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Response to fabricated claims of Armenians about Khojaly genocide

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Khojaly, one of the worst human tragedies of the 20th century still waits to be recognized by international community. Unfortunately, still some persistently deny the facts and tirelessly repeat fabricated conspiracies to avoid responsibility for the crime which, first of all, is disrespect for the souls of children, women, elderly and other victims of the crime. This piece is written as a response to such claims which is penned by Mr. David Davidian, however any expert who is familiar enough with details of the conflict would not be able to find any substantial argument in the mentioned writing. All fabricated arguments in the piece were debunked in the past and they do not stand against even mild criticism that are based on well-known history and facts.

Mr. D. Davidian starts his first argument with the claim that “the borders granted them (Azerbaijan) jurisdiction by Joseph Stalin”. This is beloved and tirelessly repeated claim of Armenian leadership and mere attempt of distort of historical facts and manipulate observers who might not familiar with details. They claim that as if Nagorno-Karabakh had never been part of Azerbaijan and it was Stalin’s decision “to grant”, “to allocate”, “to transfer”, “to hand over”, “to pass” or “to award” from Armenia to Azerbaijan or in Russian verb “передать”. In fact, the decision of the Bolshevik rulers of the region at that time regarding Nagorno-Karabakh was not передать, this verb was not used in any documents of that period. The decision explicitly used the Russian verb оставить, which means “to keep” or “to preserve” within Azerbaijan. As you might already understand how some commentators intentionally jumble translation from Russian to English. Furthermore, all historical records of that period demonstrate how in 1920 G. K. (Sergo) Ordzhonikidze, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party, first suggested in his telegram to Stalin and Georgy Chicherin to create autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

The second argument that Mr. David Davidian in his piece put is that Khojaly was place from where Azerbaijan was launching indiscriminate shelling on Armenian positions. This claim is completely groundless since there is not any single record of international observers or journalists on the ground stating that Khodjali was exactly that place where Azerbaijan positioned heavy armament, long range artillery or any other military equipment to launch shelling on Armenian positions. Neither Azerbaijan at that time being drowned in complete domestic political instability and struggle among different political factions did have any capability and central military command to plan any military operations on ground. In fact, according to the international observers and journalists Khojali being surrounded for several months did not have military backup from outside neither people of the city could reach other parts of Azerbaijan. The local civilians were protected only by militias with light weapons which in the end easily destroyed by well-trained and equipped military units. Therefore, calling civilian population of Khojaly as “a target needing neutralizing” is inhumane, amoral and cynic approach and another attempt of justification of crime. Also, the author did not provide any evidence or reliable source that prove that any serviceman of the Russian 366 Mountain Rifle group was killed by the attack from Khojaly. Unfortunately, here by pointing the Russian military unit the author also tries to put blame on Russians rather than Armenian military.

Mr. Davidian in his piece argues that before the assault on Khojaly Armenians warned the civilians about coming operation, while he does not give any evidence for it neither there is not any reliable source for defending this claim. Also there is no reliable evidence proving that the human casualties among civilians happened as result of crossfire on the corridor allegedly Armenian troops created for the civilians to leave. Contrary, the former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in his interview to Thomas de Wall confessed that “before Khojalu, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We needed to put a stop to all that. And that’s what happened.” In his memoirs Markar Melkonian, brother of famous Armenian volunteer commander Monte Melkonian who was considered a terrorist by Americans also confirmed the deliberate assault on the civilian population. In fact, the confession of the former Armenian leader is enough to qualify the events in Khojaly not just crime against humanity but simple genocide according to international law.

Mr. D. Davidian in his piece refers so-called interview of the former Azerbaijani president A. Mutalibov to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta arguing that he said that Khojaly was result of “the Azerbaijani political engineering of events”, organized by the opposition Popular Front. The former president several times stated that he never made such statements and his comments were distorted by Armenian nationalists to built conspiracies for international audience. Ayaz Mutalibov in an interview to Regnum News Agency said that: “Any reference to me stating that the Popular Front facilitated to the fall of Khojaly is blatant lie. I said only that the Popular Front took advantage of the situation to come to power” after the event.

