In an interview to EADaily, Head of the Political Science and Sociology Department of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, military expert Alexander Perenjiyev has shared his views concerning Azerbaijan’s attitude towards Russia’s and NATO’s growing activity in the South Caucasus and its military-political alliance with Turkey.
NATO and Georgia are strengthening their contacts, with Georgia eagerly offering its territory for NATO maneuvers. On the other side, Russia is strengthening its troops in Armenia. What should Azerbaijan do under these circumstances?
Azerbaijan should be on alert as both processes are dangerous for it. For the Azerbaijanis, Russia’s activities in Armenia are an attempt to help the Armenians to keep control over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven districts of the former Azerbaijani SSR, which were not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous District in the Soviet times.
And not only to keep control but to exert pressure on the defensive positions of the Azerbaijani army. The Russians help the Armenians to make reconnaissance and to prevent similar activities from the Azerbaijani side.
There is no such a threat coming from Georgia and NATO. But the risk of a color revolution can be seen as a threat by the Azerbaijani leadership. The NATO bases in Georgia may serve as platforms for the West’s pressure on Azerbaijan and attempts to gain control over that country’s oil resources and the Caspian part belonging to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani special services do not rule out the possibility of acts of sabotage to be organized by some third forces for causing instability in Azerbaijan.
In other words, Azerbaijan may become a playing card for different forces in their fight for the South Caucasus. In order to avoid such problems, the Russian and Azerbaijan presidents meet on a regular basis. The last such meeting took place in Sochi in July.
May this force Azerbaijan to deepen its military cooperation with Turkey?
Azerbaijan will certainly do this but very carefully. The Azerbaijanis want to cooperate with the Turks but they don’t want to be the “junior brother” in this partnership. So, they will not go very deep in their contacts with the Turks and will prefer building equally good relations with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Georgia.
Do you mean there will be no official military-political alliance between Azerbaijan and Turkey?
I do not think there will be such union. If Azerbaijan wants to be independent it should cooperate with Turkey in the 3+1 format (Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran + Turkey). That is, it may act as a link between Russia and Iran, from the one side, and Turkey, from the other. And this will also help it to avoid Turkey’s direct influence.
Some experts say that Turkey may deploy military bases in Azerbaijan. Is this possible? How will Russia, Iran and the United States react to this?
I don’t think that the Turks will open military bases in Azerbaijan. At least, as long as they are part of NATO. Russia, Iran and Armenia will object to this. The United States may show neutrality. I don’t think that the current Azerbaijani leaders will agree to host foreign military bases in their territory no matter what goals this will have.
For them, the stay of Turkish military men in their territory is a serious challenge to their regime. Just remember the role Turkish generals played in the last coup in Turkey and also the last calls for the withdrawal of NATO bases from Konia and Incirlik. For the official Baku, prospects of getting involved in such confrontation is unwanted.
What an effect can the growing confrontation between Russia and the United States have on the South Caucasus?
The key threat for the region is not the global Russian-U.S. confrontation but NATO’s plans to deploy its bases in Georgia – as such bases often serve as grounds for training of the so-called free democratic forces. Syria and Iraq are vivid examples of this.
To me, the best mechanism to oppose any terrorist threat in the South Caucasus is a military-political alliance between Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran and Turkey.
By Anar Guseynov