Greek media released several articles regarding President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Greece. The articles suggest a thesis that strategic cooperation network that spans vast geopolitical region – Central Asia-Caucasus-Middle East-Europe – is being shaped and Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is a cornerstone of this process.
The South Caucasus: In Search of Successful Foreign Policy Model
In modern era only the politicians endowed with strategic mindset and diplomatic skills are able to conduct a successful foreign policy. In the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR the initial conditions were more or less the same for all the nations located in the very geography. Some countries managed to inflict greater adversity upon others through conflicts, like what befell Azerbaijan. Armenia’s foreign-backed aggression against Azerbaijan and successive terrorist attacks resulted in a grave political, economic and cultural problems. There were great threats to national security of the country. And therefore, unlike other post-Soviet states, Azerbaijan was compelled to shape its independent foreign policy at a later stage.
Nonetheless, today, Azerbaijan is the most successful nation on the post-Soviet space. This was only made possible thanks to perfect foreign policy. This course, foundation of which was laid by the national leader Heydar Aliyev, has helped the country to successfully weather all the storms. President Ilham Aliyev has taken it to the next level. In this context, evaluation of the present geopolitical posture of the nations in the South Caucasus reveals many aspects.
Armenia’s geopolitical position is utterly uncertain. Apart from aggression, this country is totally idle in its foreign policy. The hindsight reveals that the official Yerevan has offered no conceptual project and taken no steps to positively impact the geopolitical dynamics of the region. These are their arguments: ”Armenia has an ancient tradition of statehood, all the neighbors must concede their lands to them, Armenians are the cradle of culture in the region, all the countries of the world are obliged to protect Armenia, everyone must recognize the ”genocide”” and etc. No political or geopolitical theses have been forwarded by the official Yerevan other than those mentioned above.
For that reason, the Armenians are neither a party to any regional project nor are they signatories to any treaty of a strategic nature. The only agreements they have signed are with Russia and Iran, and those are merely for the sake of patronage. S. Sargsyan’s recent visit to the countries of the Latin America once again demonstrated that aside from its patrons, no other nation sought real cooperation with Yerevan.
Georgia is in a slightly different situation. It maintains somewhat warm relations with the West, especially with the U.S. Washington and Brussels endorse Tbilisi’s foreign policy, however, this model cannot be a driving force. Reality attests precisely to that. First, this model is one-sided because it fails to take into account Georgia’s relations with such a big power as Russia. Second, it is deprived of a potential to offer Georgia participation in significant projects of geopolitical relevance. Official Tbilisi’s foreign policy is harmless, it is of no detriment to its neighbors and yet, given the modern requirements, it cannot translate into something creative or productive.
For now, its foreign policy rests within the confines of preserving the country’s existence, in one way or another. It is no coincidence that in the aftermath of the events in Ukraine, official Tbilisi appealed to the West to ensure its security and even raised some demands. Apparently, Georgia lacks domestic potential and real resources to safeguard its security.
New Cooperation Formats: Strategic Significance of Azerbaijan’s Initiatives
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy seems to be very successful against this background. Above all, total domestic stability has been ensured. As President Ilham Aliyev emphasizes, there are no threats here. In the meantime, Azerbaijan was able to build its relations with all the neighbors based on the principle of mutual and equal benefit. Moreover, energy policy of the official Baku contributed immensely to the regional and global security. Concrete proposals made by the country’s leadership attest to that.
For example, President Aliyev is an initiator of bilateral and trilateral cooperation models. This had enabled different regional-scale geopolitical configurations. Prospects of such cooperation formats as Azerbaijan-Turkey-Georgia, Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran and Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan are well recognized. Another example could be official Baku’s proposition to attach a strategic partnership status to cooperation with the European Union. Unlike associated membership, this format offers far greater cooperation opportunities. Brussels has already made its position clear and work is underway in that particular direction.
Finally, Azerbaijan is the author and the initiator of massive energy projects of the geopolitical significance. TAP and TANAP are the ones that have drawn particular attention of the leading analysts. They are two features here: first, they are economically viable and second, in geopolitical terms, they may play a crucial role in the establishment of a global energy security system. Therefore, given the aforementioned, European experts are convinced that Azerbaijan has managed to set up a strategic cooperation network in the vast geopolitical geography – the quadrangle spanning Caucasus – Central Asia – Middle East – Europe.
This is a great appraisal for a Muslim nation that has re-gained its independence. Central Asia, Middle East and Europe are in the spotlight of modern world politics. Along with ingenuity, skill and vision, building a strategic cooperation network requires will and determination. Confident politician can achieve just that. That is to say that President Ilham Aliyev believes in his foreign policy course and implements it with great steadfastness.
Geopolitical aspect of the issue constitutes particular importance. The Greek media considers the substance of the talks and signed agreements as telling examples of that (see: President Papoulias meets with Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev / ”Protothemanews.com”, 16 June 2014). In the talks with the Greek President Azerbaijan’s head of state voiced ideas that accurately described geopolitical and strategic significance of the energy projects. While quoting the very remarks, the Greek media underscored Azerbaijan’s contribution to ensuring global energy security. President Ilham Aliyev said, ”Energy security is of strategic importance. TAP pipeline is not just an energy project; it is modernization of relations between Azerbaijan and Greece… Construction of TAP and usage of the ”Shahdeniz” field is important for Europe”.
Relevance of these fascinating ideas of the President Aliyev can be more profoundly comprehended in the article published through an article published in the local media prior to Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Greece. On 12 June the ”TOC” reported that, ”Country’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was going to hold important meetings with respect to investment to be made into different areas of the economy. Namely, he was due to meet Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait and the leaders of Azerbaijan, Portugal, Finland and Hungary. Finally, he was scheduled to meet the Chinese Premier” (see: Samaras’ sprint of foreign investment meetings / ”The TOC”, 12 June 2014).
Obviously, For Europe Azerbaijan is a serious investor. In his above mentioned remarks Ilham Aliyev emphasizes that Baku participates in the projects of strategic importance and adjusts its performance based on the demands of modern global geopolitics.
All of this indicates that Azerbaijan has elevated to the next level of foreign policy and its geopolitical prominence has grown. Therefore, Azerbaijan’s activity is evaluated within the boundaries of such a geopolitical space as Central Asia – Caucasus – Middle East – Europe.