Interestingly, the author tries to build another conspiracy around the death of Azerbaijani journalist Chingiz Mustafayev who was killed by an Armenian sniper on the frontline when he was recording another fight saying “lost his life under mysterious circumstances”. It was Chingiz Mustafayev who recorded on video all vandalism against civilians that cannot be denied. The author also somehow relates the closure of ANS TV of Vahid Mustafayev who is a brother of Chingiz with the release of the video on Khojaly in 2017. In fact, the ANS TV owned by Vahid was closed down not in 2017 but year before in 2016 and that decision has nothing to do with the video. The fact about that Mustafayev videoed the same bodies of the civilians postmortem mutilated, surrounded by Azerbaijani soldiers has very simple explanation. It is not what the author tries to imply. The simple explanation is that when Azerbaijanis left the area for a while with the helicopter with full of human bodies and came back to get the rest, Armenian soldiers came after the corps to cut different human parts to prove for their superiors that they killed more people in order to get more rewards.

On the other hand, the author questions the authenticity of facts and photos about the genocide in Khojaly. In fact, it is not just Azerbaijani journalist who recorded the tragic events on the ground. Then many leading international outlets reported about it. Among them was Frederique Lengaigne who is now a documentary film-maker, but in 1992 she was working for the Reuters agency in Moscow who also photographed those terrible scenes.

In the end, the author mentions the claims of Armenians around the village of Maragha without any reliable reference where Azerbaijanis allegedly committed act of vandalism against civilians in an attempt somehow justify events in Khojaly that happened after Khojaly.

All these allegations were rebuffed by the reputable international organization Human Rights Watch. The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Holly Cartner, in her letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia dated 24 March 1997 placed direct responsibility for the civilian deaths with Armenian forces and dismissed the argument that Azerbaijani forces obstructed the flight of, or fired on Azerbaijani civilians.

Overall, the piece of Mr. David Davidian as I wrote in the beginning doesn’t stand any criticism. A set of claims and statements in the piece are logically inconsistent, they contradict each other, therefore any serious observer cannot believe that all are true at the same time. Which is very obvious from this piece is that it is another desperate attempt of denial, justification, building different conspiracies and escape from the responsibility at the same time.

Leading Research Fellow, Foreign Policy Analysis Department. Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

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Eastern Europe

Georgian Way of Combatting the Coronavirus

Emil Avdaliani

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Despite its small size and unstable economy, Georgia was one of the first countries to start taking active measures to counter the spread of the pandemic. This included closing schools and conducting widespread diagnostic tests. As will be argued below, Georgian response to the pandemic was a mixture of East Asian and West European models.

The single most decisive factor why Georgia stands out as a successful example in combatting the pandemic is a swift political action by the central government, which acted as soon as the country’s first case of coronavirus – a Georgian citizen who returned from Iran – was diagnosed, on February 26. The same day an inter-departmental task force was formed to coordinate the fight against coronavirus, made up of representatives of every major government agency, to manage the situation. Banning flights to/from Iran was announced. In the following days, flights to Italy, another hard-hit state, were also suspended.

All ministries drafted an action plan against the coronavirus. As the number of cases rose, schools and other educational institutions across the country were closed. Lockdown measures such as night time curfew and the suspension of public transport services (bus and metro) followed. On March 20th Georgia halted all passenger air traffic, including banning all non-resident foreign citizens from entering the country. Closure of restaurants, bars and shops apart from grocery stores, banks, petrol stations, pharmacies and post offices followed. Vehicles transporting essential goods were allowed to operate.

Moreover, inbound passengers were checked for high temperatures and were asked to provide exact information and contact details necessary in case they started experiencing symptoms at home. Those were essential measures as they allowed the government to track potential patients right from the state borders and airports. The government also set up a website with all the necessary information which reflected international scientific opinion and World Health Organization recommendations.

Though the above measures are standard in preventing a wide spread of any epidemic or infection, the swiftness of those actions was a decisive factor for success. Two additional instruments at the disposal of the Georgian government played a further stabilizing role. First is the role of the Richard Lugar Public Health Research Centre, part of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The laboratory has allowed Georgia to get test results in a very short time and trace the roots of the virus. The research center was constructed with funds from the US government and is a subject of widespread disinformation campaign emanating from Russia as to the laboratory’s role.

In Between the Asian and European Methods

Many features of the Georgian government’s handling of the pandemic are similar to the East Asian coronavirus management style. East Asian countries contained the spread of the virus below the vulnerable threshold by relying on preparedness, technology, and transparency. Evidence from Asia (Taiwan, Singapore and others) suggests an effective means to ensure the compliance of citizens to follow restrictive measures was to use modern AI technologies. Surely, Georgia lags well behind many Asian states in terms of technological advancements, but the country’s correct mobilization of available medical resources as well as an aggressive contact tracing strategy prevented the state from falling into the pandemic-related chaos similar to what has taken place in most European states.

