Connect with us

Eastern Europe

Caviar Diplomacy: Working the US-Azerbaijan Relationship to Freedom’s Detriment



Ideally located between George Washington University, my office at the Eastern Congo Initiative, and the White House is a $12 million mansion owned by the State Oil-Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).

Depending on your degree of cynicism, this location at 1319 18th St. NW is either expected, ironic, or an affront to an American foreign policy that intends to protect and enshrine human rights around the world. For the purpose of this article I will remain agnostic on the perspective and will instead focus on the complex and at times contradictory political and economic engagement policies between the US and Azerbaijan.

The complexity can in part be described by the recent history of the building itself. In the 1980s the building housed the offices of Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was the longtime Reagan administration official and US ambassador to the UN. In 1992, the building became the headquarters of the journal of post-Soviet democratization, Demokratizatsiya. More recently, the building was occupied by Freedom House, which is a global human rights watchdog that publishes a highly regarded annual report titled Freedom in the World. Azerbaijan is and always has been since the report’s inception in 1995 regarded as ‘not free.’ Rather than view this as a strange and somewhat dark comedy, I am inclined to see the realpolitik so typical of controversy and PR campaigns. Just like all wars are supposedly waged for peace, all market expansion is meant to be waged for economic freedom. The question needed to be asked the White House is why are we giving up prime DC real estate to Azerbaijan while waging economic warfare against OPEC? The question needed to be asked Azerbaijan is what do you offer the US in order to get not only a turned cheek to political and economic repression, but also a certain degree of geographical preferential treatment in terms of real estate?

A good place to always start is to follow the money, or in this case, the energy. Azerbaijan, which is situated perfectly between Russia and Iran, could readily serve as a land bridge of military, economic, and political partnerships between ambitious counter-powers to Western hegemony. Instead, Azerbaijan maintains a healthy political distance from the two regional hegemons and moves its energy resources to the Western world – in direct adherence to US foreign policy. Azerbaijan is not only a semi-impediment to Russian and Iranian strategy, but an increasingly powerful chess piece in the US arsenal. This relationship has developed for decades but soon will be permanently bound through the $35 billion Shah Deniz-2 project and the creation of the Trans-Anatolian and Trans-Adriatic gas pipelines, deals signed in December 2013. The small Caspian state currently supplies 2% of the EU’s energy needs but is now the heart of what is described as the ‘Southern Gas Corridor.’ This aims to challenge Russia’s Nord Stream. Parallel to the geostrategic march, corporate actors are also falling in line as BP leads the Deniz-2 project in direct contestation with Gazprom’s dominance in Nord Stream.

While the lion’s share of Azerbaijan’s oil and natural gas wealth is delivered to the EU, there is one non-EU country that receives a substantial portion as well – Israel. Over 30% of Israel’s energy imports come from Azerbaijan. Perhaps this point alone grants Azerbaijan its rather curious political and real estate advantage in Washington DC? In addition to the friends-with-energy-benefits relationship, Azerbaijan holds a few other get-out-of-diplomatic-pressure-free cards. Most notably, Azerbaijan is the only majority Muslim state that is a military ally of the US and NATO in the war on terror. Azerbaijan has both committed troops to anti-terrorism conflicts and provides a strategic entry and exit point for US and NATO troop movements. Furthermore, Azerbaijan exports not only energy but its own flavor of political corruption to Western states. This flavor, which the European Stability Initiative (ESI) has coined ‘Caviar Diplomacy,’ has effectively silenced the Council of Europe. ESI’s report on this further criticized the Council of Europe by calling its members ‘apologists’ in the face of Azerbaijan’s political repression.

What is most surprising, however, is the general coherence between Western actions and words relative to Azerbaijan. One example of this is took place at the signing of Shah Deniz-2. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev did not describe this as some new and wondrous opportunity for increased economic and diplomatic engagement. Instead, he said “the agreements will change the energy map of Europe.” The EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger affirmed President Aliyev’s assessment by projecting that the corridor could “in the long term supply 20% of the EU’s gas needs.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague was also in attendance and described the deal as “welcome news.” Prior to the signing ceremony Amnesty International called on Foreign Secretary Hague to raise human rights concerns due to Azerbaijan’s “appalling human rights record.” No such issue was raised. Thus, human rights advocates were simply ignored, left out of the proceedings, and not allowed to be a priority.

