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Ukraine in Asia – A brief Analysis

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Since its unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine, Russia has inundated the world with misinformation and disinformation in efforts to justify its military operations and to claim its strict observance of the rules of warfare. Unsurprisingly, many of these efforts have often been penetrated due to the poor and blatant construction exposed by the mainstream Western mass media that perhaps interact closely with the intelligence circles.

But this hardly means that Western governments and the mass media are bona fide disseminators of war information that is free from distortion and manipulation. This is because, in the modern and contemporary history of war, government propaganda is a commonplace. It is instrumental to mobilize, sustain and strengthen domestic and international support for war efforts, particularly when magnified by mass media. An underdog country can use such propaganda to enhance international support, especially through provision of weapons, ammunition, logistics and, if feasible, reinforcements, to complement its inferior war capability, as well as economic sanction against the top dog country. On the other hand, the latter can employ such a propaganda to enhance popular morale and supplement resource mobilization capacity.

In fact, Western government war propaganda and the mainstream mass media reports have established a predominant international opinion that sides sympathetically with Ukraine as the innocent underdog[i]. This is particularly because numerous video footage has lively covered massive exoduses of Ukrainian women and children to neighboring countries, missile bombardment and other forms of shelling against urban residential areas, and vivid images of killed and injured noncombatants as well as combatants, among others. Unfortunately, timely open-source information on evolving operational and tactical realities is limited, partial, unbalanced and/or, biased,  possibly with intentional distortions and manipulations. Yet, the reports seem to prove atrocities committed by the Russian invasion forces, demonizing these forces and President Vladimir Putin at the levels of jus ad bellum and jus in bello.

Yet, war propaganda becomes unplausible and ineffective, especially when detached from evolving battlefield realities. Until then, war propaganda surely hampers coolheaded analysis and appropriate policy prescription on how to end a war, while unnecessarily protracting warfare involving a significantly higher death toll and further destruction.

In this light, this study will cast some different light on the tenability of the predominant factual recognition and discourse in mainstream Western mass media. The first jus in bello cases are about Western allegation of atrocities committed by the Russian side against Ukrainian non-combatants, particularly under the condition of extremely fierce urban warfare in the cities of Mariupol and Bucha. The second jus ad bellum case is about Russian allegation of U.S.-assisted biological weapon R&D in Ukraine. These cases are particularly important because most of Western news and reports have flatly turned down Russian counterparts as misinformation and disinformation, without any serious examination. Certainly, the current author of this piece does not enjoy any privileged access to classified information but only to open sources. Yet, careful examination of open-source materials, including Russian and alternative media sources, may make it possible to identify blind assumptions and invalid judgements in the current dominant Western discourse, if not to present correct facts and cogent judgements.

1. The Mariupol Case

1) The Context

Ukrainian President Zelensky stated in his on-line speech of March 23 to the Japanese Diet that several thousand Ukrainian civilians, including 121 children, had been killed, together with nine millions refugees and internally displaced civilians[ii]. This unexpectedly low level of death toll may indicate that Russian invasion forces exercised certain self-restraint in attacking civilians, except collateral damage.

In fact, Douglas Macgregor[iii], a retired U.S. Army Colonel and a Senior Advisor to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, stated that, despite the strong impression generated by the repeated exposure to video footage, President Putin strictly ordered from the outset of the war to avoid killing civilians and destroying urban areas as much as possible[iv]. This is consistent with his historical outlook on the triune Russian national identity – White, Little and Great Russians (respectively, Belarussians, Ukrainians and Russians), characterized by strong historical unity and brotherhood[v]. Naturally ,it begs the question of why the Russian forces killed many Ukrainian civilians and severely destroyed urban residential areas in Ukraine, involving an inscrutable disjunction between Putin’s own creed and practice.

Extremely fierce urban warfare, especially in the City of Mariupol, is a natural consequence of the stark disparity of Russian and Ukrainian military power, to which both sides have even introduced foreign volunteer fighters and mercenaries[vi]. With its overwhelming superiority, the Russian invasion forces neutralized a significant portion of main high-end platforms, assets and on-ground facilities of the Ukrainian armed forces at the initial stage of the current war, including air superiority fighters, major battle tanks and the command & control systems[vii]. This is consistent with numerous video footage available in public domain that primarily captures Ukrainian infantry operations with portable anti-tank missiles for close combat and low-altitude anti-air missiles, while few high-end platforms are visible. In fact, the Russian Defense Ministry said that, soon after the start of the war, the Russian forces totally destroyed Ukrainian Air Force combat aircraft while some of them escaped to Poland and Romania[viii]. Reportedly, the Russia forces destroyed 974 Ukrainian tanks and other armored vehicles just for the first three weeks[ix]. No wonder, MacGregor judged that the Ukrainian units still active “(were) completely surrounded, cut off and isolated in various town and cities”, with supplies likely running out soon[x]. Ukrainian infantry and special operation forces in Mariupol were cornered at bay without reinforcement nor air cover. An Azov Battalion commander there vainly urged the U.S.-led NATO to make armed intervention against Russia, especially to set an effective no-fly zone over Ukraine, while attributing a grave humanitarian crisis in the making to Russia。[xi]

2) Who attacked the maternity hospital and the drama theater?

The Ukrainian government strongly condemned Russia for its military attack against a maternity hospital in Mariupol on March 17[xii], which injured 17 people including women, children and doctors, with at least five of them dead thereafter[xiii]. But Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov justified the attack because an Azov Battalion unit turned the hospital to a combat base[xiv], claiming the victims as unavoidable and lawful collateral damage. Surprisingly, the pregnant woman on spotlight in the reports later disclosed that Ukrainian soldiers used the hospital as base while holding these civilians as human shield against Russian forces, suggesting that the incident was an act of self-destruct and a false flag operation by the Ukraine’s side[xv]. This is compatible with other fragmentary video footage that capture how Ukrainian civilians in Mariupol have been used as human shield[xvi] and prevented from leaving the city[xvii].