Similar to some Asian states, Georgia also did not follow all the WHO guidelines. Quite often the WHO gave controversial recommendations such as not to limit international traffic or assumptions about face masks not being effective. Georgian scientists also changed one crucial WHO guideline by removing high fever from the list of suspicious symptoms. This allowed them to detect many more infection cases compared to strictly following the WHO guidelines.

There is also Georgia’s mindset in play. As in many Asian states, the country is used to crises, whether civil wars and the Russian invasion in 2008 or a difficult economic situation. These made it easier for the Georgian population to withstand limits on movement and endure a near total shutdown of economy with the ensuing economic hardship.

Surprisingly, draconian measures introduced by the Georgian authorities were in place much earlier than in most in of European states. The timing was crucial and since the European states did not introduce restrictive measures early enough, congestion of the healthcare system followed with thousands of patients entering the system daily in western Europe alone.

Take for example the Netherlands, which introduced almost no restrictive measures at the time when the spread of the pandemic became evident. Only flights from Wuhan (epicenter of the pandemic) were stopped. As a result, countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, far exceeding Georgia’s economic and medical potential, experienced thousands of deaths.

As in west European states, the Georgian authorities faced a challenge of putting the state on a complete lockdown and concerns as to how compliant citizens would be. The Georgian authorities decided to balance the individual responsibility every citizen shares with stricter central enforcement mechanisms – an effective mixture of European and East Asian models. Moderate use of surveillance technology plus transparent, comprehensive testing, quick quarantining and isolation of suspected cases, made the difference.

Even in its own region, the South Caucasus, which is characterized by near identical level of economic development, Georgia stands out as a good example of pandemic crisis management. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Iran all have much higher number cases of infections and fatalities. The reasons for those differences should be found not so much in the size of economies of those states, but rather in the timing of restrictive measures and how far they were effectively implemented.

Georgia’s success story proves, as many analysts argued, that smaller states (with small population) could be less vulnerable to the pandemic. But it also shows that the timing of introduction of restrictive measures is more important and that relatively poor states could perform in a much effective way than larger, developed economies. Many argued that no concrete way of combatting the pandemic exists and that each state should adjust to its specific economic and medical needs as well as geography and other factors. However, as the Georgian case demonstrated, an effective application of East Asia and West European models serves as a good starting point for preventing the pandemic from hitting large population groups in the state. So far, this strategy proves to be effective as the government in Tbilisi has started to lift economic restrictions and the number of infections has not grown.

Author’s note: first published in Caucasus Watch

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Eastern Europe

Geopolitics of Dual Citizenship: Case of Georgia

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Authors: Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani

Dual citizenship emerges as a geopolitical concept. Small states seeking political and military security could attain guarantees through the spread of dual citizenship. Below are examples from Roman history with a separate case made for modern Georgia.

 Dual citizenship seems to be a way small European nations should feel safe within a framework of the European integration, whereas a responsibility for a personal security lays upon an allied country too. A research of historical background must be involved thoroughly, Georgia being an object for this case. If a foreign citizenship was a traditional honorary degree passed from the European principal domains towards the provinces, the countries being tied up formally, it should not be abandoned at all, and put under a scrupulous legislative elaboration.

 “Serapita, daughter of Zevakh the lesser pitiax (duke), and wife of Iodmangan, son of Publicios Agrippa the pitiax, victorious epitropos (commander-in-chief and the only minister) of the Great King of the Iberians Xepharnug, died young, aged 21, and she was extremely beautiful” (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, найденная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази. Тбилиси. 1941, pp. 23-24).

This Greek text was carvedon tombstone from Mtskheta (East Georgia), the Iberian capital. It is prolonged by the Aramaic version (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, най­денная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази, pp. 22-23). Epitropos corresponds to the Aramaic trbṣ, which occurs to be used also towards Agrippa, now trbṣ of the king Pharsmanes (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, най­денная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази, p. 32). Agrippa seems to be a very big man, and because of his Roman nomen Publicius – also a Roman citizen.

