Author: Corneliu PIVARIU Due to the recent decision of the Pentagon to develop military cooperation with [...]" />

Editorial to Geostrategic Pulse 106 - Azerbaijan to become NATO member?

Azerbaijan to become NATO member?
Author: Corneliu PIVARIU

Due to the recent decision of the Pentagon to develop military cooperation with Azerbaijan by offering a 10 million dollar military support for the improvement of the Azeri military marine performances in the fight against terrorism, there are voices in Baku that support the interest of both parts in developing bilateral military cooperation till the level of Azerbaijan’s membership to the North Atlantic Alliance. In fact, there are estimates that this is likely to happen on medium term.

From among the arguments in favor to Azerbaijan becoming a NATO member we consider: the current situation in the Middle East and especially in Syria, as after finding a solution the USA is going to direct its focus on Iran and then to other former Soviet states. In the event of a conflict with Iran, Azerbaijan is thought to remain neutral and then to join the USA, one way or another. At the same time, USA is thought to aim a reduced Armenian dependency to Russia, as well as a significant change in the relations between Armenia and Iran. The Azeri opinion is that such change cannot happen unless the regime in Yerevan changes. Such change would create favorable conditions for the settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, used by Russia to control both Armenia and Azerbaijan until now.

As for Russia, the above-mentioned significant loss of influence in the Caucasus all start from the Russian economic and military resources’ capacity, as there are pressures coming from the USA and its NATO allies which will not allow the Kremlin to maintain its influence in Armenia.

We believe this “pro-NATO” analysis in Azerbaijan is incomplete, for it does not consider all the elements that can favor or delay the country’s membership to NATO, for several facts or situations are only presented from a very subjective point of view. If we speak of the purely military aspect, although the political one is of leading importance, we believe that the Azeri army still has a very long way to go until it gets to be compatible with NATO. In this respect, for the potential “medium term” perspective of becoming a NATO member, decisive signals and actions should have been started already. The immense majority of the Azeri military expenditures have been directed in order to purchase Russian-origin military equipment.

The political component is far more complicated, if we consider the measure taken by the leaders in Baku on 25 May this year. They signed in for the non-alignment movement (NAM) created in 1955 in order to fight against the world “domination” by the “great powers” and colonialism of any type. From among the former Soviet states, Belarus and Uzbekistan are also part of this movement. Being a NAM member implies that any “bilateral military agreement with a great power” should not be “signed deliberately in the context of the conflict between the great powers”. As there are no clear official stipulations on this matter, different assessments have been made referring to this position. An explanation could be that, by becoming a NAM member, Azerbaijan could use this position in order to get the support of the 118 NAM members to vote a favorable solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, as well as a place as provisory member in the UN Security Council, because the elections are to take place at the end of this year. Another Azeri opinion similar to that presented above is that Azerbaijan needs a military alliance with Turkey (the cooperation in this respect has developed in important steps, including in the field of secret services) and a “deeper cooperation with NATO in order to strengthen its security”, since a neutral position would not be of any use. There are voices saying that all options should stay open, including the cooperation with Russia and Israel. At a recent conference on the cooperation with NATO, the US ambassador Mathew Bryza has said “I have not heard of any wish of Azerbaijan to become NATO member recently. I only know that Baku wishes for a deep integration”.

From the economic standpoint, Baku is capable of making the efforts to upgrade its military to NATO standards. However, we do not think a political decision is to be made in this respect in the near future, considering the multiple consequences for the future not only for Azerbaijan but also for the entire Caucasus stage, plus other geopolitical influences hard to forecast.

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back Published in 2011-09-20 Print Download up