Also, the Ukrainian government alleged, echoed aloud by major Western mass media, that, on March 16, a Russian airstrike dropped a powerful bomb on the Mariupol Drama Theater sheltering some 1,300 local residents, including women and children, and despite large signs of “children” that were clearly visible from aircraft. Reportedly, the death toll reached at least to 300[xviii]. The Russian government flatly denied the allegation and instead accused the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia, of blowing up the theater building. This is compatible with the interview of a 17- year-old female survivor of the incident with the Abkhazian Network News Agency, who eye-witnessed Azov soldiers hiding themselves behind civilian hostages in the building[xix].

More specifically, a Russian military spokesman stated that Azov Battalion units held civilian hostages in the theater building as human shield, using the upper floor as firing points. This means that the Russian attack aimed at these units, involving significant civilian casualties as collateral damage during the engagement[xx]. This is a plausible account on what happened, particularly given the very similar circumstances of the above hospital case.

It is now crucially important to inquire what the Azov Battalion is all about and if the troop has the established notoriety of committing such atrocities.

3The Azov Battalion[xxi]

The Azov Battalion is now a part of the Ukrainian National Guard, which is the country’s gendarmerie under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Its name originates from the fact that it has been based in Mariupol in the Azov Sea costal region since 2014, first as a volunteer militia that fought against Russian separatist forces in the Donbas War and later in the same year incorporated into the National Guard while expanded in scale into a regiment. As Russia labels it as neo-Nazis, it in fact uses controversial symbols resembling the Nazis SS Wolfsangel, though it denies any connection with Nazism[xxii]. Yet, in 2015, an Azov spokesman disclosed 10-20% of units consisted of neo-Nazis members[xxiii]. The concern over the Azov is serious enough to the extent that the U.S. Congress enacted a legislative measure, Consolidated Appropriation Bill of 2018, to ban military aids to the paramilitary due to its white supremacist ideology and neo-Nazism[xxiv].

The Azov has faced serious allegations of committing torture and war crimes, including the grossly underinvestigated case of the 2014 Odessa Clashes in which some 50 pro-Russia separatists were killed[xxv]. In fact, the U.N. Human Rights Office of High Commissioner published reports that connect the Azov Battalion to war crimes such as mass looting, unlawful detention, and torture[xxvi]. Clearly. Russia’s counter-allegations on  the above atrocities in Mariupol are at least compatible with an established understanding on Azov’s behavioral pattern connected to war crimes.

Actually, Russia’s emphasis and Western de-emphasis on the Azov Battalion is obscurely central to their intensified exchanges of war propaganda and counter-propaganda, on the ground that the paramilitary has constituted a major U.S instrument of covert military intervention in Russia-Ukraine armed conflict. More specifically, the CIA had a secret advisory and training program for Ukrainian paramilitaries and militias, most probably including the Azov, for eight years until shortly before the start of the current war, despite the aforementioned legislative ban. The CIA has had training centers in the U.S. and eastern Ukraine for sniper techniques[xxvii], anti-tank missile handling, covert communications, and other tactics necessary for insurgency and counter-insurgency[xxviii]. Thus, the issue of the Azov Battalion cannot simply be reduced to the question of war crimes, but can only be fully comprehended in the context of a U.S.-Russia proxy war over the Donbas region that is central to NATO expansion to Ukraine and determination of their spheres of interest.

2. The Bucha Case

A similar suspicion of war propaganda is not easily excludable, with a focus on the atrocities allegedly committed by the Russian armed forces against local Ukrainian civilians in the city of Bucha. Major Western governments and the mainstream mass media are condemning, with strongest terms, the unspeakable atrocities against local Ukrainian civilians on the way of retreat after hard battles to vainly capture Kiev. However, on March 31 when the Russian forces left the city, its mayor did not at all mention of the atrocities in an interview with a Ukrainian on-line news site[xxix] which is compatible with his bright expression in a selfie video taken on the same day[xxx]. On April 2, when Ukrainian army forces entered the city to make sure of a complete retreat of the Russian forces, the video footage by a local news media captured no corpse on roads and no sign of emotional distress among the local population. On April 1, Azov Battalion troops entered the city[xxxi], and on April 3, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released video footage as evidence of the atrocities committed by the Russian forces, which neither the New York Times nor the Pentagon are independently able to verify the assertion of the Ministry[xxxii]. In addition, in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. and the U.K. blocked Russia’s proposal to send an independent fact-finding mission to Ukraine[xxxiii].

Thus, there is a good possibility that the Azov Battalion might have fabricated or purposefully committed at least some parts of the “atrocities” by itself[xxxiv]. (More specifically, to differentiate which camp they belong, pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian civilians wear blue or white armbands respectively. Many corpses in Bucha wore white armbands as in video footage available. The Azov and/or other ultra-right militia units may have committed the atrocities out of emotional impulse, while the mass media and propaganda section of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs may have made up the scene to impute responsibilities of war crime to the Russian invasion forces[xxxv]. It should be reminded that the current war has the dimension of ethnic conflict as well as that of inter-state war.)

Given the leading role of BBC reports on this matter with the analysis of a satellite image, this begs the question of if the U.K. intelligence circles are engaged in elaborate war propaganda against Russia to mislead and manipulate other major Western governments and mass media[xxxvi].

3. The Case of Biological Weapon R&D

Possession of weapon of mass destruction by a revisionist power may constitute a casus belli of a status quo power, particularly when the latter sees the former’s move as its existential threat or serious threat against its vital national interests. Yet, legitimatizing a war has to satisfy some procedural requirements according to international law with presentation of solid evidence to the international society.

In this light, Russia’s allegation on Ukraine’s nuclear weapon programs is not tenable at all, at least at this point, due to its abrupt aggression against Ukraine without presenting any substantial evidence[xxxvii]. Also, there are little significant related information in public domain, though Ukraine has active nuclear power plants with some substantial potential to develop nuclear weapons as the country was part of the Soviet Union.

