Rasim Musabekov: "25 years put Azerbaijan on par with Russia and Kazakhstan"
Today, Azerbaijan is celebrating the anniversary of its independence - on October 18, 1991, Azerbaijan's Supreme Council adopted the Constitutional Act about the State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan from the USSR. The political scientist and MP of the Azerbaijani Majlis, Rasim Musabekov, told Vestnik Kavkaza about how Azerbaijan has lived these 25 years
- In your estimation, what kind of country and what state has Azerbaijan become over the 25 years of independence?
- Independence is always a good thing, it is a rate of the nation's maturity, which is able to call itself a state. The question is how countries manage their independence. Despite the war imposed by Armenia, Azerbaijan was able to make a significant progress in its development over 25 years of its independent life. The majority of the union republics stepped back in demographic and economic terms in comparison with what has been achieved before gaining their independence. At the same time, Azerbaijan has gone far ahead, and if Azerbaijan SSR was in the top ten of the USSR's table of ranks for the industrial development, social services, pensions and other indicators, or even did not get into it, now Azerbaijan is one of the most successful republics in the post-Soviet space, along with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. It is the precise evidence of what Azerbaijan has achieved during 25 years of its independence.
- How do you assess Azerbaijan's foreign policy – what is the role played by the foreign policy of the republic in its life?
- Any policy is largely determined by geography and history. If these components are chosen correctly and taken into account in foreign policy, it will strengthen the state's international position. Azerbaijan started its independent statehood in very difficult conditions: the war imposed by Armenia, the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Being a victim of aggression, we did not meet understanding in the world those days, more than that, I remind you that the US adopted unfair Section 907 in respect of Azerbaijan, which deprived us of the assistance provided to other former Soviet republics.
Azerbaijan was able to overcome this injustice and bring the truth about the conflict to the international community. Today there are more than 60 representative offices of foreign countries and international organizations in Baku, and Azerbaijan itself has embassies in more than 50 countries. During the year Baku is visited by many heads of state, heads of government and ministers – much more than neighboring Armenia and Georgia together.
Azerbaijan is the first of the former Soviet republics, which was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Azerbaijan's foreign policy is balanced, we build mutually beneficial relations with our neighbors, at the same time we do not adjust our policy to someone's needs. The republic pursues its own interests, building relations with other countries on an equal partnership basis. We have very good relations with both Georgia and Russia, and partnership, allied relations with Turkey. We are implementing major regional projects, and no major regional project is possible today without Azerbaijan's participation. We already built the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, today we are building the Southern Gas Corridor.
- How has Azerbaijan's foreign policy influenced its relations with Russia – and what are the results of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations of today?
- I think that Azerbaijan has chosen a correct, partnership nature of contacts with Russia. Azerbaijan has sought and seeks to make these relations were based on specific pragmatic interests, because it is a very solid foundation for bilateral ties. It is important that the country understands: the centuries-old relations between Azerbaijan and Russia must be preserved. The consolidation of Azerbaijan's independence and receiving additional benefits for its own development depend on how we will build our relations with Russia, Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Today, Azerbaijan makes every effort to develop its relations with Russia on a partnership mutually beneficial basis.
- How has the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict affected the development of Azerbaijan?
- Unfortunately, it's like a weight on the leg, hindering stepping forward. The development of Azerbaijan and the whole region could be much more intense without the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Look, Azerbaijan's and Armenia's armies are bigger now than armies of such European countries as Belgium and the Czech Republic, and many other states. The need to increase the defense capabilities in the context of unfinished war takes away resources, which could be spent on the development of the country. In addition, the conflict has generated 1 million refugees who need conditions, accommodation and help, which is also a heavy burden for the state. At the same time, Azerbaijan coped with this problem without international assistance and fulfills its obligations to the people expelled from their native lands. We have also created a strong army, which allows Azerbaijan to look confidently into the future.
Of course, the use of force in solving the Karabakh conflict is not our choice. At the same time, there should be no illusions that it is possible to persuade Azerbaijan to agree to the transfer of Nagorno Karabakh and 'a transport corridor' to Armenia. Now the balance of powers is changing steadily in our direction both demographically and economically. 25 years ago, in the days of gaining independence, the population of Azerbaijan was twice as high as the population of Armenia, today it is three times bigger than the Armenian one, and our birth rate is four times higher. When the USSR dissolved, the Armenian economy amounted to 60% of the Azerbaijani economy, and now it is not even 15% of it. We have both military and political advantage over the aggressor.
- In your estimation, who has made the greatest contribution to the current state of Azerbaijan?
- It is obvious even for critics of Heydar Aliyev that the Azerbaijani government was saved and strengthened in the difficult situation, in which it was in 1993, by Heydar Aliyev. His role is completely unique, it cannot be overemphasized. He was able to pull the country out of chaos, in which it was immersed, get rid of weapons owned by different groups, bring the state mechanism out of its paralysis, stop the war and conclude oil contracts, which ensured the financial foundation for the revival of Azerbaijan. All this is a great merit of Heydar Aliyev, who carried out the creative work in very difficult both international and domestic conditions. A further rise of the republic is the work of his successor Ilham Aliyev, who is pursuing a policy of Azerbaijan's development very worthy.
- In your estimation, what are the prospects for the development and life of Azerbaijan in the future?
- I want everything to be good. Azerbaijan is a part of the global economy and politics. We are a small country, and if the oil market situation brings difficulties to such a big country as Russia, it is clear that certain difficulties arise for Azerbaijan. The regional policy and geopolitics in the future will depend on the relations between Russia and the United States, between Turkey and Iran, between the US, Iran and Turkey – we are surrounded by these countries and their conflicts can also strongly affect the security and economic condition of Azerbaijan. It depends on us to minimize the risks, both economic and political, as well as a use of any opportunities for development. If there are no force majeure events, Azerbaijan will continue its vector of its steadily rising social and economic development.