Briefings, discussions were held for the Azerbaijani delegation regarding NATO’s international operations, security policy, NATO-media relations, missile defense system, NATO’s relations with partners, NATO-Azerbaijan relations.
US orchestra in Europe
Azerbaijan joined NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program in 1994, Planning and Review Process (PARP) in 1996. Under the order issued by the Head of State, State Commission on the cooperation of Azerbaijan Republic with NATO was established in 1997. In 2004 President Ilham Aliyev submitted to NATO Secretary General the Presentation Document of Azerbaijan’s Individual Partnership Action Plan. In 2005, NATO confirmed IPAP and Azerbaijan became one of the first partner countries to join IPAP. Azerbaijani servicemen have been participating in NATO peacekeeping operations since 1999.
Diplomatic views on cooperation and partnership expressed by NATO, the world’s biggest military-political organization, and Azerbaijan are visible sides of the relations. The views of the experts working at NATO headquarters and representing the alliance on various levels demonstrate quite different conclusions.
Figuratively speaking, close acquaintance with NATO, the biggest military bloc that brings together leading states, and inner talks give us ground to say this alliance resembles an orchestra founded by the US in the old continent.
With the view of ensuring their security at the cost of big states, small states have gathered under the “umbrella” of NATO, which brings together great states like US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Italy and Spain. Though an impression, this is actually a reality. Speaking to the experts from the abovementioned countries it turns out that big states need small ones to win the majority of votes in the political issues, while small states need big ones to render harmless the military threats.
The partner countries are important factors to prevent threats to NATO from various continents. Experts of the alliance say it resembles “field fortification in front of the trench”.
The war that changed NATO South Caucasus policy
Though South Caucasus is seen as one of the future targets in NATO’s enlargement policy, the Alliance still does not seem to be going to take the region under its umbrella in the near future. Saying that NATO had demonstrated activeness till August, 2008, the experts admit that Georgia-Russia war made the Alliance review its activity in the mentioned flank. There is an opinion at the NATO headquarters that “Any involvement of NATO in the South Caucasus may lead to destabilization” and this opinion is openly grounded with the Russian factor. As far as is known, for now NATO is replacing its enlargement plan with strengthening the protection within the existing borders in Europe.
Assessing differently the cooperation of the South Caucasus countries with NATO, experts think that Georgia is pursuing cordial, Azerbaijan cautious and Armenia double-sided policy in this issue. NATO does not have similar attitude towards Azerbaijan and Georgia, at the same time Armenia, which is standing by Russia at the Collective Security Treaty Organization and actually has become Moscow’s province. The alliance experts say half in jest that they are cooperating with Yerevan in order not to hurt Armenia.
The experts of the alliance consider that Russia is still having great levers of influence in the Caucasus, think that these influences should be assessed in the approach of all regional states to NATO. Otherwise, the problems supposed to emerge in the region are not in favor of NATO, either.
Russia is an important factor in the resolution of all conflicts in the region
Speaking of NATO-South Caucasus relations, NATO’s position on Nagorno Karabakh and its solution draws attention. NATO sees Russia as an important factor in the resolution of all conflicts in the region, including Nagorno Karabakh.
As far as is known from the statements of NATO officials, the alliance approaches the resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan from the principle “solve your problem yourselves, don’t create problems for us”. It is considered that Nagorno Karabakh conflict must be solved by the conflicting states with the participation of Russia. In this regard it is obvious that NATO is not going to bear extra load outside its borders.
At the NATO, which is officially supporting arms embargo on Azerbaijan and Armenia due to the conflict, it is admitted that actually this document is formal. On the other hand, NATO has imposed no ban on the member states that wish to get a share from rapidly increasing arms purchases of Azerbaijan. That is, any member state “can sell, if it favors”, Azerbaijan “can purchase, if it wishes”.
Embargo is imposed to maintain the balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia. By 2008, such a decision had not been applied to Georgia having two conflicts. In the mentioned period Georgia purchased, or obtained as an aid, a great deal of arms and military vehicles from NATO countries, including US. The alliance officials admit that official elimination of the embargo will change the balance of forces in favor of Azerbaijan.
"Up to you" approach
NATO also has a different approach to the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan’s defense and security sector. NATO, which is stating either officially, or unofficially that no pressure is exerted on Azerbaijan regarding the fulfillment of the commitments, welcomes more Azerbaijan’s activities on PfP and PARP. NATO experts do not seem to be satisfied regarding IPAP. In general, NATO approach to the reforms is based on the principle “as the partner country wishes”. NATO supports Azerbaijani Armed Forces through expert assistances, trainings, courses, personnel training, as well as demilitarization program through PfP Trust Fund.
NATO’s position on Azerbaijan-Iran relations, which have recently become tense, also causes interest. Big states like UK and France share Washington’s position on Iran, while Germany, Turkey have different approaches. NATO position on Azerbaijan-Iran relations is as follows “It is up to the two neighbors”. The relations between the countries, which are changing and becoming tense, are not taken seriously. As regards Iran-Azerbaijan relations, they say “the region’s police are dealing with this issue”.
One of the two priorities of NATO…
Energy security, one of two major issues (the first - cyber-security) among recent priorities of NATO, has become even more urgent after the problems encountered in winter, 2008-2009. This issue has been especially underlined at the NATO’s recent summits and final resolutions. NATO approaches energy security from three aspects: the diversification of energy corridors, research and use of new alternative sources, the creation of the physical security of energy infrastructure within existing boundaries.
In general, NATO shares EU’s position on energy security. In the near future, NATO sees as a priority these directions in energy supply of the member states: North Africa - Mediterranean - Europe, Arabia - Syria - Mediterranean (or Turkey) - Europe, the Caspian Sea - South Caucasus - Europe (through the Black Sea and Turkey), Norway - Europe, Russia - Europe, and as though it is unbelievable, Iran - Turkey - Europe. Since Russia-Europe is considered very risky among the above-mentioned routes, the NATO member countries are making efforts to replace it by alternative route. The Caspian Sea-South Caucasus route is also considered partially risky. Political and psychical threats are mainly highlighted here.
NATO has no unambiguous decision on ensuring the security of the partner countries involved in energy security. In this regard, they often say “We give political support”.
The Afghanistan operation is the first military operation in the history of NATO conducted outside Europe. NATO, which will start withdrawing its military forces from Afghanistan next year, plans to remain in Afghanistan for a few more years. Serious efforts are being observed for post-NATO Afghanistan. NATO intends to use the opportunities of the partner countries in this issue. A separate program is being developed on it. Seeking exit route from Afghanistan, NATO sees the South Caucasus corridor as one of the most real options. It is both shorter and less costly than the Central Asia - Russia route. Incredible as it may seem, the European states, which once supported Armenians’ position and opposed Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, are now waiting for this route to be ready in order to withdraw from Afghanistan.
There are several interesting points in the approach of NATO to Afghanistan. First, NATO says that it did not achieve success in Afghanistan, but does not want to recognize defeat.
Second, NATO has started to admit that unlike previous years the problem in Afghanistan is being continued on religious conflict. The most interesting is that neither NATO admits nor denies that the incorrect behavior of its soldiers with the local population caused deterioration of relations with the local population in Afghanistan.
Urgent issue on NATO agenda
The deployment of missile defense system, included in agenda since the cold war, is one of the urgent issues on NATO agenda. The presentations of the experts of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense Programme, as well as their responses give ground to say that in the current stage, it aims to protect America, not the European members, from the possible threats from Eurasia. Though NATO doesn’t intend to directly participate in, it supports the deployment of missile defense system outside its borders at the cost of the partner countries’ capabilities.