But Russia’s accusation of U.S.-assisted biological weapon R&D in Ukraine, as articulated with a trove of original documentation by Lieutenant-General Igor Kirillov, Commander of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troop of the Russian Army[xxxviii], is not totally deniable but seems plausible with open-source information[xxxix]. Most remarkably, Victoria Nuland, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, admitted the existence of biolaboratories in Ukraine under the bilateral cooperative programs of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations[xl], while the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department unequivocally denied U.S.-funded biological weapon laboratories in Ukraine[xli]. In addition, an official letter from an official in charge at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to a project manager of Black & Veatch, a DTRA contractor, attests to their significant collaborative research relationship, while another official letter from an official in charge at the DTRA office in Kiev to an official in charge at the Ukraine Ministry Defense indicates their clear awareness of the potential usefulness of their research collaboration for biological weapon development[xlii].

Certainly, the Agency’s Biological Threat Reduction Programs may serve bona fide statutory purposes, not designed to contribute to virus and other biological weapon R&D. Yet, suspicion remains, given that the offense and defense of biological warfare is generally the head and tail of similar biological weapon technologies while there is no clear demarcation line between military and civil research in most advanced virus and other biological R&D that involves genetic manipulation. The lack of confidence in the sectoral culture has recently become worse because Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President Biden, hid the fact before a Senate hearing that the EcoHealth Alliance, New York City-based nonprofit organization, funneled U.S. public funds to gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at China’s Wuhan lab, making it feasible to bypass stringent domestic regulations and strict public eyes. The experiment is suspected potentially useful for biological weapon R&D, and a virus leak from the lab might have been a primary cause of the current COVIT-19 pandemic[xliii].

4. Reflection

Hitherto, this investigative inquiry has cast significant doubt and suspicion on the established Western discourse that sided uncritically with Ukraine in its war against hyper-demonized Russia, almost exclusively on the basis of Western government war information and mass media reports, and without carefully checking Russian reports.

Of course, Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine is utterly indisputable, and a great number of innocent Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the current war, either in atrocity or collateral damage. But who killed how many civilians and in what ways is not self-evident as reported in the Western media, especially in the context of ethnic conflict and urban warfare as the world learnt from gross information manipulation in the former Yugoslavia ethnic conflict[xliv]. It is increasingly necessary to check Western reports carefully against Russian ones, while verifying the authenticity of allegedly “original” U.S. documents presented by the Russian government and mass media. The U.S. government will be accountable, if verified.

Inundated with propaganda and counter-propaganda both by the West and Russia day after day, both political leaders and the public in the West will suffer self-poisoning effect of the hyper-demonized image of Russia on making coolheaded policy analysis. It is high time that the Western governments and mainstream mass media recalibrate war propaganda and counter-propaganda, in view of the need to think of how to end the current war and to keep diplomatic channels open with Russia that would most unlikely capitulate, given that it is a nuclear power coequal to the United States.

[i] Despite the current image of an innocent victim, Ukraine has continually played a disturbing role to Asian and international security, particularly because it sold an ex-Soviet aircraft career, Varyag, as scrap to China, that has been already repaired and commissioned as the country’s first aircraft career, Liaoning; and because Ukraine has not effectively banned outflows of ballistic missile technologies to North Korea that has significantly contributed to the development of its nuclear weapon programs. William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say”, New York Times, August 14, 2017,

[ii] Ukrainian President Zelensky ‘s speech to the Japanese Diet, Japan Forward, March 24, 2022, zelenskyy-to-japans-national-diet/.

[iii] Steve Benen, “Why a former Trump appointee’s pro-Russia rhetoric matters”, MSNBC, March 1, 2022,

[iv] Tyler Stone, “Macgregor: Washington Wants War To Continue As Long As Possible In Hopes To Overthrow Putin”, Real Clear Politics, March 16, 2022, “Former top Pentagon advisor Doug Macgregor on Russia-Ukraine war”, His statement is faithfully recorded in: “American military expert explains ‘slow’ Russian advance in Ukraine”, RT, March 16, 2022,

[v] Vladimir Putin, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, July 12,2021,

[vi] Will Fyfe , “Ukraine: Private militias recruiting former soldiers”, BBC News, March 10, 2022,; “Russia claims to kill ‘180 foreign mercenaries’ in strike on western Ukraine”, Time of Israel, March 13, 2022,; Mari Saito and Elaine Lies, “Dozens volunteer to fight for Ukraine in pacifist Japan”, Japan Times, March 2, 2022,; and, Jack Losh, “Putin Resorts to Syrian Mercenaries in Ukraine. It’s Not the First Time.”, Foreign Policy,

[vii] Luke MacGee, “How long can Ukraine hold out in the war for the skies?”, CNN, March 18, 2022,

[viii] Joseph P Chacko, “Ukrainian Airforce combat aircraft totally destroyed, some escaped to Poland and Romania, says Russia,” Frontier India, March 7, 2022,

[ix] “Russia says it destroyed 974 Ukrainian tanks and armoured vehicles -TASS”, Reuters, March 9, 2022,

[x] “Former top Pentagon advisor Doug Macgregor on Russia-Ukraine war”, op.cit.

[xi] “Official appeal of Azov commander, the major Denis Prokopenko, to the world community”, March 7, 2022,

[xii] “Mariupol hospital attack: Pregnant woman hurt in bombing gives birth “, BBC, March 11, 2022,

[xiii] Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Livvy Doherty, “Anatomy of the Mariupol hospital attack”, CNN Special Report, March 17, 2022,

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] An interview with Marianna Vyshemirskaya,



[xviii] “Historic Theater Sheltering Mariupol Civilians Hit By Air Strike, Number Of Casualties Unknown”, Radio Free Europe, March 16, 2022, Tim Stelloh, “Satellite images show apparent devastation, hunger in Mariupol”, NBC News, March 30, 2022,

[xix] Max Blumenthal, “Was bombing of Mariupol theater staged by Ukrainian Azov extremists to trigger NATO intervention?”, Monthly Review Online, March 22, 2022,