Another example comes from American diplomatic signaling. The National Security Strategy (NSS), State Department country fact sheets, and the Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) report all turn a relative blind diplomatic eye to these issues. The beginning of the State Department’s fact sheet on US-Azerbaijan relations exemplifies both America’s interests and indifference: “The United States is committed to strengthening democracy and the formation of an open market economy in Azerbaijan. It stands to gain benefits from an Azerbaijan that is peaceful, democratic, prosperous, and strategically linked to the United States and U.S. allies in Europe.”(Bold text is my own) Comparative analysis between the language and volume of diplomatic rhetoric also highlights a double-standard: the US “condemns” Iran for imprisoning journalists and activists and often does so through direct statements made by President Obama or Secretary Kerry. The US only “is troubled,’ however, when Azerbaijan violates the same international law – and voices this concern via blog posts on the US embassy’s website in Azerbaijan.

It is here where we have come to the true Dark Side of the Caspian – implicit Western support of oppressive regimes in the name of geostrategic and economic advantage. It is here where Human Rights Watch both identifies the primary cause and misses the mark – “Azerbaijan’s International partners have failed to secure human rights improvements.” Azerbaijan’s human rights have not improved, but one feels compelled to ask if that was ever the West’s goal to begin with? Freedom isn’t free as the American cliche goes. Azerbaijan is undermining the freedom and human rights of its people and avoiding punishment by providing the West with cheaper energy, strategic benefits, and fine caviar. We would all do well, therefore, to don our realist thinking caps and remember that we are a community of political nations, not human rights advocates. Until liberal social policy provides greater economic benefit (or dialectically, presents significant economic loss in its absence) we will continue to see Azerbaijan succeed in political repression via the strategically-induced apathy of the West. Until those changes happen, Azerbaijani energy barons will continue to sit comfortably in their Dupont Circle mansion in the toniest section of the world’s freedom capitol. What a bitter irony indeed.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Financial challenge for Lithuania



Next year will be the real turning point for Lithuania from the financial point of view. After gaining the independence Lithuania was significantly supported by the EU. Brussels helped a young country to grow stronger and decrease its dependence on Russia. Many projects started by the country decades ago were successfully financed from the European funds. Such assistance made possible to develop economy at a very fast rate. Lithuania every year became more and more confident in its capabilities and strongly believed in its European future. EU financial aid helped to start the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant and the building of the Rail Baltica, as well as a lot of other projects.

For example, Brussels has already allocated €1.5 billion as part of the current budget up to 2020 for the Ignalina nuclear power plant. But the process is only half way. Lithuania desperately needs at least the same amount of money to finish the project and be safe. Though a spokeswoman for the Lithuanian energy minister on March 13, 2018 has denied a report that an incident occurred in the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) in late 2017, the situation is alarming.

The new EU budget for the next seven years could become a real threat to Lithuania position in this regard. It is not a secret that the European Union is experiencing financial difficulties and they will be even more serious than now. The matter is BREXIT for sure will cause financial cuts of the EU budget.

Thus, financial perspective for Lithuania is not very encouraging. Its main donor will decrease financial aid. Even now the European authorities stress the necessity of financing Lithuanian projects mainly at its own expense.

Besides the Ignalina nuclear power plant, Lithuania extremely needs money for continuation of the Rail Baltica project that should link Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with a European standard gauge rail line. No decisions have yet been made about the next funding period (2020+). And Vilnius makes enormous efforts to convince the EU to continue support for the project. So, as well as the Ignalina nuclear power plant project, the Rail Baltica is also in limbo.

In other words Lithuania can’t stop these projects because they are too important for her image and security but admits that it can’t continue them without external assistance. Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas insisted in December that “EU support is crucial and we simply do not have any other alternatives.”

