Moscow and Baku become strategic partners

1:19, 27 февраля 2022

МОСКВА, 27 февраля 2022, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The state visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Moscow cannot be attributed to events of ordinary significance, although formally it can be associated with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic Azerbaijani-Russian relations. For many reasons, some of which were outlined by Aliyev himself.

First of all, he said that he was visiting Moscow for the forty-eighth time since his election as head of state. During this time, 245 documents were signed between the two states concerning the development of relations between the two states in various spheres: trade, economic, military-technical and cultural. And the current Moscow visit was marked by the signing of the «Declaration», which covers almost all areas of interaction between the two countries and will be of crucial importance for bilateral relations.

In general, it brings the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia to the level of a strategic partnership, which, according to Aliyev, «is a great privilege and a great responsibility.» It should also be noted that Yerevan, which is a member of the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union, does not have such a level of relations with Moscow.

It is clear that the leaders of Azerbaijan and Russia, especially after the second Karabakh war, as a result of which Azerbaijan regained control of previously lost areas, and those huge personal diplomatic efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the elaboration of a peace agreement on November 9, 2020, the spectrum of bilateral interests began to shift more towards discussing the problems of the post-conflict period in Transcaucasia in terms of unblocking regional communications, restoring passenger and cargo traffic between Azerbaijan and Armenia and other countries in the region.

The strange paradox is that after the end of the Karabakh war, the development of events, already actually without the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group, went faster. The second new point: the influence of Turkey in the region, which acted as a sparring partner of Russia in the peace process, began to be marking.

The third point: the political background of Aliyev’s visit gives rise to numerous comments – in fact, on the day of the Azerbaijani president’s arrival in Moscow, the Kremlin recognised the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. And Putin acquainted the guest with the reasons of the Russian side.

And before Moscow, in January 2022, Aliyev paid a working visit to Kiev at the invitation of President Vladimir Zelensky. This was the first visit of the Azerbaijani leader to post-Maidan Ukraine. A few days after his working trip to Kiev, the Azerbaijani leader called Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also spoke by phone with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, with whom he discussed, among other things, the problems of the Ukrainian crisis.

According to Baku expert Emil Mustafayev, «Aliyev began to play an important role, acting as a mediator in the normalisation of Russian-Ukrainian relations”. In turn, Turkish political scientist, professor of Kahramanmaraş University Toğrul Ismayil believes that Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan «act in tandem», only Erdogan has assumed the role of mediator in «solving problems between Russia and NATO», as in this direction «there are many long-standing issues.»

But the question is how much Azerbaijan and Turkey will be able to influence the positions of NATO and Moscow or the EU countries. The conflict is much deeper. At the same time, Ismail proceeds from the fact that «a great positive experience of contacts between Presidents Erdogan and Putin has accumulated,» and in the Russia–Turkey–Azerbaijan triangle «new qualitatively positive elements have appeared that did not exist before.»

Another thing is that events in Ukraine have begun to develop somewhat according to a different scenario, but the Aliyev-Erdogan tandem can follow a parallel course, their mediation efforts in the broad context of the West-Russia should not be rejected immediately in order to preserve opportunities in diplomatic manoeuvring.

At the same time, the leaders of these two states understand that the development of the Ukrainian crisis in a negative scenario may echo in the Middle East and Transcaucasia, so they act based on their own national interests. At the same time, the «Declaration» signed in Moscow equilibrates the balance of power in the Russia-Azerbaijan-Turkey triangle. But there are still enough traces of the so-called «multi-vector» in Baku’s foreign policy.

Right before arriving in Moscow, the Azerbaijani leader warmly congratulated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He thanked the United Kingdom for supporting the Southern Gas Corridor bypassing Russia. So Baku can be considered a follower of a pragmatic course in foreign policy, but such a course is also attributed to Moscow.

At the same time, the interaction between Baku and Moscow is not of the same nature as the one between Moscow and Ankara, where along with cooperation, there is also rivalry. If there are any tensions between Russia and Azerbaijan, they are being smoothed out, and if there are contradictions, they are not very significant and noticeable.

In this sense, Russia and Azerbaijan, after three decades of independently building relations with the outside world, now turn out to be allies. «I think that despite the problems that still arise in our current life, we can still be satisfied that we have reached the level at which we are now,» the Russian president summed up.

For President Aliyev, the signed «Declaration» is an important step in the strategy of maintaining a stable balance in Azerbaijan’s relations with its main partners – Russia and Turkey. For Putin, negotiations with Aliyev have an even more significant strategic meaning, since a circle of Russia’s allies in various geographical areas and industry specialisations is currently being formed.

Of course, it is good to have productive relations with, for example, Brazil. But it is much more important and, most importantly and more reliable – with close neighbours, in particular, with Azerbaijan.

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