[xx] “Ukraine backtracks on Mariupol theater claims”, RT, March 18, 2022,

[xxi] There are at least several major pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian militias, including those similar to the Azov Battalion. This study focuses primarily on the Azov as atypical example due the limited analytical purpose. Mitch Ruhl, “Paramilitary Forces in Ukraine: Matches to a Powder Keg”, Small Wars Journal, February 21, 2022,

[xxii] “Azov Battalion”, Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation,

[xxiii] Oren Dorell, “Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis”, USA Today, March 01, 2015,

[xxiv] Rebecca Kheel, “Congress bans arms to Ukraine militia linked to neo-Nazism”, Hill, March 27, 2018,

[xxv] Roman Goncharenko, “The Odessa file: What happened on May 2, 2014?”, Deutsche Welle, May 2, 2015,

[xxvi] “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 November 2015 to 15 February 2016″, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, February 2016,; and, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 February to 15 May 2016″, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, May 2016,

[xxvii] Ben Tobias, “War in Ukraine: Fourth Russian general killed – Zelensky”, BBC News, March 16, 2022,

[xxviii] Zach Dorfman, “CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take central role if Russia invade”, Yahoo News, January 14, 2022,

[xxix] “Bucha liberated from Russian invaders – mayor”, UKRINFORM, April 1, 2022,


[xxxi] “Scenes of desperation and death as the Russians retreat from suburbs outside Kyiv”, New York Times, April 2, 2022, 10:27 p.m. ET,

[xxxii] Anushka Patil, April 3, 2022, 7:03 pm ET, Ibid. “Pentagon can’t independently confirm atrocities in Ukraine’s Bucha, official say”, Reuters, April 5, 2022,

[xxxiii] “Russia calls Security Council meeting over Bacha”, RT, April 3, 2022,

[xxxiv] “Russia and Ukraine trade accusations over Bucha civilian deaths (TIMELINE)”, RT, April 4, 2022,

[xxxv] “If you are living in Bucha, please use blue arm band. don’t use white arm band like Russian”, Nick Griffin, “MSM’s Bucha Tall Tale”, Sputnik International, April 5, 2022,

[xxxvi] “Bucha killings: Satellite image of bodies site contradicts Russian claims”, BBC News, April 6, 2022,

[xxxvii] “Russia, without evidence, says Ukraine making nuclear ‘dirty bomb’”, Reuters, March 6, 2022,

[xxxviii] “US biological facilities in #ukraine #russia #war”,

[xxxix] More than a dozen of DTRA documents on biolabs in Ukraine are archived though they had been removed from the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. For the hyperlinks to them, see, Silviu Costinescu, “US ran gruesome bioweapon research in over 25 countries. Wuhan, tip of an iceberg”, June 3, 2021,

[xl] “What Victoria Nuland really said about biolaboratories in Ukraine”, EURORADIO, March 13, 2022,

[xli] Ling Qiu “Theory about U.S.-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine is unfounded”, New York Time, March 12, 2022,

[xlii] Ilya Tsukanov, “Russian MoD Names Curator of Pentagon-Funded Biolabs in Ukraine, Releases Original Docs”, Sputnik International, March 17, 2022,—mod-1093960475.html.

[xliii] Emily Crane, “NIH admits US funded gain-of-function in Wuhan — despite Fauci’s denials”, New York Post, October 21, 2021,

[xliv] Shinya Watanabe, “The Influence of the Nation-State on Art : The Case of the Former Yugoslavian Countries”,2004,

MD Advisory Board Member Professor of International Politics and National Security Faculty of Law St. Andrew's University (Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku)

Eastern Europe

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Can Multipolar BRICS-11 Ensure Global Peace and Stability?

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At the United Nations General Assembly high-level meetings held in New York, a number of global leaders including those from Africa vehemently called for global peace and sustainable development. Russia and South Africa, both members of BRICS association attended the September meetings, and as it was during previous summits and conferences have renewed their commitment for ensuring peace within the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

“As we gather here, much of humanity is confronted by war and conflict. Solidarity and trust between states is being eroded. At the moment when every human effort should be directed towards the realisation of Agenda 2030, our attention and our energies have once again been diverted by the scourge of war,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said during his speech delivered there in New York.

Ramaphosa added that South Africa has consistently advocated for dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy to prevent and end conflict and achieve lasting peace. From the experience of his country’s own journey from apartheid to democracy, South Africa highly values the importance of engaging all parties to conflicts to achieve peaceful, just and enduring resolutions.

It is these principles that inform South Africa’s participation in the African Peace Initiative, which seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In this conflict, as in all conflicts, and that the UN Charter’s principle of respect for the territorial integrity of every country should be upheld.

South Africa supports the urgent call by the UN Secretary-General in the New Agenda for Peace for Member States to provide more sustainable and predictable financing to peacebuilding efforts. It is South Africa’s desire to see an end to the suffering of those most directly affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Ahead of the Johannesburg summit that was August 20, Ramaphosa in a speech to the nation indicated that South Africa participated in the African initiative to seek peace in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Through this African Peace Initiative, he said emphatically: “We firmly believe that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy is the only viable path to end the current conflict and achieve a durable peace. We support the principle of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states and peoples.”

South Africa’s foreign policy has been based on what forebears inscribed in the Freedom Charter in 1955 that “South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and the sovereignty of all nations; South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war.”

Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s return to the presidency in January 2023 has paved the way for a revival of an ambitious and assertive foreign policy set out by the leader during his first term in office between 2003 and 2010. He has been voicing for global peace as well as practical development with geopolitical partners, especially in the Global South.

China insisted on dialogue for conflict resolution. It has also presented its Ukrainean peace plan which Russia keeps on hold. Despite criticisms that it has lured Africa into debts, China is tremendously contributing to Africa’s infrastructure development. China appreciably brings “new opportunities” for diverse cooperation, and has unveiled five new development plans for Africa at the last BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

Even at the end of the 15th BRICS summit, the document adopted encapsulates significant viewpoints on matters of global significance including peace and development. In this document, the BRICS leaders expressed their highest and sentimental concern “to enhance its strategic partnership for the benefit of its people through the promotion of peace.”