In the old times civitas sine suffragio gave to Rome a direct control of her allies’ troops without destroying local (i.e. Italian) res publica. “Latin Rights” were regarded as something intermediary between peregrine status and Roman citizenship. Inside his own community the Latin was subject of the local laws, and a free man. The allies fought on the Roman side, but her own army consisted of the Roman and the Latin forces. The rests are simply socii (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship. Oxford. At the Cla­redon Press. 1939. Second Edition. Oxford. 1973, pp. 46, 73, 96, 98, 109).

From the 2nd c. B.C. Rome was beginning to govern Italy. Magistrates who had supreme power over the Latin military forces, were also the civil heads of the Roman state. The local authorities performed the demands of the central government (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 105).

After SocialWar it was as communities and not as individuals that the Italian allies were incorporated in the Roman commonwealth, they became self-governing municipias. Each new citizen had a double existence, but these two lives were bound together by the most intimate of bonds. New municipias are the old tribes (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 150, 153).

Then the enfranchisement of Gallis Cisalpins followed. From 42 B.C. onwards in Roman usage Italia came to mean the whole territory of the peninsula from the straits of Messina to the Alpine foothills (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 159).

Under Caesar and Augustus comes the first large-scale extension of the Roman citizenship in the provincial areas. This extension is based upon the firm foundation of a genuine Italian immigration. Besidethis stands the extensive grants of Ius Latii in the more Romanized areas of Spain and Gaul. The method is as follows – inserting a preparatory period of Latin status before the elevation of purely foreign communities to the full citizenship. The condition of a grant of Latin rights appears to have been the possession of a certain degree of Latin culture (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 225, 233).

But then Caracalla gave the franchise to all free inhabitants of the Empire (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 280, 287).

As to personal grants, Domitii, or Fabii, or Pompeii in the Western provinces are thought to drive their citizenship from grants made to their forebearers by Domitius Ahenobarbus, Fabius Maximus, or Pompeius Magnus, the generals (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 295).

Beyond the Roman rule, Caesar was the first to make a king Roman citizen (D. Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship. Beckenham, Kent, Fyshwick, Australia. 1984, p. 45). This practice was maintained. For Britain tria nomina was as follows – Ti. Claudius Cogidubus, with Claudius or Nero being the benefactors; for Thrace – C. Iulius Rhometalcus, it is probable that he inherited his citizenship from a predecessor upon whom Caesar or Augustus had conferred it; for Pontus – M. Antonius Polemo, Antonius being a benefactor; for Judea – M. or C. Iulius Agrippa (D. Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship, pp. 39, 41-42, 44).

Iberian case of Publicius Agrippa is very interesting. He was Pharsmanesminister and commander-in-chief. And Pharsmanes dealt with Hadrian. Roman general C. Quinctius Certus Publicius Marcellus is thought to be a benefactor, legatus divi Hadriani provinciarum Syriae et Germaniae superioris (Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III. Pars VI. Consilio et Avctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Berolinensis et Brandenburgensis. Iteratis Curvis ediderunt Leiva Petersen, Klaus Wachtel. Adivvantibus M. Heil, K. P. Johne, L. Vidman. Berolini. Novi Eborau. MCMXCVIII, pp. 433-434, №№1038, 1042).

Hadrian sent his best generals against the Jews of Bar-Kokhba. Two inscriptions found in Ancyra in Galatia attest a senatorial legate of the legio IV Scythica in Syria, acting at the same time as the governor of Syria. He is Publicius Marcellus, who left his province because of the Jewish rebellion. Publicius Marcellus and part of the Syrian army participated in the war in Judaea. Another inscription from Aquileia informs that C. Quinctius Certus Publicius Marcellus was not only the consul, augur and legatus divi Hadriani provinciae Syriae et Germaniae superioris, but also that he received triumphal rewards, or ornamenta triumphalia. (W. Eck. The Bar Kokhba Revolt. The Roman Point of View. The Journal of Roman Studies. v. LXXXIX. 1999. Leeds, pp. 83, 85).

The revolt was dangerous, and a transfer of the legions from the different places to Judaea – an emergency measure. This state of emergency is reflected also in a striking measure: a transfer of the soldiers from classis Misenensis to the legio X Fretensis in Judaea. Since the possession of Roman citizenship was a prerequisite for enrolment in the legions (but not for service in other units of the Roman army, such as the two Italian fleets, the classis Ravennas and classis Misenensis), this meant that these marines were given civitas Romana on joining X Legion. The sources attest even conscription to fill the gaps not only in the legions serving in Judaea, which lost many soldiers, but also in other legions from where the units of the experienced soldiers were taken to strengthen garrisons of Judaea. Great losses were also incurred by the auxiliary forces in Judaea (W. Eck. The Bar Kokhba Revolt. The Roman Point of View, pp. 79-80). They were also to be filled up.

