National interests in foreign policy: Azerbaijani President`s message to the world

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Baku, 20 February 2019 –

Pursuing an independent policy is not an easy task nowadays. The world is now witnessing controversial geopolitical processes. Superpowers do not refrain from using force in order to ensure their interests. What is important under these circumstances is on which principles young independent states build their foreign policies. What is the cornerstone of Azerbaijan`s foreign policy? Is it possible to remain committed to this principle nowadays? In his interview with Real television channel, President Ilham Aliyev gave a detailed response to these questions.

Single course of foreign policy: successful development of the system founded by national leader

Remarks on Azerbaijan`s foreign policy that President Ilham Aliyev made during his speech at the meeting marking the Youth Day have provoked wide-ranging interest of experts. The head of state`s thesis is being studied in different contexts. The President later gave a detailed explanation of his idea in an interview with Real television channel. President Ilham Aliyev said: "…some foreign media and expert communities circulate an opinion that Azerbaijan pursues a balanced policy and somewhat seeks a balance in this region. This is not the case. We are not seeking a balance. We simply protect our national interests with our foreign policy and reduce possible risks. Our foreign policy is built precisely on national interests. In our foreign policy, we must do and are doing whatever is dictated by national interests. I can say that we have achieved this.''

Analyzing this statement, experts say the President added a new tinge to the country`s foreign policy. In fact, a closer look at Azerbaijan`s foreign policy reveals that it has been accurately pursued based on a well thought-out system since 1993. It was national leader Heydar Aliyev who laid the foundations of this policy, which aims to ensure Azerbaijan`s national interests to the maximum extent with consideration of global geopolitical trends. Looking at the issue from this prism we see that in his speech the head of state stressed the necessity of taking a creative approach to foreign policy nowadays.

This needs more thorough analysis. The President openly said that Azerbaijan is not seeking a balance in the region. Official Baku is not engaged in balancing interests of superpowers. In general, it is impossible to pursue a foreign policy with such an approach because if your goal is to balance between others` interests then you are forced to pursue those powers` interests. For example, if you are trying to balance between interests of the West and Russia, then you need to seek a balance by meeting their conditions. In this case your foreign policy is not independent because it needs to be adjusted and even subordinated to others` conditions. And such a policy can never be systematic because it depends on external circumstances, which makes it impossible to predict possible developments. The best thing to do for such a policy can be to give a flexible reaction, which does not serve national interests.

This also reduces your capacity of seeking a balance in foreign policy because you are constantly trying to make concessions to others. And at one point you find yourself on the horns of a dilemma, forced to make a choice between your statehood and interests of other powers. This throws your foreign policy into complete confusion and disorder. Your state comes to a dead end. Armenia is the perfect example of this bitter experience in the South Caucasus. Official Yerevan was initially engaged in pursuing Russia`s interests. But several years later Armenia`s maneuvering capacity was worn out, with Moscow demanding strict adherence to its interests. Then Armenia attempted to seek a balance between Russia`s interests and those of the West. We will highlight two tragic consequences of this policy.

First, a terror attack was committed in the parliament of Armenia. That incident forced official Yerevan to loosen its policy of balance. The second incident happened when Armenia attempted to become an associate member of the European Union. Moscow pressured Serzh Sargsyan to immediately join the Eurasian Economic Union.

After that incident Armenia declared readiness to pursue its foreign policy based on "and-and'' principle. So if "or-or'' principle means choosing one of the powers, "and-and'' principle means choosing both powers at the same time. Experts call it an attempt to sit on two chairs. EU officials admit that it is impossible and that Yerevan will be thrown into confusion. This ruined the second Armenian scenario of balancing between the interests of superpowers. Finally, Nikol Pashinyan openly declared that it seeks closeness to both Russia and the West. But Moscow has repeatedly warned Yerevan against doing it. This attempt is therefore doomed to failure too because it is impossible to remain independent by seeking a balance between others` interests.

Main principle at the new stage: Azerbaijan`s national interests first!

Against this background, Azerbaijan`s foreign policy shows clear signs of adherence to national interests. Let`s look at some facts. In the second half of the 1990s, those powers that did not want to accept Azerbaijan`s independent foreign policy and tried to force Baku to pursue their own interests made several coup d`etat attempts. But national leader Heydar Aliyev showed resoluteness, courage and wisdom to remain committed to his policy. It was the national leader`s resoluteness that allowed Azerbaijan sign the Contract of the Century.

Some superpowers still did not want to change their attitude towards Azerbaijan. But national leader Heydar Aliyev remained loyal to national interests and finally managed to persuade them to change their attitude. This helped Azerbaijan gradually restore and develop equal rights with all regional countries. But seeking a balance between others` interests never was a case for Azerbaijan. The main point was seeking a shared position with superpowers within Azerbaijan`s national interests.

As Azerbaijan was developing this policy was becoming firmer. Baku gradually managed to ensure the EU`s and the USA`s considering the country`s national interests in their policies. It is evidenced by the implementation of large-scale energy projects, establishment of transport corridors of which Azerbaijan is the linchpin. Another major evidence is that the process of Azerbaijan`s becoming an associate member of the EU is taking place based on a specific partnership agreement developed by Azerbaijan, rather than the principles proposed by Brussels. There is a plenty of evidence.

Azerbaijan always pursued its own national interests and any geopolitical balance that emerged in the region met the best interests of Azerbaijan.

This process is now entering a new stage. And there are concrete reasons. Global geopolitical processes have now accelerated accompanied by growing uncertainty. President Ilham Aliyev said that the force factor is now coming to the fore in the world. So any unexpected developments can happen in the region at any time. Azerbaijan is ready for such developments and will always act solely in its own interests. The country will never make concessions to any superpower to meet its interests. Everybody should know that Azerbaijan will never make any concessions on its own national interests!

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