NATO Exercises Scrapped

by Nathan Hamm on 9/16/2004 · 1 comment

Earlier this week, NATO cancelled exercises in Azerbaijan over Azeri moves to block Armenian officers from participating. The United States backed NATO’s decision. The exercises were to have included participants from 20 aspiring and current NATO members under the Partnership for Peace program.

In a certain light, one could cast the decision as a victory of the will of the Azeri public. The decision to deny entry to Armenian officers came after public protests. According to Vladimir Socor’s timeline of events, the Aliyev government initially argued that the exercises were important for Azerbaijan’s long-term cooperation with NATO and only caved after threats of mass protest. Socor characterizes the behavior of Aliyev’s government as “hesitant and intimidated” and puts the decision in a longer series of allowing “the Karabakh problem to undercut the country’s NATO aspirations and, potentially, its relations with Washington.”

On that aspect, EurasiaNet reports:

Meanwhile, what the move will mean for Azerbaijan’s relations with NATO and the US has stirred an equally vociferous debate. Particular attention is expected to focus on Aliyev’s September 22 visit to New York when he will address the United Nations and, according to an Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry statement to the Olaylar news agency, meet with President George W. Bush. Recently, speculation has run rife that a planned redeployment of 70,000 American troops from Europe and East Asia could result in the opening of a US base in Azerbaijan.

Uzeyir Cafarov, an independent military expert, told Azad Azarbaycan TV on September 13 that the Azerbaijani government’s response to the protests will inevitably hamper efforts to integrate the country within NATO. “The attitude towards us will alter. Just imagine that up to 1,000 servicemen from about 20 countries have come to Baku. Now they are returning home frustrated,” Cafarov said.

For its part, the US has attempted to counter that belief. An unidentified representative of the US embassy in Baku told the news agency Turan, that while Washington supports NATO’s decision, ” [w]e do not think that this decision has anything to do with Baku’s desire to cooperate with NATO and become closer to the alliance.”

At the same time, it should be mentioned that certain Azeri officials and intellectuals insist that Azerbaijan should be under no obligation to respect PfP’s doctrine of inclusiveness when it comes to Armenia. In other words, they feel NATO is in the wrong.

Vladimir Socor argues that Aliyev’s advisors failed him.

Political advisers did Aliev a disservice by recommending resistance to Armenian participation in Cooperative Effort-2004. First, those advisers failed to appreciate that NATO could not allow any PfP country to decide who may or may not participate in the alliance’s exercises. Second, by disrupting a NATO peacekeeping exercise, those advisers damaged Azerbaijan’s own efforts to promote the internationalization of conflict management efforts in the South Caucasus with full-fledged Western participation. Third, Baku unwittingly gave some ammunition to those in NATO who would further delay the approval of Azerbaijan’s Individual Partnership Action Plan. Fourth, Baku ended up looking unpredictable while Yerevan looked statesmanlike in this situation. Finally, as an overarching consideration for Azerbaijan to ponder, Armenia-NATO rapprochement could reduce Russia’s leverage on Armenia, correspondingly increasing Western opportunities to shape regional security arrangements and resolution of the Karabakh conflict.

For background on the Russia-Armenia ties over Karabakh, see EurasiaNet.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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