Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 180

Azerbaijani president Haydar Aliev yesterday told a delegation of the Russian Duma’s Military Affairs Committee that Moscow should "abandon double standards" and uphold the principle of territorial integrity not only in Chechnya but also in the former Soviet countries. Azerbaijan supports Russia’s territorial integrity, he said, but Moscow has failed to use "its capacity, unmatched by any other country," to promote a resolution of the Karabakh conflict on the basis of that principle. "Azerbaijan, with its important geostrategic position, is prepared to consider Russia’s interests, but Russia must in turn consider Azerbaijan’s interests," Aliev continued. The committee’s chairman, Gen. Lev Rokhlin, was quoted as agreeing that "there should be no double standards. If Russia wants Chechnya to be within Russia, the same principle should apply to the Abkhazia, Karabakh, and Transdniester conflicts." Rokhlin, the 1995 conqueror of Grozny, is currently touring the Transcaucasus to assess prospects for settling the region’s conflicts. (Turan, Interfax, September 26)

Aliev’s overture urging mutual consideration of strategic interests is only the latest in a series of such suggestions, which have at times implied a willingness to grant to Russia military facilities in Azerbaijan in exchange for Moscow’s support in settling the Karabakh conflict. The suggestions may be designed primarily to highlight Moscow’s unresponsiveness to Azerbaijan’s concerns over Karabakh, the Caspian Sea, and other disputed issues. Yet the hints at a possible strategic bargain do reflect Baku’s recognition of Moscow’s military leverage in the region. They parallel Eduard Shevardnadze’s reluctant and risky proposals to legalize Russia’s military presence in Georgia in exchange for Russian support in settling the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts (see following item).

Shevardnadze Holds out Unlikely Deal on Bases with Russia.