Baku meeting of generals: Azerbaijan as a strategic dialogue platform

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Baku, 18 December 2018 –

Meetings between the high military leadership of NATO and Russia in Baku where they discuss global security issues are becoming a regular occasion. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe Curtis Scaparrotti and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valery Gerasimov came together in Baku again, which was met normally. The two generals discussed global military developments. Russia expressed concern over NATO`s deploying its military contingents near its borders. They also exchanged views over the military and political situation in Ukraine, the Balkans and the Middle East. Experts analyze political, geopolitical and military reasons behind the decision to hold the meeting in the capital of Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev gave the best explanation. So we would like to give an insight into the geopolitical importance of the Baku meeting in the context of the President`s assessment.

Two years` experience: generals choose Baku again

Baku has hosted a third meeting crucial to global security. On December 12, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe Curtis Scaparrotti and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valery Gerasimov met in the Azerbaijani capital. This format was launched in February, 2017, when General Gerasimov met with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. In September of that year, Baku also hosted a meeting between Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Petr Pavel and General Gerasimov. It`s for the second straight year that the two superpowers hold high-level military talks in the capital of Azerbaijan. It cannot be a coincidence. Venues for such meetings are normally chosen very delicately. There is ample evidence of this in the world political and military history. Baku was the perfect choice in this context. And why not Tbilisi or Yerevan? Why Baku? Tbilisi had been portrayed as the political, diplomatic and military center since Russia first arrived in the South Caucasus. But the situation has changed completely.

In the years of independence, the entire world saw that it is Baku that is the real power in the South Caucasus. It is the case in political, economic, geopolitical, cultural and military aspects. The reason is that Georgia and Armenia have failed to maintain their objective position and pursue a balanced policy. They gave preference to one geopolitical power to irritate the other. Unlike its neighbours, Azerbaijan remained committed to fair and balanced relations principles in all situations to become the most reliable partner in the South Caucasus.

The other aspect of the issue is closely linked with independent state building. Azerbaijan is the only regional state to fully adhere to the principles of sovereignty, independence and balance in foreign policy. Baku is carrying out independent state building process in compliance with international law. It is implementing numerous globally-important projects. Europe considers Azerbaijan as a key partner in ensuring energy security. Russia is seeking to maintain strategic partnership with Azerbaijan in all areas. Baku maintains good cooperation with Tehran, while its cooperation with Ankara does not have even remotely similar analogues in the world. Azerbaijan enjoys strategic relations with Georgia.

The country also has close ties with the U.S. and Europe. Baku maintains close cooperation with NATO. Azerbaijan is making considerable contribution to international operations and provides logistic support. Azerbaijan also enjoys very close military ties with Russia. It is not a coincidence that Russia is Azerbaijan`s largest arms supplier. These facts confirm that Baku is the perfect place for the U.S. and Russian generals to meet and discuss pressing global issues. President Ilham Aliyev emphasized this in his speech at the ceremony dedicated to sporting results of 2018: "There are about 200 UN member-states in the world, but this meeting was held specifically in Azerbaijan. There are about 50 countries in Europe, but this meeting was specifically held in Azerbaijan. Why? There are several reasons for that. First of all, we enjoy trust. Azerbaijan is a very reliable partner, our words are complemented by our deeds, we fulfill all our promises and stand behind our words.” (see: President Ilham Aliyev attended ceremony dedicated to 2018 sporting results/AZERTAC, 13 December, 2018).

Ilham Aliyev on three reasons: confidence, respect and mutually beneficial cooperation

The head of state is absolutely right. In no way would superpowers have agreed to discuss global security issues in the territory of a state whose policy, international activity or peacemaking mission they doubt. In fact, it is confidence in President Ilham Aliyev because he has repeatedly proved himself – atinternational events, meetings and talks – tobe a man of his word. Ilham Aliyev has kept every promise he made. Both Washington, Brussels and Moscow are very well aware of this.

It is what earned Azerbaijan great respect globally. President Ilham Aliyev explained this: "On the other hand, there is respect for us. The policy we are pursuing today has earned us tremendous respect. Azerbaijan is treated with great sympathy. By pursuing an independent policy, we have been able to assert ourselves as an independent country in the true sense of the word. I believe that this is the second reason." (see: previous source). Indeed, Ilham Aliyev has demonstrated resoluteness typical of a true political leader and strong will and dedication typical of a reliable partner in implementing different cooperation formats, developing intercultural, intercivilizational and interfaith dialogue, organizing and developing regional and global energy projects, transport and transit routes and logistic services. The U.S., European and Russian leaders have repeatedly hailed these qualities of the Azerbaijani President. It is what earned Azerbaijan great respect as an independent state on the international scene.

Finally, President Ilham Aliyev names the third reason why the U.S. and Russia chose Baku for the meetings of their military leaders: "The third reason is that we have close ties with both Russia and NATO. Our ties of strategic partnership with Russia are strengthening with every passing day. We work with NATO on the basis of numerous programs, provide great support and assistance to Afghanistan in the peacekeeping operation. Other factors have also played a role here. However, I want to once again draw the attention of the Azerbaijani public to this issue: this meeting was held specifically in Azerbaijan and it is of great importance for the world.” (see: previous source).

Indeed, by maintaining close cooperation with both the U.S. and Russia, Azerbaijan proved itself to be an important state. Official Baku proved that mutually beneficial cooperation is what lies at the heart of this fact. If the opposite side remains committed to this principle, Azerbaijan will never refuse any cooperation. Taking Azerbaijan`s dedication and commitment in military and security issues into account, Russia and NATO prefer to discuss issues of concern to them in Baku.

What NATO and Russia discussed in Baku was of crucial importance. According to Russian media reports, Valery Gerasimov and Curtis Scaparrotti discussed a wide range of global security and military issues, including in Europe and Southern Balkans.Russia expressed concern over NATO`s deploying its military contingents near its borders.NATO`s build up in Eastern Europe, Balkans and Middle East was discussed. Iran was also high on the agenda. They discussed tension in the Black and Azov seas, and also exchanged information on their military plans for 2019.

The essence of the talks in Baku emphasizes Azerbaijan`s role as a strategic dialogue platform for discussing global security issues. The U.S. and Russia chose Baku as the venue for discussing globally important issues. These discussions will definitely continue. In this context, there is a high probability that these discussions will encourage fair settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Baku is transforming into one of the regional centers of global politics and diplomacy. This will undoubtedly play a crucial role in strengthening Azerbaijan`s independent statehood.

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