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Azerbaijan and America Stratfor forecasts
Material posted: Arzumanyan Rach'yaPublication date: 21-06-2013

The article of the head of the renowned think tank "Stratfor" by George Friedman of 11 June 2013 on the relations between Azerbaijan and the USA[1]. The relevance of the article indirectly underscores the fact that it was later republished in Forbes[2]. In the framework of a brief review and analysis we will emphasize the most important points of the article.

Friedman's article starts by stating the importance of the Caucasus as a region in which converge the interests of geopolitical and regional centers of power – Russia, the USA, Iran and Turkey. Despite the fact that the peripheral post-Soviet States surrounding Russia, is an important element of the geopolitical conflict, Azerbaijan's role is unique and critical.

To illustrate his point, Friedman refers to the main principles of his book "Next 100 years"[3] , in which it predicts the General contours of the geopolitical arena of the 21st century. Russia has its own problems. However, Europe's dependence on Russian energy resources, as well as the ability to buy European assets amid the recession in Europe will lead to a relative strengthening of Russia, which fully felt the neighboring countries with Russia – "the line from Poland to Turkey and then from Turkey to Azerbaijan, the Eastern anchor of Europe on the Caspian sea".

Policy and strategy the U.S. remaining the dominant geopolitical power center will remain cautious and uncertain. This behavior will be dictated by both the need to conclude the war in the Islamic world, and more serious factors. The problem is that the US remains "young" (immature) at the center of global power, which is not able to calculate to the end and to balance their actions. Sarajane from attempts to establish a "new world order" after the Cold war victory, won largely due to put the knockout that the USSR had inflicted on himself, was replaced by the belief that the age will take place in the war with Islamic terrorists. There are currently indications that the United States intends to curtail its involvement in global processes and a focus on domestic issues, "although it is unclear how the country's GDP which is 25% of the world's oceans and controlling can avoid involvement in world processes".

In the USA, writes Friedman, we can distinguish the supporters of realistic and idealistic approaches to foreign policy. The former believe that the U.S. should protect its national interests and it looks reasonable, until the question arises of what is meant by national interests. Others believe that American power and politics have to do good, to build democracy and prevent human rights violations. This also sounds good until the question is asked, how this should be done. The only point at which the views of supporters of both approaches are the same - the conviction that within the framework of policies necessary to "kill bad people".

Today, the U.S. is a "global power center of the world, however, prowling from one conflict to another and from one concept to another, which takes some time to understand how to use the power". This behavior puts the rest of the world in a very awkward position. "Sometimes the US do inexplicable things. Sometimes does not take the necessary steps." And thanks to the mistakes of the US often suffer from or are at risk of other countries. As a result, some in the world want the disappearance of the USA, others to the U.S. took responsibility for their safety. Neither that, nor another will not.

The Criticality Of Azerbaijan

After a brief recap of the themes of his book, Friedman returns to Azerbaijan. Considering the geopolitical context, the author highlights the secular nature of the country, which "feels threatened by Iranian Shiite terrorism and by Sunni Islamic terrorism in the North. Azerbaijan waged a war in the 90s which lost the territory called Nagorno-Karabagh, Armenia, for which Russia stood. Russian troops are now based in Armenia. In Georgia, the government of which, apparently, has close ties with Russia, replaced the Pro-American government". The geopolitical context of Azerbaijan, concludes Friedman, turned out to be hard, and its location between Russia and Iran makes it critical. Another geopolitical feature of Azerbaijan is connected with the destruction of monopoly of Russia on energy supplies to Europe and Turkey.

American interests are to limit Russian influence in the peripheral States of the post-Soviet space and support the stability of Pro-Western countries, while Europe is weak and disorganized. Also in the interests of the United States "to limit Iran's ability to project power and hold the platform to influence Ozerskoe the population of Iran". However, American power and interests are faced with objective limitations. The United States as the first option may not choose the war and able to support only those countries that can take over the main burden and responsibility to ensure their own national security. The United States cannot be the main source of security in the post-Soviet space.

The above makes of American-Azerbaijani relations interesting. "Azerbaijan is strategically located between two centers of power hostile to the US: Russia and Iran. Azerbaijan is a major transit point for supplies to Afghanistan. Azerbaijan wants to be able to buy weapons from the USA. USA in most cases rejects such requests. In return, the Azerbaijan appealed to Israel, with whom he has a close relationship". Thus, Azerbaijan has all the features to get the status "complete (close) an American ally". It is strategically located and allows both to influence events in Iran and limiting Russian power in Europe, providing an energy alternative, including the possibility of pipelines across the Caspian sea to Central Asia. Based on its location it needs access to weapons, for which he is willing to pay. However, the U.S. limit access to weapons and this is for two reasons.

