to parliament for debate during the spring session. That statement suggests that the initial draft may have been withdrawn and revised following the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Four months later, on June 18, 2009, the online daily quoted a NATO liaison officer as saying that the military doctrine "is almost ready" and could be submitted to parliament for discussion during the fall session.

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.


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