At the same time, lack of funding does not prevent Lithuania from increasing defence budget. This year Lithuania will allocate 873 million euros for defence. The increase is by 149.2 million euros (as compared to 2017).

If redirect this amount of money annually to such vital project as decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, it would easily afford Lithuania to close the plant during next 20 years without external assistance. If to compare the necessity to close the plant and the necessity to buy containers, trucks, repairs of military equipment, spare parts of vehicles (the biggest purchases projected for 2018 according to the Ministry of national defence) the priorities are clear. May be something is wrong with the priorities of the Lithuanian authorities?

With all these additional money Lithuania could close dangerous nuclear plant and also build modern railway without asking the EU or other sponsors for money. Let us think about it…

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

“Anschluss” in the Caucasus: Thanks to complete negligence of the world community



On March 12, Austria commemorated a sad date, the 80th anniversary of the Anschluss, a bloodless “absorption” of the country by Hitler’s Germany. March 12 is an official Day of Remembrance in Austria. During a ceremony held in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen urged young people not to be “taken in” by neo-fascist and far-right ideologies. “The German armed forces came overnight to seize Austria. What did not come overnight was contempt for democracy, disregard for basic human rights and freedoms, militarism, intolerance and violence. Austria has a shared responsibility for the atrocities of National Socialism. Austrians were not only victims but also perpetrators, oftentimes in leading positions,” said van der Bellen.

Anschluss is translated from German as reunification. An Armenian word miatsum has a similar connotation used since 1988, half a century after the Anschluss, by Armenian fascists to label their claims to Azerbaijani Karabakh.

There are many parallels between the events of 1938 and 1988. Indeed, the Anschluss was a seemingly bloodless event, and most Austrians welcomed the annexation of their country by Germany, albeit unaware of the upcoming global consequences of this experience. Same as in Karabakh, when the crowds yelling “mi-a-tsum!” did not realise the cost they were going to pay because of their actions and that they were actually pushing their people to war. But most importantly, in 1938, the world community did not react to Hitler’s annexation of Austria as it should have reacted. It did not foresee the readiness of Nazi Germany to destroy the recognized borders behind the crowds who enthusiastically welcomed Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, an Austrian by birth. Nor did it foresee the territorial appetites of Hitler. Many researchers believe that if the world did properly react to the Anschluss of Austria and prevent the Munich agreement, it would be quite possible to avoid the Second World War.

There is no doubt that if the actions of Armenian nationalists were properly evaluated in 1988 without excessive complacency and if, after the collapse of the USSR, there would be a clear signal that the world would not tolerate any forceful redrawing of borders, I am sure that many of the existing acute political crises could be avoided.

Yet another warning of the Austrian President is more relevant than ever, that is the danger of fascination with neo-fascist ideas.

Today hardly anyone seems to believe in the urgency of reminders about the dangers of such ideas, especially in countries where these ideas were taken for granted as a guide to action. Surprisingly though, it is hard to realize that even today Nazi ideas are being promoted to the rank of state policy. This is exactly what transpires in neighbouring Armenia, which not only denies the “Anschluss-Miatsum”, but also promotes the Nazi accomplice Garegin Nzhdeh, the deputy commander of the Armenian Legion of the German armed forces and author of the racist theory of Tseghakronism as “a father of the nation” and “a symbol of patriotism”.

This Hitlerite butcher began his bloody career with ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in Zangezur, later applying his rich experience in countless massacres of civilians including the children, women, and old people, whose only fault was that they belonged to a “wrong” nationality. The only difference was that in Zangezur the people was killed for being Azerbaijanis, while in Crimea – for being Jews or Karaites. A pompous monument has been erected in the centre of Yerevan for Nzhdeh the Butcher, and his ideology, Tseghakronism – officially promoted in Armenia as a state policy.