The first it policy, "conducted by the national minorities in the United States." Strong Armenian-American community is hostile to Azerbaijan because of the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The desire of the Azerbaijani lobby in the U.S. to increase its influence still fail. This allows you to put pressure on Congress to block the transfer of weapons and even causes difficulty in appointing ambassadors. The second reason is more substantial. "Human rights advocates, including the state Department, said that the Azerbaijani government is repressive and corrupt. Therefore, they oppose the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan."

Mr. Friedman said that unable to bear witness to the repression and corruption. Azerbaijan was a Soviet Republic and went through a chaotic privatization program that resulted in the same inequality of property, as in other former Soviet republics. Azerbaijan is a country in which nepotism, family and clan are critical. The author brings forth a sharply negative view of the Chinese businessman over Western understanding of social justice and concludes: "our belief about how society should function is neither universally shared nor geeky admiration. So I will be more careful in their judgments about moral behavior of others...". In any case, says Friedman, "the country cannot from the former Soviet Republic to come to the possession of an economy without corruption in less than 20 years. It also cannot be a fully-fledged liberal democracy in this period of time, especially if it is surrounded by hostile powers on three sides – Iran, Russia and Armenia". In conclusion, the author proposes not to attach importance to this factor in American-Azerbaijani relations.

Friedman worries and just "horrified by what I called the "Arab spring syndrome". Supporters of human rights believe that repressive regime that sweeps the crowd will appear less repressive government. But it is not and cites the example of the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the Shah came not Democrats, and a more repressive regime. In such development processes are to blame including the "fantasy" of the West, who saw demonstrators in the Pro-Western liberal Democrats.

The same is true for Azerbaijan. "Although the regime has been criticized, it is difficult to imagine that the alternative could be a more liberal and transparent regime". Sponsored by Iran, the opposition will look like Iran, Russia – as Russia. "The idea that the US should not pursue its strategic interests in a situation where the existing regime is superior morally supported by Russia and Iran alternatives, is depraved. It's part of the immaturity of trying to navigate the center of global power". "Azerbaijan is important for US not because of moral qualities, but as a wedge between Russia and Iran. Any other mode, which will replace the current, is likely to be much worse from the moral point of view and may be hostile to the United States."

Further, Mr. Friedman again returns to geopolitical arguments, and the function of energy of Azerbaijan. Taking Russia or Iran under the control of Azerbaijani oil will increase the pressure on Turkey and eliminate energy alternatives in Russia's periphery. The US must devise a strategy early support its strategic partners with little risk, "than to stand in front of the need for the formation of unexpected and spasmodic military responses to sudden, unexpected crises. Independent Azerbaijan is a bone in the throat for Russia and Iran and energy source for Turkey. And Azerbaijan is ready to pay cash for weapons to be used by Azerbaijani troops and not by Americans."

In the end, the author sums up: "As Hitler and Stalin understood that control of Baku meant control of the Eurasian land space. Energy realities are changing, but this does not mean that Baku ceases to be critical".

A brief analysis

In the article Mr. Friedman it is possible to allocate the actual geopolitical analysis and arguments, underscoring the importance of Azerbaijan. If the author had limited himself to only them, the article would not cause issues. One of the tasks of the expert community is the development of scenarios and the researcher of course has a right to their own interpretation of the processes occurring in the geopolitical arena. However, build Mr. Friedman, the project has a broader goal, forcing the author to cross the line separating analysis from geopolitical design. Such a wide swing is forcing a closer look at building structures, designed not just to describe the American-Azerbaijani relations, but establish the desired inandBarcelona the future of the region. This approach to the text reveals a number of "tuning parameters"[4], introduced by the author, and strengthen the postulate of the "uniqueness" of Azerbaijan as a geopolitical ally of the USA.

One of the most dangerous for Armenia "settings" should recognize the persistent desire of a number of experts consider Artsakh as a disputed territory, but not of society and may unrecognized, but of the state. Of course this interpretation distorts the historical perspective and forced to deny the fact the cornerstone of the modern political history of Armenia, namely, the formation of the Armenian statehood in the late 20th century occurred during the process of the national liberation struggle of the Armenian people for the salvation of Artsakh. Such "coarsening" of historical paintings could be regarded as irrelevant to geopolitical design, but the resulting neglect of Artsakh, as an actor of the system of regional security in the South Caucasus in the 21st century, is already unacceptable. Artsakh is not only and not so much the problem, how social-political reality, and the project, not taking into account this fact, may not be viable. In the Afghan and Iraqi military campaigns the West had the opportunity to see what causes the failure to take into account the historical and geopolitical context of the region in which you implement one or another strategy.