What conclusions are we to draw from all this?

Some of the Iberian units rushed towards South to help Romans with Agrippa from the Iberian royal clan in a command. And he was given civitas Romana, Marcellus being a benefactor.

Thus, citizenship of Publicius Agrippa, Iberian commander-in-chief, derived from a grant of C. Publicius Marcellus, Hadrian’s governor of Syria. Moreover, Agrippa was not the only Georgian to be a Roman citizen.

A silver cup of the 2nd-3rd cc. records a name of the Iberian king Flavius Dades.  Apparently a Roman citizen, he inherited his citizenship from a predecessor upon whom either Vespasian or Domitian had conferred it (Очерки Истории Грузии. т. I, p. 415; David Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship, p. 43). Roman names like Aurelius are still vital in the 4th c. (Очерки Истории Грузии. т. I., p. 19).

Much of the Romans’ long hegemony was spent in carrying through the major reform programs which were to set the pattern for most aspects of life in Europe for centuries to come. The Romans had a reputation for integration. Indeed, they installed Roman citizenship over the kings dwelling at the frontiers, especially the Eastern one. In the twilightof her greatness, showing every sign of disintegration, losing Gaul, Spain and Britain, the Empire still used this system, which proved to be comfortable while military campaigns in the East continued. So, the Georgian kings, sometimes possessing Roman citizenship, were,in effect, guarding the European borders (T. Dundua. Georgia within the European Integration. Tbilisi. 2016, pp. 74-81).

Dual Citizenship as a Tool for National Security

Historically, most countries tried to discourage dual citizenship by requiring newcomers to renounce their country of origin citizenship in order to naturalize, and origin countries took away citizenship if emigrants became naturalized citizens of other states. Nowadays possessing citizenship in more than one country has become common.

There is a number of benefits dual citizens can receive: social service systems, voting and ability to run for office in either country. It also involves financial benefits as holders of dual citizenship are usually also allowed to work in either country.Having a citizen’s passport eliminates the need for long-stay visas and questioning about the purpose of your trip.Another benefit of dual citizenship is the ability to own property in either country as some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only.

Beyond that dual citizenship also has clear geopolitical ramifications. In this way smaller states can be defended by a bigger state. Georgia, since the break up of the Soviet Union, has been pursuing a pro-Western policy. This includes NATO and EU membership efforts. However, this policy brought troubles as Georgia experienced separatist wars in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region helped by the Kremlin and an outright Russian military invasion in 2008. NATO/EU membership pursuit is thus damaged for the moment and Georgia is vulnerable militarily and security-wise.

One of the possibilities for Georgia to correct this geopolitical dilemma would have been a dual citizenship for Georgians. As in the Roman times when the Empire was dominant and the bestowal of citizenship was not only a sign of friendship, but also a political connection (vow of protection), so could, for example, the extension of the US citizenship onto Georgia provides the latter with some more concrete security umbrella. Israel is a good case to discuss as the country has, by some estimates some up to 1 million citizens holding US citizenship.

The countries use the dual citizenship for their geopolitical interests. Take Russia which has been encouraging since the 1990s the distribution of Russian passports to separatist regions along its borders. As a result, the majority living in Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region, Ukraine’s Donbas, or in Transnistria are Russian citizens which put them under Moscow’s protection. To counter this, a dual US-Georgian citizenship for Georgians could work. This would have to involve direct security obligations from the US side: enlarging security and military cooperation with Georgian government etc. This will not be easy as the security obligations through the dual citizenship strategy for Georgia would potentially put the US in direct collision course with the Russians.

Nevertheless, the dual citizenship is an emerging concept in the world politics, which can be used by larger states to protect smaller ones which are vulnerable militarily. As the case of the Roman Empire showed, the concept was present in Ancient period, covering the territory of Georgia. As argued above, it can be re-used in modern times too to provide security to Georgia.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

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Is Azerbaijan a “middle power”?

