Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 17

The Azerbaijani presidential adviser on foreign policy, Vafa Guluzade, and other government officials are increasing their calls for Western protection of security in Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus-Caspian region. Briefing international news agencies yesterday, Guluzade observed that “Russia seeks to destroy Azerbaijan’s Western orientation and derail the oil projects…. Azerbaijan faces a big threat from Russia, which is waiting to use Armenia [both] to strike at us and to restore the Soviet Union…. Moscow is biding its time to deal a knock-out blow and put its own person at the head of the Azerbaijani government.” Guluzade urged the United States, NATO and Turkey to introduce military bases in Azerbaijan, specifically a U.S. airbase and Turkish troops.

Anticipating that Washington and Ankara would hesitate to provoke Moscow by setting up such bases, Guluzade argued that Russia is currently in no position to do more than protest in response (AFP, Reuters, January 25). In another interview just published in Baku, Guluzade pointed to Moscow’s unchecked violations of CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) treaty arms limitations in the South Caucasus (Zerkalo (Baku), January 23). In the same context, President Haidar Aliev’s cabinet chief, Eldar Namazov, remarked yesterday that the “massive deployment of Russian military hardware in Armenia has destroyed the military-political balance in the region” and requires a counterweight. Namazov confirmed Azerbaijan’s readiness to host a U.S. airbase on the Absheron peninsula–a location which commands the entire Caspian Sea (Turan, January 25).

Baku continues its appeals for defense cooperation with the West. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described such appeals as “seeking to condition the public to the idea of changing the balance of forces that has taken shape historically in the Transcaucasus” (Itar-Tass, January 23). That balance has, of course, translated into Russian control for almost two centuries. Such a response from Moscow can only reinforce the concerns in Baku, which is now in a position to express them loudly, and in Tbilisi, which–as long as Russian troops remain in Georgia–is not.