March 26 (The Conway Bulletin)
>>Is Azerbaijan nudging towards NATO?
Azerbaijan has signalled that it is interested in closer ties to NATO, just weeks after the de facto Russian annexation of Crimea.
Media reported that the Azerbaijani government wants to increase the number of officers it has serving at NATO offices around the world (March 19).
It has also submitted an updated version of its so-called Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO to cover 2014 and 2015. This is really just part of a process to allow Azerbaijan to work with NATO on various projects but in the current geopolitical climate it is important.
Crimea has thrown up various headaches for countries in the former Soviet Union. They want to work with Russia but they don’t want to be dominated by their former colonial master.
Azerbaijan’s relationship with Russia has been strained over the past couple of years. They have rowed over gas supplies. Azerbaijan has boosted its output to Europe, angering Moscow. In January, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited NATO HQ in Brussels, underling his commitment to the Western military alliance.
For NATO, Azerbaijan has been an important partner recently.
It not only has 90 soldiers in Afghanistan supporting NATO forces, but it has also played a role in the supply route from Europe to Afghanistan. Roughly 40% of so-called non-lethal cargo for NATO forces in Afghanistan passes through Azerbaijan.
Since the mid-2000s, Azerbaijan has gently re-aligned its foreign policy towards NATO. Although not as enthusiastic a NATO aspirant as neighbouring Georgia, Azerbaijan has said it is keen to extend its peace-keeping responsibilities.
This story was first published in issue 177 of The Conway Bulletin. To subscribe, click here