Dr. Esmira Jafarova

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“Middle powers” have been on the forefront of many international initiatives that demand coordination of resources and promotion of values. Traditionally, middle powers are named so because they are neither great, nor small. Scholars in the field, however, see “middle powers” beyond their mere geographic meaning and rightly so portray their importance not only in terms of their physical criteria. In an attempt to classify, some scholars like Marijke Breuning divide states into great/superpowers, middle powers, regional powers and small powers, with “middle powers” defined as the “states that can wield a measure of influence, albeit not through the projection of military might”.

It is stated that “middle powers” are usually affluent states that employ their resources to foster peace and lessen global economic inequality” and are norm entrepreneurs that “advocate for the adoption of certain international standards and work diplomatically to persuade the representatives of other states to also adopt these norms”.Carsten Holbrad in his identical work defined “middle powers” as “… moderating and pacifying influences in the society of states, reducing tension and limiting conflict among the great powers; or as principal supporters of international organizations, evincing a particularly high sense of responsibility.

Such countries play a role in the area of international development cooperation and the decision-makers of such countries advocate for more developmental aid and sustainable development. As examples to such states are said to be Canada, the member of the G8 and who has self-proclaimed itself as a middle power, to portray its role in international environment; Norway, who for instance facilitated negotiations between the representatives of Israel and Palestine in the run up to Oslo Accords in 1993. Netherlands and Sweden also claim to as norm entrepreneurs, for the work they do that fall into this category, especially in the field of mediation and good offices, and environmental issues. There is no consensus on the eligibility criteria, however, and often advanced countries of the world with purposeful activism on international affairs make their names to the list.

Another interesting element in this categorization is the distinction that some authors drive between the concepts of “middle power” and small states. It is underscored that the latter is not so easily defined, covers diverse group of states and is not solely confined to geographic size,as it is a “relative concept”. In this context, small states are described “as those that have a rather limited capacity to exert influence on other states” and rarely resort to force in international relations.

In this work I would like to argue that despite its relatively small geographic size, Azerbaijan, a country in the South Caucasus, is also assertively making its name as a “middle power”.  The country has come a long way to become a regional leader with all the energy and infrastructure projects that it is implementing together with its international partners, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines and Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) megaproject, expected to be completed in 2020.

However, those projects are not merely profit-oriented, they also aim to contribute to energy security and stability of wider neighborhood and regions, including in Europe. Security means stability. Stability and profits facilitate sustainable development. However, merely energy and infrastructure projects aside, Azerbaijan’s rising international profile in the recent years and its role as norm entrepreneur should be closely examined as the country, I would like to argue, has earned the title of “middle power” by virtue of its initiatives and emphasis on certain values that unite societies, alongside serving as a bridge between often competing geopolitical spaces.

The country has long made the promotion of tolerance and multiculturalism as one of its central slogans in international affairs and there is a specifically established International Center on Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan that implements initiatives and state’s vision in this area. Azerbaijan declared 2016 as the year of multiculturalism. It is multiethnic and multi-confessional state where national minorities and freedom of religious belief is respected. Tolerance is therefore idiosyncratic to Azerbaijani society.

On another note, Azerbaijan’s emphasis on multilateralism is no less important. Its belief in the power of international institutions and increasing weight in international affairs has elevated it to the non-permanent member status of the UN Security Council in 2012-2013. One of the hallmark initiatives promoted by Azerbaijan was the conduct of the high-level open debate on “Strengthening partnership synergy between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)”, during its second-term presidency over the Council in October 2013, which was the first ever high-level debate in the Council on this very topic. 

Besides, Azerbaijan’s faith in multilateralism is also manifested in the very recent initiatives it took to bring together countries of diverse as well as similar faith, identities and interests. In fact, it was also Azerbaijan, who initiated the creation of what now became the driving force behind the international efforts to stabilize the global oil market, – the OPEC+.  As a matter of fact, the establishment of the united format of OPEC and non-OPEC countries amid the fluctuating oil prices in order to tackle the challenges in the global oil market stems from the idea by President Ilham Aliyev, which he proposed during World Economic Forum held in Davos, in January, 2016. He said that “it would be nice if the main OPEC and non-OPEC countries could come together and agree with each other”. Azerbaijan’s appeal to the concerned oil producing countries found a widespread support among the relevant oil producing states, and so it happened. The OPEC+ format has since been acting on the forefront of all the developments associated with the global oil market. Azerbaijan’s emphasis on international cooperation, and importance it attaches to the role of international organizations paid well in this case for the common objectives of the oil-producing states as well as attaining a balance in the global oil market.