Yet Armenia is trying to mislead the world community by resorting to tricks typical to conmen but not the state authorities. The word tseghakron in Armenian means race. During his stay in the United States, Nzhdeh created an organisation from young Armenians that he would openly call tseghakron in Armenian, and racists in all other languages. If, for instance, someone is speaking about a race in anthropological sense of this word, tseghakron is normally translated into other languages as race. But as soon as it comes to Nzhdeh and his ideology, then the Armenians prefer using tseghakronism, a word of incomprehensible origin. But all these interpretation tricks do not make Nzhdeh’s ideology any less explicitly racist and fascist.

This cheap trick can deceive only the naive people unfamiliar with the situation in Armenia, where the fascist ideology of Nzhdeh is manifested in everything. The fascist tenet of “purity of blood” has turned into a series of ethnic cleansing events in Armenia. Being a hard-core fascist, Nzhdeh preached “the purity of Armenian language” forbidding Armenians to communicate in other languages but Armenian. In fact, education in any other language except Armenian is prohibited in Armenia. There is a small number of Russian classes in high schools but they are only for the children who have at least one non-ethnic Armenian parent.

An outrageous incident occurred recently during the selection of participants for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest started in Armenia. The head of the Armenian delegation at contest, Gohar Gasparyan stated clearly: “All children of Armenian nationality of 9-14 years old can participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, regardless of the place of residence. We are waiting for talented Armenian kids.” Then one named Anush, answering a question if children of other nationalities can participate in the selection, replied: “Actually, it is impossible according to the law. Generally speaking, if a participant is from Armenia, he or she must be of Armenian origin.” This is fascism in action, isn’t it?

In fact, the first Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosyan was well aware of the danger of such ideology. Tseghakronism, ARF Dashnaktsutyun, etc. were strictly banned during his tenure. But then Ter-Petrosyan was overthrown as a result of the “creeping coup” and fascists like Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan usurped the power. In one of his interviews, Kocharyan, in the spirit of the fascist Nzhdeh, tried to reason a “genetic incompatibility” between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. In his interview with Thomas de Waal, the incumbent president Sargsyan was boasting of his complicity in the massacre of the peaceful population of Khojaly: “Before Khojaly, Azerbaijanis thought that they could joke with us; they thought that Armenians are incapable of laying hands on civilians. We managed to break this (stereotype).” Needless to say that the irresponsible and aggressive behaviour of Armenian authorities remains a serious threat to the security of the entire region. But above all, this policy is dangerous for Armenia itself, whose citizens are better not to forget the outcome of fascination with the ideas of “racial superiority” and claims to the lands of neighbouring countries for Germany. Although, given the current statistics of emigration from Armenia, I believe that many of its citizens understand the implications of the dangerous game played by official Armenian authorities.

Furthermore, one can see a manifest of the fascist ideology on the symbol of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which is very similar to the symbolism of the Third Reich. The RPA logo depicts an eagle with stretched wings almost exactly repeating the coat of arms of Nazi Germany; even the head of an eagle looks at its left wing. It is not a shame to use an eagle as a symbol of party and country. But both symbols (RPA and Third Reich) match entirely, and such things cannot be accidental.

Today, one can find an image of a steel eagle neither in Germany, nor in Austria, let alone in any other country of the world. But in Armenia the authorities revived the eagle, which is flaunting not only on the emblem but also at all party congresses, like years ago at party congresses of the Third Reich. Armenian authorities have surpassed even the Fuhrer in his effort to spread the ideology of fascism. If Hitler dreamed of creating a mono-ethnic state in the Third Reich, destroying the most beautiful cities of Europe including Paris, Krakow, Prague, and Warsaw and changing ethnic identities of people living therein, none of his efforts were fruitful. It is hard to believe but the current leaders of Armenian nation have managed to do this, thanks to the complete negligence of the world community. As a result, Armenia is a mono-ethnic state, where no Azerbaijanis are living; the entire Azerbaijani architecture previously populating the historical centre of Yerevan and also the whole territory of Armenia has been destroyed; and absolutely all Azerbaijani toponyms and hydronyms have been changed to Armenian ones.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Ordinary Fascism with Azerbaijani Variations

Arman Navasardyan, Ph.D



In the midst of the Cold War, in the most dramatic moments of mid-60s, thinking society of USSR was not only deeply touched, but was also given  food for thought by the talented filmmaker Mikhail Romm’s   documentary film called “Ordinary Fascism”  which according to impartial experts is a genius film about fascism origin and development and, most importantly , the potential dangers of the  latter  for future generations. This is a film-meditation about the nature and causes of the emergence of fascism in the country that has given birth to a unique constellation of science, culture and arts.