It further states… “We reiterate the need for all countries to cooperate in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms under the principles of equality and mutual respect. We agree to continue to treat all human rights.”

“We agree to strengthen cooperation on issues of common interests both within BRICS and in multilateral fora including the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council. We call for the respect of democracy and human rights,” the BRICS declaration (slightly shortened for space) says.

Records show that Kenya is not a member of BRICS. But in a similar direction together with a few African leaders at UNGA, Kenyan President William Ruto also made reference to the proactive commitment to peace, which is not limited to the continent; African Union was inspired to dispatch the African Peace Delegation, consisting of six African heads of states to Moscow and Kiev with a ten-point peace plan, beginning with efforts to initiate a mediation process to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Although the delegation encountered significant challenges in their mission, Kenya and for the matter the entire Africa remain very proud that the peace delegation showed up. The African Peace Initiative group headed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, made serious efforts for recognition as peace brokers.

The delegation included the current Chairperson of the African Union and Comoros president, Azali Assoumani; President of Senegal, Macky Sall; President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema and Prime Minister of Egypt, Mostafa Madbouly. In addition, the delegation included representatives of Uganda and Congo.

The group put forward a 10-point proposal was presented in Kyiv and St. Petersburg. The key aim of the African peace mission primarily to propose “confidence-building measures” in order to facilitate peace between the two countries. It was to seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict which began late February 2022.

At the United Nations, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov afresh offered the signal that “Russia can’t give up goals of special military operation in Ukraine.” From several official documents, Russia underlined the reason as – “to de-militarize and de-nazify” Ukraine.

Quoting President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov said the West was “truly an empire of lies” which even during the battle against Nazism in World War Two, had plotted an offensive against their Soviet allies.

Soviet and then Russian leaders “were given concrete political assurances regarding the non-expansion of the NATO military alliance to the east”, which turned out to be pure deception.

Washington and Brussels have ceaselessly sought to expand their interests and alliances to subordinate the Global South and East, rejecting Russia’s desire for mutual security guarantees, he stated, and closed his case with an appeal for compromise, saying “humanity is at a crossroads…It is in our shared interest to prevent a downward spiral into large scale war.”

He invoked the Secretary-General’s call for world leaders to meet and negotiate in the spirit of compromise at this year’s UN General Assembly, “when designing our common future for our common good” and concluded that it was an excellent response to those who divide the world up into democracies and autocracies and dictate their neocolonial rules to others.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Security Council session spoke assertively in reference to children who have gone missing, been abducted, are being concealed and starved. Lavrov called them allegations, issues without substantiation.

Lavrov, later at the media conference, attributed the conflict in his country’s backyard to  the West’s years-long efforts to transform Ukraine into anti-Russia, while stressing Russia’s policy in a multipolar architecture and, in principle, that strictly seeks adherence for global peace and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Putin Decrees ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine

On 24 February 2022, Russian President declared the ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine. In his nation-wide address, Putin emphasized that over the past 30 years have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe.

In the middle of the long speech that February 24, Putin indicated that one could say, with good reason and confidence, that the whole so-called Western bloc formed by the United States in its own image and likeness, in its entirety, the very same “empire of lies.”

“Despite all that, in December 2021, we made yet another attempt to reach agreement with the United States and its allies on the principles of European security and NATO’s non-expansion. The United States has not changed its position. It does not believe it necessary to agree with Russia on a matter that is critical for us. The United States is pursuing its own objectives, while neglecting our interests,” Putin stressed.

He further pointed; “As for military affairs, even after the dissolution of the USSR and losing a considerable part of its capabilities, today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states. Moreover, it has a certain advantage in several cutting-edge weapons. In this context, there should be no doubt for anyone that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences should it directly attack on Russia.”

For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends. For Russia, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to Russia’s interests but to the very existence of the state and to its sovereignty. It is the red line. They have crossed it.

In this context, in accordance with Article 51 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter, with permission of Russia’s Federation Council, and in execution of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, ratified by the Federal Assembly on February 22, I made a decision to carry out a special military operation, Putin declared ‘Special Military Operation’ on Ukriane.

The purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, Russia would seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation. The officers of Russia’s Armed Forces would perform their duty with professionalism and courage. It is not Russia’s plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory.

Cost of Russia’s ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine

Forbes media has reported that Russia already spent over US$167 billion on war against Ukraine. “In a year and a half since the start of its full-scale invasion, Russia spent about US$167.3 billion on the war against Ukraine, of which US$34 billion worth of equipment were destroyed by Ukraine’s Armed Forces alone,” it reported.

Source: Forbes calculations based on data from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Details: According to Forbes, Russia spends about US$300 million a day on its war against Ukraine.

Direct military spending and the cost of Russia’s lost equipment over 18 months of the war (from 24 February 2022 to 24 August 2023) is about US$167.3 billion. This estimate does not include constant defence spending not related to military operations, as well as economic losses of the aggressor country.

The largest items of expenditure: ensuring military operations (US$51.3 billion), salaries of the servicemen (US$35.1 billion), compensation to the families of the dead (US$25.6 billion) and wounded (US$21 billion) and the cost of destroyed equipment (US$34 billion).

After the rapid fall of the ruble, the “cost” of the Russian soldier for the budget of the Russian Federation decreased significantly. If for 2022 the total payments per one serviceman were about US$200 per day, now it is about US$120 per day.

The level of Russian losses in recent months has remained at a significantly higher level than last year, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Accordingly, Russia is forced to spend more on compensation to the families. The cost of compensation to the family of the deceased in the Russian Federation was about US$110,000, now it is only about US$65,000. The amount of compensation to the wounded, respectively, decreased from US$45,000 to US$27,000.

The main item of expenditure of the Russian Federation on the war in Ukraine is ammunition and military support of the army. The total cost of this is US$51.34 billion. At the same time, the Russians spent over US$9 billion on providing for Russian artillery in a year and a half of the great war. The total cost of missiles fired on the territory of Ukraine has already reached a hefty sum of more than US$21.1 billion.

