Azerbaijan and Geopolitical Concerns: Russian Federation and Turkey
Murad Makhmudov, Noriko Watanabe, and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The political elites in Baku are at pains to distance Azerbaijan from the entanglements of the Russian Federation and Turkey. Of course, in order to achieve this then Azerbaijan must contemplate serious issues from the approach of “quietism.” However, given the nature of the protagonists then clearly the elites in Baku must tread carefully.
At the same time, relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remain tense based on the perennial issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. Other important domestic issues relate to the political situation, openness, energy issues, the economy and a host of other important factors. Therefore, the current leaders of Azerbaijan seek a fine balance given the geopolitical complexity of the region that is tainted by growing rivalries – this also includes Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Zaur Shiriyev at The Jamestown Foundation reports “Essentially, Azerbaijan is stuck in the middle of two regional crises. The effect of this is exacerbated by the domestic economic situation: following the decline in oil prices, the country has been forced to devalue its currency, leading to protests against price hikes in several regions (Turan, January 12). Under these conditions, the Russian-Turkish and Iranian-Saudi fault lines pose additional problems, requiring Azerbaijan to act with extreme caution.”
The shooting down of a Russian Federation jet, that had allegedly violated Turkey’s airspace while targeting terrorists in Syria, quickly led to major tensions between Ankara and Moscow. This is based on the Russian Federation denying any violation and ushering Turkey’s hypocrisy. After all, Turkey is still occupying Northern Cyprus and in relation to airspace the same nation frequently violates the airspace of Greece. At the same time, Turkey often bombs Northern Iraq – aimed at the Kurds – despite protests from Baghdad. Similarly, violations have taken place against Syria by Turkey. Therefore, the stance taken by Turkey towards shooting down a military jet from the Russian Federation was rebuked strongly by President Vladimir Putin.
Despite Azerbaijan appreciating the stance taken by Turkey over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute involving Armenia, the political elites in Baku fully understand the importance of the Russian Federation. Likewise, Azerbaijan is firmly embedded within the energy politics of Turkey, the Caspian and Ankara’s ambitions of linking up more strenuously with Central Asia. Yet, the above realities and strong cultural relations didn’t witness Azerbaijan supporting Turkey to any important degree. Instead, the political elites in Baku seek both the middle ground and a “quiet approach.” This reality is based on various economic, geopolitical, political and military complexities involving Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the Russian Federation.
Also, given the current economic situation in Azerbaijan then political elites in this nation can’t afford major distractions. Instead, the economy must be shored up and the political process needs strengthening. After all, plummeting oil prices, the decline of the national currency, demonstrations, and growing poverty are challenging enough for Azerbaijan.
Overall, the crisis between the Russian Federation and Turkey is worrying for Azerbaijan based on the internal prevailing conditions. Given this reality, Azerbaijan needs to focus on a “quiet approach” when it comes to important geopolitical issues – while knowing that security issues override any possible external economic incentives.
Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group
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