It is assumed that the Third Reich’s “National Socialism” ideology is a turning point in history. But, alas, his inheritance revives like a tale headless monster. Holocaust, genocide, aggression, racism, “return of territories – today all of this is still hanging over the head of mankind like a sword of Damocles.

“Expanding Germany’s Spatial Territories” was the principal thesis of Hitler’s program, which still does not calm politicians in many countries inspired by fascism’s “expansion to the East”( “DrangnachOsten”) challenge. Only some of them direct the arrow to their neighbors.

They say, “mafia is immortal” and then what about fascism? It is prospering right before our eyes, in our region. We must beware and take measures against it, for modern fascism is not less dangerous and less disastrous than it was in the period of Fuhrer and  Duce.

Now, as the French would say, “Let’s get back to our sheep!”. The fascism machine lives, operates and roles round just  a few kilometers away in our neighborhood. By the classical laws, fascism is a political regime with its internal and external orientation, peculiarities and principles. Today’s Azerbaijan’s political agenda includes all the components and parameters of the fascist system. Usually dictators are charismatic and have special names. Julius Caesar was “the father of the nation” in ancient Rome, Mussolini was Duce in Italy, Hitler was Fuhrer in Germany. Aliyev does not have charisma and is modestly satisfied with the status of a president, probably seeing that Portuguese Antonio Salazar was just a premier-minister.He was also convinced fascist. Like all mentioned dictators, Aliyev did not cancel the Parliament and the multiparty system… However, in the conditions of fascism, the dictatorship is characterized by the fact that a system is created in the country where all the levers of power are concentrated in the hands of the sole leader, as a result of which all the laws adopted by the legislature and the executive are transformed into fiction and the opposition parties are purely decorative in nature. Thus, Aliyev’s reelection in the upcoming elections is 100% guaranteed.

Azerbaijan’s economy holds all fascism segments. Like other fascist regimes, corporatism develops along the path of unifying the state and large capital. And in the conditions of corporatism, economic policy is determined by the sectorial interests. In Azerbaijan, it is, naturally, the carbohydrate industry. These corporations are monsters born of the coupling of the state bureaucracy and oligarchy, which governs the entire capital and reserves of the state. The interests of small and medium-sized enterprises are ignored and the protection of the   population’s interests  by the trade unionists and  the syndicates  is out of the question. They simply do not exist here. Azerbaijan faces militarization of economy. The Third Reich’s favorite slogan ”guns Instead of butter’‘ is widely used.  The social needs of the broad population and the well-being of ordinary people are subordinated to military spending, which according to  the ruling regime is determined by the war with Nagorno-Karabakh. One of the obvious features of Fascism’s policy is repression and censorship. Like other fascist regimes, there is a legal and non-legal police mechanism in Azerbaijan that is protected by the state. Such a terrorist act is carried out not only against active oppositionists. Special websites gather and sort individuals who criticize the authorities. Subsequently they are exposed to moral and, if necessary, physical pressure. In the internal political life Azerbaijani fascism combines the police and state repressions with propaganda, hacking methods, persecutions, arrests and imprisonment.

The “odyssey” by the renowned writer Akram Aylisli takes a special place in the fight against dissidents, which, like many other cases, “missed” the “alert”eyes of Western human right defenders. The most striking feature of fascism is militarism, which occupies a special place in the current political life of Azerbaijan and the propaganda mechanism of the authorities. In order to conceal internal political failures and distract people from the daily problems, the leadership applies to the fascist trials. war is declared a natural, everyday life of man. At the same time, this is done in the background of so described “Armenian aggressor” and “occupant” stereotype. Azerbaijan is building a cult of war and fascist mythology, the basis of which are the fallen heroes of the “liberation war”.Creates an alley of the heroes and so on.  And the crown of that ideology was the cynical and shameful fact of granting the title of Hero to the murderer Safarov and raising the throne of glory. For example, things like a deep economic crisis and mass depletion of the population can give rise to fascism. Among the reasons, in our opinion, is the primary defeat of the state in the war, the loss of territories, and, therefore, its degradation on the international ground.