In September 2022, the State Duma (lower house of Russia’s parliament) and the Federation Council (upper house) approved legislation on ratifying treaties, as well as federal constitutional laws on the accession of the four regions to Russia.

On February 24, Russian President Putin said in a televised address that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had decided to carry out a special military operation to protect people “who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years” and Putin explained – “demilitarization and denazification” in Ukraine, approved by the State Duma and Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

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Eastern Europe

The Solution to Ending the War in Ukraine Lies in the Ability to Get the Other Side’s Point of View 

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Ukrainian soldiers return to their positions after a fierce battle with Russian occupiers. February 2023, the Donetsk region. By Yevhenii Zavhorodnii

This is so simple, so obvious, that anyone ought to see the truth of it at a glance, yet we ignore it. The key to solving the conflict lies in the ability to see things from a person or nation’s angle as well as from your own. If there is any chance to end this bloody and devastating war where billions of treasures are spent to bend the arc of history and new military alliances are evolving and responsible to prolong the loss of life, then one ought to think in terms of the opposing side’s point of view.

So, the only way on earth to influence the opposing nations is to determine what each leader seeks and show them how to get it. Instead of the never-ending condemnation of each other, let’s try to understand and figure out why they do what they do. That is more beneficial and intriguing than criticism that only breeds resentment and pride rather than tolerance and perhaps a level of sympathy. Simply put, God himself does not propose to judge man until the end of his days. Why should you and me?

Taking a tip from Benjamin Franklin where his success in diplomacy was to speak ill of no man and to speak all the good, I know of everybody. Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain -and most fools do. It takes character and self-control to be understanding.  

First, it is important to understand the recently annexed Donbas regions in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea are just as much the historical homelands to both Russia as Ukraine over centuries of war, political upheaval, and shifting control. Fast forward to 1918, troops loyal to the Ukrainian People’s Republic took control of parts of the Donbas with the help of its German ally. Then in 1932, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin confiscated their land.

WW II witnessed further upheaval when Germany occupied the region for resources and forced labor until the Red Army offensive in 1943 returned the Donbas to the Soviet Union. By 1959, there was 2.5 million Russians living in the Donbas; resulting in educational reforms and attempts to eliminate the Ukrainian language. More recently the economy collapsed through the 1990’s where divisions have since escalated with Ukrainians seeking closer ties to the West and Russian separatists taking over key government buildings and declaring a republic.

Furthermore, the history behind the annexation of Crimea by Russia is not short of its own upheavals. With NATO threatening to expand into Ukraine following missile systems set up in Poland and Romania within striking distance of Russian cities, President Putin made a national security decision to annex Crimea. Sevastopol, the Crimean port city where the Russian Black Sea Fleet calls home is a strategic harbor patrolling the shipping routes from Russia and the Don River to Turkey and Southeastern Europe. Russia reclaimed Crimea from Germany in 1944; and a decade afterwards in 1954; the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev handed over Crimea to Ukraine on the 300-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. Understandably, Putin reclaimed Crimea and its Russian speaking population; and could not permit the Sevastopol Naval base to fall into the control of NATO.   

This current war in Ukraine is yet another pivotal moment in a lengthy and tumultuous history that will be added to a long list of regional conflicts that now has the added global component of NATO-creep with the American-led West injecting itself into the conflict followed by Iran, North Korea, and China bolstering the Russians.

So, what does Ukraine and President Zelensky want? Russia to pull its military from Ukrainian territory, they seek to join NATO, and assurances that Russia will not invade in the future. What does Russia and Putin want? No American offensive weapon systems in eastern NATO countries threatening Russia -not dissimilar to Soviet missiles staged in Cuba and minutes away from taking out major American cities. No NATO expansion to include Ukraine where the alliance would be knocking on the door of Moscow. Addressing the wellbeing and future of the ethnic Russians throughout the Donbass and maintaining sovereignty over Crimea which has been in Russian control for nearly a decade and was not a major point of contention prior to the war in Ukraine. Lastly, the lifting of sanctions against Russia.

What does Europe want at this time in the conflict. The ending of this war and a return to greater peace and security on the continent that includes the ongoing fear of nuclear weapons being used in region. The free flow of energy from Russia to provide for their needs, and assurances that Russia has no further intentions to escalate the war into neighboring EU countries. What does the United States and President Biden want? NATO expansion to include Ukraine, Putin put on trial, removed, and Russian forces decimated, and willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the continuation of fighting to the last Ukrainian standing.

Perhaps it is a bit presumptuous to provide solutions to what each party seeks. Here’s what a framework might look like.

  • No NATO membership for Ukraine in the near future and to be reviewed in ten years, however immediate enrollment if Russia decides to re-invade. Membership is not off the table and Russia can breathe.
  • A total Russian military withdraws from eastern Ukrainian territory in the Donbas. A UN security force is inserted and has oversight of a regional referendum in three years to determine if the inhabitants in the Donbas want to remain in Ukraine or become part of Russia. Western leaders speak highly of preserving democracy, and self-determination upholds this claim.  
  • Energy needs of Europe to be addressed with a percentage of Russian oil and gas revenues being allocated as reparations to rebuild Ukraine’s destroyed infrastructure.
  • The removal of offensive missile systems in Romania and Poland facing Russian cities in staged timelines to coincide with Russian alignment on the total package.  
  • An international effort to rebuild Ukraine under the lead of France, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Turkey with the priority on grain and food shipments from Ukrainian ports; including oversight on the reduction of sanctions to coincide with Russia’s alignment and behavior. This would include the removal of arrest warrants for Putin.
  • Crimea remains in Russian territory. 

Each party should gain from the negotiations. We must demonstrate what can be accomplished and what can be avoided. Zelensky and Putin can both walk away with wins. Rest assured, the leaders in this conflict will all walk away lonely and perhaps despised in history if they cannot agree on a path forward. Scolding, threatening, shaming, and reiterating your final position without understanding the perspective from the opposite point of view will not stop this war.

The world’s leaders failed when they allowed this conflict to escalate out of control. We still have the opportunity to act before this crisis becomes wildly out of control and spreads further under the threat of nuclear war. Stay on the same path and we will only be fools in history and a great failure to the next generation over the pain and wasted treasure that could have been allocated to solutions on poverty, famine, and those truly in need in the most unfortunate circumstances such as the Moroccan earthquake and the victims clinging to life following the Libyan flood.

We can choose to continue to weaponize our scathing words, inundate the theatre of war with mass destruction, and witness young men and boys soaking the soil in their blood on our perches from afar or step forward to see things through the other side’s lenses and understand what each side wants. It would not seem sensible that people are afraid to say something sensible before the whole of humanity collapses.   

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Eastern Europe

How is Iran’s growing paranoia affect its relations with Azerbaijan?

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İmage source: Tehrna Times

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet republics tried to search for their place in the new global structure. It was necessary to discover new neighbours who had been separated for many decades by the “Iron Curtain.” Hence, since regaining independence, Azerbaijan’s relations with nearly all regional states have undergone a tumultuous period. Although the diplomatic relations of Azerbaijan with other regional actors gradually stabilized, the dialogue with Shi’a Iran remained uneasy.

For Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not just an ordinary country. First, Iran is one of the biggest neighbours in the south, with about 618 kilometres of land borders. Tehran’s long-standing destructive hybrid warfare strategy toward its immediate neighbourhood and beyond for many years has had a negative impact on relations with Baku and irritated the latter.

Nevertheless, Baku and Tehran established a pragmatic partnership entailing various regional infrastructure projects, particularly transit links. However, 2020-2023 marked the most heightened tensions in Iran-Azerbaijan relations, with deadly consequences for both sides.

Azerbaijan’s Threat balancing

Azerbaijani-Iranian relations have been strained since Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2020 war with Armenia, with both sides accusing each other of engaging in terrorism and espionage. The deteriorating relations between Iran and Azerbaijan garner significant attention, raising concerns about the potential impact on the South Caucasus region. The possible consequences of escalating tensions include economic disruptions and border clashes with the involvement of regional and non-regional actors like Turkey, Russia, Israel and possibly the West.

From the Iranian point of view, several important catalysts led to the deterioration of relations with Azerbaijan, such as the claims of Baku harbouring Israeli intelligence on its soil and the strengthening of the Baku-Ankara axis at its doorstep. As such, in an attempt by Tehran to flex its muscles and intimidate Azerbaijan, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted large-scale military drills on the border with Azerbaijan in October 2022. Unlike previous years, the exercises provoked an uneasy reaction within Azerbaijan and triggered anti-Iranian sentiments throughout the country. During the military drills in October, codenamed Mighty Iran, Iranian forces practised setting up pontoon bridges and crossing the Aras River, part of which forms a section of the border between the two countries. It marked the first time that Iranian forces had conducted such exercises. Moreover, the tensions reached a critical level when the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran came under attack by an armed man, leaving one dead and others injured. As a result, Azerbaijan put diplomatic relations on halt and shut down its embassy, and shortly after, expelled several Iranian diplomats from the country, citing their “undiplomatic activities” in the country.

Although Iran’s MFA denied that it bore responsibility for these incidents, Azerbaijan demonstrated that it would no longer buy Iran’s excuses and took action both rhetorically through official statements and with arrests. While Iran deemed the attack merely an individual acting on a personal vendetta, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev rejected Iran’s explanation and called it a “terrorist attack.” With denials of involvement in all of these provocations from the Iranian government being flimsy at best, Azerbaijan has demonstrated that it will no longer give Iran the benefit of the doubt, and with this, has ushered in a new chapter of open tension between the two countries.

Notably, Iran’s main criticism of Azerbaijan can be attributed to its concerns regarding the potential border shifts in the South Caucasus, thus diminishing Iran’s already weakened soft power influence. In addition, Iranian aggression toward Azerbaijan is undoubtedly a symptom of a reshuffling of alliances in the region and a shifting of global dynamics, resulting in new partnership blocs.

Despite Tehran’s claims that it maintains the leading regional power, its influence over Azerbaijan and the region gradually declined even before the 2020 events. Moreover, Iran appeared to be comfortable with the long-term status quo on Azerbaijani borders and uncontrolled territories in Karabakh for three decades, as it actively used the war-torn region as a major corridor for drug trafficking, oil smuggling and other sanctions-busting activities that helped alleviate economic pressure on the Islamic Republic. It was also apparently used to send Russian weapons to Armenia via Iran.

Tehran is cautious that in the post-war period, the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israel trio will do everything to fence off Iran from the region, thus establishing new red lines. As Baku and Ankara fill the void in the South Caucasus that Russia is leaving behind, Iran is left with Armenia as its key regional partner. For instance, in October 2022, Israel’s then-defence minister, Benny Gantz, visited Azerbaijan, and the two countries signed several military and security agreements, which angered Iran and caused a flood of criticism toward Baku in the Iranian state-run media.

The situation further ignited when Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, ahead of a trip to Turkmenistan, visited Azerbaijan in April 2023 to open Israel’s first embassy in the country, located just 20 km from the Iranian border. Cohen’s remarks regarding the “close partnership between Tel Aviv and Baku against Iran” inevitably triggered harsh rhetoric in Tehran. However, this time, official Baku largely ignored all threats from Iran. Baku’s attempt to reinvigorate regional alliances with the Turkic world in Central Asia and establish new transit routes bypassing Iran reinforced the latter’s preexistence fears about the potential irredentist minority groups. While Iran has many minorities, of greatest importance to regime stability are Azeris, Turkmens and Kurds. The ethnic Kurds are in a latent rebellion against the regime, while the Azeris and Turkmens have remained relatively pacified.

On the other hand, the potential shifting borders in the South Caucasus would come with a cost for Iran, as it may lose its leverage over Azerbaijan as the only land route linking it with Turkey. In the post-war period, Azerbaijan proposed establishing a land corridor with Nakhchivan via Armenia’s Syunik province, thus circumventing Iran. Undoubtedly, such perspectives angered isolated and politically unstable Iran.

Consequently, Iran gained very little from the deliberate escalation of diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan, as the latter is an important trade partner of Tehran and a key country in terms of connectivity and infrastructure projects, particularly within the North-South Transit Route.

Iran – Azerbaijan partnership: Trade amid war of words

The diplomatic standoff between Tehran and Baku came in light of the unprecedented violent riots against the Islamic regime after the security forces tortured and killed Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd. The violent uprising reached nearly all Iranian provinces and still has not fully died down. Iran’s population comprises many ethnic minorities, and these protests have demonstrated the discontentment of many of these communities.

The political and economic instability ignited dramatically when conservative president Ebrahim Raisi assumed office in 2020. The absence of a pragmatic visionary and long-term strategy of Raisi’s hardliner government led to the deterioration of political relations with the immediate neighbourhood, including Azerbaijan. However, despite diplomatic escalation with the neighbourhood, Iran increased trade volumes with several countries in the region, highlighting the long-established IR system control that economic and political ties are developing separately. Thus, despite existing turmoil with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Iran traded 58.25 million tons of goods worth $35.11 billion with the Persian Gulf’s six littoral states, namely Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, registering a 10.05% rise in value compared with the previous year’s corresponding period.

As in the case of Azerbaijan, Baku has long been standing as Tehran’s leading trade partner amid its struggle with harsh inflation and mounting unemployment rates. According to the Azerbaijani media, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran in January-May 2023 amounted to $212,612,000, up 7.6 per cent from the same period in 2022. During the reported period, the exports from Azerbaijan to Iran made up $7,558,000, and from Iran to Azerbaijan – $205,053,000, respectively.

Consequently, trade is not the only determinant factor in Azerbaijan-Iran relations, as both countries were intensively engaged in several regional infrastructure projects, particularly railway links and new highways at the border areas. In this vein, Azerbaijan played a crucial role in linking Iran to Russia within the INSTC framework. In May 2023, Russia and Iran agreed to complete a railroad that would link Russia with ports on the Persian Gulf, providing a transportation lifeline – via Azerbaijan as a critical link – for the two sanctions-hit countries. Due to insufficient funds, Russia is set to be the project’s main sponsor. However, in the wake of diplomatic tensions, the response from Azerbaijan has been quiet. The local governmental bodies preferred not to comment much on this deal, thus signalling that the INSTC-related projects are not a priority for Baku anymore, which instead touting its growing role on another key transit route – the Middle Corridor, shipping goods between Europe and Asia while bypassing Russia and Iran.

Indeed, the Republic of Azerbaijan is a vital part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), Iran’s main route for transit and trade with the densely populated western regions of Russia, Georgia, and Belarus. The Astara border crossing is the main transit route between Iran, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Russia; on average, a truck crosses the border at Astara every seven minutes. The Azerbaijan-Iran transit route has become even more important recently as a result of the Ukraine war, the extensive Western sanctions against Russia, and the preferential trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union that is being upgraded to a free trade agreement.

As this paper discussed, trade and communication occupied a central place in Iran – Azerbaijan partnership in recent years. Therefore, even at the beginning of diplomatic escalation in 2022, Baku and Tehran signed another important agreement that envisioned establishing a new transport and electricity supply link connecting mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan via Iran. According to the memorandum, the two countries planned to establish a new railway, highway, communication, and energy supply lines connecting Azerbaijan’s East Zangazur economic region and the Nakhchivan region through the territory of Iran. In addition, four bridges will be built over the Araz River, including two motorways and two railway lines on them.

Despite the significance of the agreement’s scope, the further deterioration of relations halted this agreement. Consequently, Tehran’s staunch anti-Azerbaijani rhetoric that became more vocal since 2021 caused costly delays and setbacks in terms of economic partnership and regional connectivity, while Baku established new interregional partnership formats to diversify its portfolio.

Hence, Iran decided to take a step back and return to the diplomacy track as a part of the broader strategy of reconciliation with the immediate neighbourhood. Thus, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Baku on July 5, 2023, to attend the high-level meeting of the Non-Align Movement (NAM), where he managed to hold a vis-à-vis meeting with President Ilham Aliyev at the sidelines of the event. While the meeting was concluded with positive remarks, it became a good start for Baku and Tehran to rekindle the bilateral relations after months of confrontation.

Shortly after Abdollahian visited Baku, the Deputy of the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev and Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran, Mehrdad Bazrpash, reached a new agreement to complete the construction of a road bridge across the Astarachay River and put into operation within the next four months. The foundation of a new bridge across the Astarachay River was laid on the border of Azerbaijan and Iran on January 25, 2022.

Moreover, on September 14, 2023, Prosecutor general of Iran paid an official visit to Baku and his Azerbaijani counterpart Kamran Aliyev to discuss the investigation into the armed attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran. The visit of a high ranking Iranian governmental official was also a positive signal in terms diplomatic thaw.

In this spite, the aide of President of Azerbaijan Hikmat Hajiyev acknowledged that Baku is receiving positive signals from Tehran, thus confirming the news of the ongoing diplomatic normalization.


Domestic turmoil in Iran, mounting international pressure and isolation, and the shifting geopolitical landscape in the South Caucasus have added further complexity to the tense relationship between Azerbaijan and Iran in the last three years. Although minor de-escalation recently occurred in Baku-Tehran relations, a smooth intraregional partnership based on mutual trust is yet to be achieved. As such, factors like economic and trade partnerships could be game-changer factors for re-establishing regional dialogue and restoring the pragmatic partnership.

However, if not successful, Iran’s bellicose rhetoric against Azerbaijan could force the latter to take additional strict measures in order to protect its borders and regional stability, which in turn could prompt a military response from Iran with the aim of securing its borderline with Armenia, as this is the only crucial leverage of Tehran over Baku.

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