U.S. policy on the eve of the start of the election campaign in Azerbaijan
Alexei Vlasov, exclusively to VK
Washington’s activity in the direction of the South Caucasus in recent months has increased markedly. While in 2011-2012 the main efforts of the State Department were concentrated on support for the Saakashvili regime, now, with the new geopolitical realities, the U.S. is trying to diversify its regional policy, distributing more evenly the forms of cooperation between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.
Naturally, this activity worries Russia, given that, according to many politicians and experts, this activity is not only anti-Iranian, but also explicitly anti-Russian.
However, if, in the case of Armenia, Washington is willing to give priority in the dialogue with Yerevan to official Brussels, when it comes to Azerbaijan, U.S. diplomacy prefers to act directly in the field of energy dialogue and the Karabakh issue. However, for the Azerbaijani elite, despite the importance of the Karabakh issue, currently the number one issue is the presidential elections to be held in autumn 2013.
The position the U.S. will take in respect of Ilham Aliyev's candidacy, of course, concerns the local authorities, especially as the U.S. officials, as usual, are trying to stick to a multi-vector line. This means that high-ranking officials almost simultaneously hold meetings with representatives of the ruling elite and the most prominent members of the opposition. For example, members of the delegation of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in the framework of a three-day visit met with representatives of the National Council of Democratic Forces. Meanwhile, U.S. senators on that day met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. It is interesting that the head of the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress Mr. Smith also participated in the meetings with the representatives of the authorities and their political opponents. Note that Russian MPs and politicians cannot afford such a "broad multi-vector policy" for Azerbaijan or Armenia. In this case, there are completely different rules.
If we put aside evidence of increased diplomatic activity in Washington and wonder about the ultimate goal of these actions, the answer is actually very simple: supporting anti-Iranian sentiment, erecting barriers in relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia, keeping the slow state of the Karabakh conflict, since it is one of Washington's leverages over regional politicians. Perhaps these circumstances have caused a pause in the determination of the candidacy of OSCE Minsk Group by the United States.
The main operator of U.S. projects in Azerbaijan is Richard Morningstar, who is talking about fair and transparent elections in Azerbaijan in each of his speeches, for which, he said, he hopes personally. And, in addition, Morningstar has fully mastered the art of talking about a lot, avoiding specific answers to tough questions. By the way, this was the case at his last briefing, when Morningstar, answering questions about the trip of Ibragimbekov to the U.S., only confused the journalists about with whom the new-found opposition leader met in Washington.
Of course, politics is an extremely cynical business, and U.S. policy is double cynical. This is not a reproach to Washington, but merely a statement of fact, to which politics in the former Soviet space, not only in the countries of the South Caucasus, are accustomed.
That is why the Azerbaijani elite seem to be striving to separate rhetoric from genuine aspirations, both against Washington and against the European Union. And if in the energy sector Baku is largely in the wake of the interests of the West, from the point of view of the internal stability of the current political system, the U.S. can hardly serve as a close ally of President Ilham Aliyev. At the very least, there are no such examples in world politics over the last few years, when Washington's promises were fulfilled until the end for both objective and subjective reasons.
In other words, at least until the autumn of this year, the region will have a great game, in the center of which Azerbaijan will stand - a key point for the current scenario in the South Caucasus. And it is on the Azerbaijani leadership, who should bear in mind the adage about Greeks bearing gifts, that a comprehensive solution to the problems to face country and society in the next two to three months depends.