The conditions imposed on the German side after the First World War , for instance , played a major role in the rise of  fascism in Germany. They created the so-called Weimar stereotype, which was skillfully used by Hitler for a revenge, unleashing the Second World War. German fascism was the result of a destroyed imperium nostalgia, loss of territories and violation of international authority. And what has our neighbor lost and what is the logic of fascism?  Return of the lost territories or the restoration of territorial integrity? Let’s suppose that the common and deceived Azeri believes that Armenians have “seized” their territories.  But Aliyev and his team  do know that Armenians have  ,not yet fully, returned what they were taken away from  a hundred years ago.Revenge? But if Azerbaijan had been convinced of success, especially after the April “blitzkrieg” which was a practice a  la fascism, it would have already taken that step. Baku authorities, especially after the April war, are skeptical about the possibility of losing a large-scale war. Azerbaijani fascism moves with the same laws and psychology that other fascist states act.

Within this context, Baku’s revanchist, imperialist, and militaristic ambitions open up new horizons of confrontation and festive dreams. Fascism’s appetite apparently increases in time and space. Otherwise, how would one explain the Aliyev’s desire to capture Zangezur, Lake Sevanbasin,finally the “lost” Erivan Province   and so on? Once you follow the dynamics of the Azerbaijani fascism, you come to the conclusion that this phenomenon does not recognize a friend or an enemy, neighbor or ally, and like an octopus sea monster, has a tendency to spread everywhere, far from its country and in the places where it does not belong. Thus, besides the Armenian lands, the Azerbaijani political mind often attracts attention to the territories of Northern Iran, considering it to be the “paternal lands”.And Baku political scientist Zaura Mamedov is making a fictional statement comparable to the discovery of Columbus, which sounds as the following “Azerbaijanis have always been the owner of the state, now called Iran.” And don’t be surprised, it turns out that “the Azerbaijanis ruled over Iran for more than 1,000 years.” Not forgetting the eldest friend, the political analyst is trumpeting that “In fact, Iran was a Turkic country from X century to 1924.” No more, no less. And we are still indignant about Erivan. It remains only to suspect the strength of the foundations on which the Azerbaijani-Iranian relations are built, as well as the Russia-Iran-Azerbaijan alliance. The course of history, unfortunately, shows that the change of the fascist regime is almost impossible. Azerbaijani fascism is not an exception. After the Judgment Day, such regimes collapse either because of war or in the case of the disappearance of the regime leader.

Continue Reading


Energy1 hour ago

Global energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017- carbon emissions rose for the first time since 2014

Global energy demand rose by 2.1% in 2017, more than twice the previous year’s rate, boosted by strong global economic...

Green Planet2 hours ago

World looks to nature-based solutions for urgent water challenges

As more than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and more than double that number lack access...

Energy9 hours ago

Forum held in Kigali on increasing access to sustainable energy in East Africa

The Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa took place between 19 and 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Over 400...

Defense10 hours ago

Assessing Washington’s “strategic and military” options in Syria

For Washington, Eastern regions around Mediterranean holds “vital strategic interests” centrally to which lies Syria, policy makers within the White...

New Social Compact11 hours ago

Political Parties, Church and Grand Mufti in Bulgaria: No Rights for Women

On 12 March, the European Parliament called upon EU countries including Bulgaria to ratify the Istanbul Convention. However, only one...

Energy12 hours ago

Energy has a role to play in achieving universal access to clean water and sanitation

The world has a water problem. More than 2.1 billion people drink contaminated water.  More than half the global population –...

Middle East13 hours ago

Ahed Tamimi, the Detained Heroine

Ahed Tamimi has accepted a plea deal under which she will serve eight months in prison, during a closed-door hearing...



Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy