Turkey: Caucasian captive of Asia Minor
A serious test of the strength of the strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Turkey took place in the autumn of 2009. Then the process of the Armenian-Turkish normalization almost became a reality. The Turkish government was inclined to the need to restore diplomatic relations and open the land segment of the border with Armenia, but in Baku they thought otherwise. In the autumn of 2009, in the Azerbaijani capital, it even reached the point of burning the state symbols of the Republic of Turkey. The government of Recep Erdogan then backed up on the issue of normalizing relations with Armenia, but at the same time put forward their urgent wishes to the Azerbaijani authorities. Their essence boiled down to the fact that Baku should remain in the orbit of the decisive influence of Turkey, not joining any multilateral integration associations.
The processes of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian integration bypassed Azerbaijan. In the republic, this is called the policy of "flexible alliances", respect for distance from other, in addition to Turkish, centers of power. What is important here is the fact that stability in relations with business partners, which are almost entirely represented on the Absheron peninsula by transnational corporations, is important for Baku. Any significant deviation from the policy of “flexible alliances” is fraught with negative consequences for the Azerbaijani political elite. The economic well-being of Azerbaijan directly depends on the stability of hydrocarbon supplies in the western direction. Not only American, British and European energy companies had a hand in creating such a position. Ankara did a lot here, trying to consolidate the role of a raw materials appendage to its Caspian partner and, what was a recent innovation, a large investor in the Turkish fuel and energy complex. In fact, everything that is mined in Azerbaijani fields is transited through Georgia to Turkey for further distribution among end users. Turkey partly managed to become the largest energy hub on the way from the region of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea to Europe. Only from the start of its operation in the middle of 2006 of the year to 1 of July of 2014 of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, almost 250 million tons of hydrocarbons were delivered to the Turkish Mediterranean port.
Part of the income from oil exports by Azerbaijan is returned to Turkey in the form of investments. Among the investment projects of Azerbaijani companies in Turkey is the construction of an oil refinery in Izmir. The investment in the project, where the controlling stake belongs to the subsidiary of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR Turkey Enerji) and the State Oil Fund of the Republic, is estimated at $ 5,7 billion. while the investments of Turkish companies themselves will not exceed $ 2018 billion. There are signs of a closed cycle of cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan in the energy sector. The supply of black gold using the transit services of Turkey leads in the future to the investment of free liquidity by Azerbaijanis in large projects in the partner’s market.
Turkey is not interested in any independent movement of Azerbaijan towards those or other integration unions. In the western direction, the Turks claim to be the bridge for the exit of Azerbaijanis to the political and business circles of the Old World. With regard to the very promising model of Eurasian integration for Azerbaijan, Turkey’s position is clearly negative. The Turkish authorities do not want to hear about any large-scale economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as with Iran.
The influence of Ankara on Baku affects in many ways. With Russia, Azerbaijan has an inadmissibly small amount of cooperation in the energy sector. Both in terms of oil supplies and natural gas purchases, Russian-Azerbaijani relations through the fuel and energy sector are characterized by “mood swings”. For example, with regard to the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline, only recently has it been possible to advance in solving problems related to the volume of pumping and the size of the tariff charged. The volume of Azerbaijani gas supplies to Russian Gazprom also varies greatly, there is a significant shortage of contracted volumes (in 2013, Gazprom bought 1,37 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas instead of the agreed 3 billion). Only recently, Azerbaijan has witnessed a certain shift in relations with Iran. The parties declared their intention to complete the construction of the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway in a short time, and also started the construction of two hydropower stations in the Azerbaijani-Iranian border area. Against the background of multi-billion dollar contracts Baku with its Western partners is quite a bit. It must be said, Ankara succeeded in trying to dissuade Azerbaijan from rapprochement with its two largest neighbors in the north and south. Not a single meeting of the Turkish military and representatives of the special services with their Azerbaijani counterparts is complete without a discussion of the “threats and challenges” emanating from Russia and Iran to Azerbaijan.
This alignment of forces, in which Armenia and Russia form one pole of cooperation in the Transcaucasus, and Turkey and Azerbaijan another, is the best way for Ankara to further bind Azerbaijan to itself. From the situation of the current status quo in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey has gained a lot of benefits for itself. The unresolved conflict allows Ankara to firmly hold Azerbaijan in its sphere of influence, demanding from the Baku elite a constant oath of allegiance to a Turkish ally. Here you can remember history with the “Nurcist conspiracy” in Azerbaijan, “revealed” by the Turkish special services. Recently, the Azerbaijani media actively discussed the topic of the penetration of adherents of the movement of Fethullah Gulen “Nurdzhular” (the official name of the movement - Hizmet) into the system of power of Azerbaijan. The list of Nursists in Azerbaijani government agencies was posted on Facebook by “İnci Azəri”. Later it became known that the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Turkey Hasan Zeynalov is the author of this list. According to one of the versions, Erdogan’s government fighting the “Gülenov plague” at home decided to arrange for the Azerbaijani leadership a test of allegiance to allied obligations. Hence, a somewhat intricate, but generally effective scheme of cooperation between the Turkish special services, affiliated with the power of the media and Azerbaijani diplomats in Turkey.
Unlike Turkey, as well as the American and European partners of Azerbaijan, Russia does not require anything from Baku. Moscow needs a steadily developing neighbor located at the most important junction of the Black Sea-Caucasus region with Central Asia. If Baku is not yet ready for a substantive discussion of the issues of Eurasian integration, the Russian side will not speed up this process. Moscow will not send “energy emissaries” to Baku, as Americans, British and Turks do. A regular Washington ambassador with a good knowledge of oil and gas problems will soon take over the diplomatic watch in Baku. In August of this year, Richard Morningstar will be replaced by Robert Francis Cekuta, who has worked extensively at the State Department through energy diplomacy. Visitors from London to Baku were also cleared out - the British Minister of Energy visited Azerbaijan on July 9.
The West, like Turkey, needs only oil and gas from Azerbaijan. The development of ties with Russia gives Azerbaijan something completely different. In economic terms, this is the diversification of trade relations, the creation of non-resource clusters of cooperation. Interregional relations of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and the regions of Azerbaijan are another extremely promising direction. In terms of political dialogue, it is necessary to point out the following: only Russia, by virtue of geographical, historical, humanitarian and other factors, can actually contribute to transforming the region’s “painful point” from an obstacle into a stimulus for multilateral cooperation. We are talking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the zone of which should be turned into a field of competition not with armaments and military operations on the cease-fire line, but with humanitarian initiatives, political confidence measures and public diplomacy resources.
- Vyacheslav Mikhailov
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