Its above initiatives testify to the fact that Azerbaijan has acted as a “middle power”, norm entrepreneur that both “advocated for the adoption of certain international standards and work diplomatically to persuade the representatives of other states to also adopt these norms”, as well as worked towards “… moderating and pacifying influences in the society of states,…; or as principal supporters of international organizations, showcasing a particularly high sense of responsibility.

Moreover, the country has acquired a valuable chance to assert itself as a “middle power” and norm entrepreneur also through the chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – the second largest entity after the UN with 120 members – for the period of 2019-2022, as well as of the Turkic Council, GUAM and TRACECA in 2020. The 7th Summit of the Turkic-Speaking States and the 18th Summit of the NAM under Azerbaijani chairmanship were held in October, 2019, while the 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders was held in Baku in November, 2019. Possession of the central role in these organizations and once again focusing on the issues of religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue gave Azerbaijan another opportunity to act as a norm entrepreneur and as a “middle power” that once again stand for multiculturalism, tolerance, inter-faith dialogue, multilateralism and global partnership by making its voice heard through such versatile institutions.  

Azerbaijan’s initiatives with Turkic Council and NAM also continued in the COVID-19 induced realities. The online special meetings of the two organizations were convened in April and May, 2020, respectively, that focused specifically on the global efforts to deal with the consequences of pandemics and sought to unite with more specific actions in order to alleviate the negative effects of the COVID-19 on the member states of the two organizations. Focus on unity, multilateralism, international cooperation and commitment to common objectives was the crux of those meetings. It was repeatedly underscored that it is only through the effective multilateralism and consistent adherence to the common values that unite all affected states, will they be able to overcome these challenges. Azerbaijan also acted as a norm entrepreneur and “middle power” because it repeatedly stood for sustainable development, having allocated about 10 million US dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its efforts in the midst of the COVID-19, especially with the idea to help needy population in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Moreover, as noted above, the large-scale energy projects that Azerbaijan implements together with its international partners contribute to the energy security and sustainable development of its immediate neighborhood, as well as larger European continent.

Another distinctive feature of the “middle power” as defined in Holbrad’s above work is “…reducing tension and limiting conflict among the great powers…”. Azerbaijan has hosted meetings between Russia and its western partners several times in a row. The first such a meeting took place in April, 2018 between Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s General Staff, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Curtis Scaparrotti, who met in Azerbaijan to discuss the situation in Syria, while the second one happened in December of the same year.

This practice continued in 2019 as well with a meeting between the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Army General Valery Gerasimov and NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Tod Wolters that took place in July in Baku, where the parties discussed issues on “European and global security, ways to prevent incidents between Russia and NATO and the prospects for resuming dialogue between military experts”. They also discussed topics related to the fight against terrorism and maritime piracy, alongside also focusing on situations in Afghanistan and Syria. In November, 2019, a meeting was held in Baku between Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov with Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach. In February, 2020, another meeting of Valery Gerasimov and NATO’s Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe Tod Wolters took place in Baku.

The choice of Baku for such meetings between Russia and NATO officials is not coincidental as Baku is increasingly proving itself as a geographic venue capable of accommodating diverse and often competing interests between different geopolitical spaces, thus once again hewing to the very definitions attested above to the concept of the “middle power”.

In conclusion, there might be different outlooks in the scholarly literature as to what actually constitutes “middle power”. The ones that are chosen for this work have given some description of the concept, sufficient to be utilized as analytical frameworks. In an attempt to argue whether Azerbaijan fits into the very concept of the “middle power”, the work highlighted many initiatives and policies implemented by the country during the recent years, that have encapsulated on the values of cooperation, multilateralism, multiculturalism, inter-faith dialogue, sustainable development and a bridge for dialogue.

Objectively, our world would have been a better place had all the above values and initiatives been instilled into the very fabric of our societies and foreign policy choices. Widespread acceptance of these values and norms could in fact bring in more dialogue, understanding and peace to the anarchic nature of international system. Norm entrepreneurs – “middle powers” are therefore valuable for the premium they place on those or other types of value systems that build, unite, improve and consolidate our collective home. Seems like Azerbaijan is on the right track, and its ambition to qualify for norm entrepreneur and “middle power” should be taken at face value.

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