The second point that is associated with the distortion of historical perspective is associated with the reluctance to accept the fact that Artsakh was forced to defend in Azerbaijan unleashed an aggressive war in which victory was won. Thus there is an "invisible Changeling" and "silent" that the war unfolded between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, not Armenia. Yes, the Republic of Armenia was and remains the security guarantor of Artsakh, however, the main actor of the Nagorno-Karabakh is Artsakh, whose signature is on the document and conclude an armistice.

The idea that behind Armenian States was Russia, is also "evil". Until 1992 the USSR and then the Russian leadership were inclined to support in the conflict sooner the Azerbaijani side. However, the ability of Artsakh to survive the war and the turning point that was reached in 1992 resulted in a change of policy in Russia. The resistance in the war, the ability of the party with incomparably fewer resources to turn the tide of the war and to win sometimes forces the geopolitical actors to change their grades and position. Today on the example of the Syrian crisis can be observed, as the resistance of the Syrian army and the political leadership of tactical argument has become a strategic and political, forcing regional centers of power and geopolitical actors to reconsider their strategy and tactics.

However, the topic of Artsakh is mentioned in the article only indirectly. The main part of the research dedicated to Azerbaijan and inandDenia future of the region. Mr. Friedman has made efforts to present Azerbaijan as a country surrounded by aggressive neighbors. However, he is forced to turn to the actual situation upside down and "not notice" that today Azerbaijan is the most aggressive state in the region, exposing the territorial claims not only of Armenia, the territory which is declared "Western Azerbaijan" and Iran, part of whose territory is declared "South Azerbaijan"[5]. Describing the aggressive environment of Azerbaijan, Mr. Friedman "blurts" and characterizes Russia and Iran as "antagonistic States", the centers of power. And if so Iran can agree, and the assessment of Russia as an antagonist of USA is too clumsy step. Such as unacceptable distortion of the political reality should be attributed supposedly Pro-Russian orientation of the new government of Georgia.

The created illusion of a circle of aggressive neighbors seeks to justify, including the need for the sale to Azerbaijan of modern American weapons. The required arguments are realistic to the cynical, Azerbaijan is ready to pay for weapons in cash and apply it are not Americans, but the Azerbaijani troops. Although the problem of arms sales in addition to purely economic and political aspects has to tell in advance which arguments will have the greatest impact on political decision-making on arms transfers in a particular region is impossible. Recently Russia has provided the same to Azerbaijan a large consignment of modern weapons, and Germany refused to support the initiative of the US supplying arms to the Syrian opposition. The author makes a serious effort to make the strategy of Azerbaijan is purely defensive in nature. Azerbaijan is a country that needs cooperation with the United States, as it threatens the Shiite terrorism of Iran and Sunni terror from Russia. But then the author talks about Azerbaijan as a platform from which to influence events in Iran and to limit Russia's energy power. To talk about the defense in this case is incorrect, and we are talking about the US using Azerbaijan's territory for the projection of geopolitical power in the region and Eurasia as a whole.

Such interpretation processes in the region and in the geopolitical arena adequate comment on such a distorted view of processes in the Caucasus is a thankless task. Will probably suffice to state that neither Russia or Iran nor the Armenian state or Georgia does not have any intention to attack Azerbaijan. The only country in the region, which today expressed aggressive intentions and territorial claims towards neighbors is Azerbaijan, the armenophobic policy which could be called theatrical and fake, if it had not led to loss of life.

George Friedman uses dangerous for Azerbaijan metaphor, calling the independent Azerbaijan "bone in the throat of Russia and Iran", which means to have the status of a component element of the Eurasian space. In addition, this state cannot endure for long. Stuck in throat bone needs to be removed by various methods, including surgery, if other methods will not help. This assessment of Azerbaijan by the USA is forcing Russia and Iran to treat Azerbaijan as an open geopolitical challenge, which is necessary to generate a response. At the end of the article Mr. Friedman adds fuel to the fire, speaking about the critical role of Baku for control of the Eurasian space. Thus Baku, willingly or unwillingly, acquires the status of "Carthage Eurasia", which by all means should be taken under the control of the continental powers, if they intend to achieve long-term peace and stability in Eurasia.

The incorrectness build structures become even simpler when the author starts to examine the social problems of Azerbaijan. Realizing that building the project and the proposed strategic Alliance should be based not only on military, political and economic arguments, the author attempts to somehow rehabilitate unsightly state mired in corruption and nepotism Azerbaijani society. Mr. Friedman has to resort to unacceptable moral relativism when assessing social life are formed through the comparison of the situation in Azerbaijan with the status of other post-Soviet societies. To justify the cronyism and corruption of the Azerbaijani leadership, state and society, Friedman is forced to appeal to the fact that these are all post-Soviet States. This is largely true, but a comparative analysis is valid with the consideration of the processes in the political arena, in the economy, but not in evaluating moral-psychological climate in the society.

Moral and ethical foundations of society have the status of absolute values and axioms. Ultimately, what is Europe and the West in General, not as the ideals and values of freedom and democracy, respect for individual rights? Europe and the United States became a global power not only because of the politico-military and economic power, but also to their ideals, and Express the author's viewpoint seem unacceptable and leads to moral degradation. Of course there may be different judgments regarding "moral behavior", however, in the framework of the European culture, international public life genocidal practices are condemned and considered a crime against humanity. Murder of a sleeping man with an axe just because he is Armenian, in fact a community of such behavior as heroic, is a criminal. In the framework of European values is unacceptable, if the government announces any contact with the Armenian citizens of their country a criminal offence. This is an impossible situation, when the country was in the square publicly burned the book in which the author allowed himself to give a neutral assessment of the Armenian.

Such facts require from experts, public and political figures clear and unambiguous assessment. We are talking about the symptoms of fascist Azerbaijani state and society. Public and political responsibility and prudence require that we recognize that giving relations with such a state status strategic can have fatal consequences for both the global forces and of the region. All this took place in the history of the 20th century, and Western political thinking made the postulate - "no more Munich", justice in the 21st century is not in doubt.

Such a proposition is also a slap in the face and the Azerbaijani society, which refuses the ability to build social relationships not based on nepotism and cronyism. The author offers to defend his point of view, appeals to "the Arab spring syndrome", when, instead of crumbling government there is a more repressive regime. The appeal to the need for US to rely on the lesser of two evils, namely, the Aliyev clan, which can come Pro-Russian or Pro-Iranian regime that will be much worse for the same moral criteria, it looks insulting for the people of Azerbaijan even in the eyes of the Armenian expert.

Of course USA have the right and should pursue its strategic interests in the region, however, appeal to the necessity of preservation of the repressive authoritarian regime as the basis of implemented policies and strategies corrupts both Contracting parties. The thesis "Azerbaijan is important for US not because of moral qualities, but as it is wedge between Russia and Iran" is clear and logical. However, the addition its the fact that "any other mode, which will replace the current, is likely to be much worse from the moral point of view and may be hostile to the U.S." devalues the entire structure, which is vulnerable and unpredictable.

However, the proposed project demands attention and it is hoped that the traditional regional power centers experienced enough to see its flaws. Alternative has developed in the last decades in the region, the status quo may be more sustainable world, but not the next escalation and war. In the U.S. there are also political forces, as wrote and Friedman himself, through which American policy in the Caucasus is still not lined up on imaginary problems and distorted ideas, but reality. This leaves hope that the maintenance of stability in the region and the Azerbaijani uretonimine ambitions can be achieved without further escalation of military-political situation and the wide application of military tools.

 


[1] Friedman, George “Geopolitical Journey: Azerbaijan and America,” Stratfor, Geopolitical Weekly, 11 June, 2013. 17 June 2013, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/stratfor/2013/06/11/why-azerbaijan-should-matter-to-america/>

[2] Friedman, George “Why Azerbaijan Should Matter To America,” Forbes, June 11, 2013.
17 June 2013, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/stratfor/2013/06/11/why-azerbaijan-should-matter-to-america/>

[3] Friedman, George. The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. New York: Doubleday, 2009.

[4] "Tuning parameter" (fudge factor). The configuration parameter is introduced when the model does not match reality. Simplest method is to "force" theory to match reality, rather than develop a new one. "The cosmological term" of Einstein, probably the most famous of them.

[5] Herszenhorn, David M. “Iran and Azerbaijan, Already Wary Neighbors, Find Even Less to Agree On,” The NewYork Times, June 5, 2012.
17 June 2013, <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/world/middleeast/iran-and-azerbaijan-wary-neighbors-find-less-to-agree-on.html>


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