What’s the real reason behind Putin’s visit to Baku?
Two months after the anti-Russian rally held in Yerevan, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Baku. For this visit, Russian vessels of the Caspian fleet made a friendly entrance at Baku port – among those was the main missile reconnaisance vessel of the Dagestan fleet – missiles of which can destroy enemies below and above the water at the same time.
Nevertheless, the entrance of Dagestan to the Baku port is not the main intrigue of the Azerbaijani visit. Putin arrived to meet his counterpart Aliyev with a large delegation that included Russsian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov; Defense Minister, Sergey Shoygu; Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, as well as the presidents of the companies Rosneft and Lukoil.
The “Baku Declaration”, signed on Tuesday has nothing but futile words and phrases. And there is nothing new in dividing the Caucasus Sea bed. Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union it was decided to divide the bed into sectors by keeping free navigation on the surface of the sea or the lake. However, it was not officially signed.
As for Russia’s participation in obtaining oil in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian shelf, the Russian company Lukoil was part of the process back when the Russian Foreign Ministry made “furious” statements against the single-sided exploitation of the riches of the Caspian Sea. Interestingly, the owner of Lukoil is Azerbaijani multi-millionaire Vagif Alekperov.
It would be nonsense to say that Putin’s visit to Azerbaijan means a change in Russian politics in the South Caucasus– that in exchange for returning Karabakh, Azerbaijan will give back the Gabala radio-locational base to Russia and so on. In fact, Russia will never betray its strategic partner in the region – Armenia. Yerevan was receiving firsthand information about the negotiations in Baku. This is why Armenians took the visit quite calmly.
So then what was the goal of this move?
First of all, with this visit Putin showed the West that Russia’s position and influence in the South Caucasus are still strong. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that by demonstrating it, the Kremlin will gain more leverage to ruin the oil project than it currently has. The second goal is obviously connected to Georgia.
Unlike that “crazy Saakashvili”, Aliyev has pursued the “right” politics towards Moscow. Especially the fact that Putin highlighted in his speech that Russia does not plan to act the same way as in other Caucasian conflicts.
Generally, Azerbaijan is stronger than Georgia in all aspects. In Azerbaijan, society is much more consolidated than in Georgia.
This is why by creating “political impressions” Putin has tried, quite successfully, to activate the geopolitical discussion in Georgia and strengthen the positions of those who are against Georgia’s current pro-Western course.
This political approach has seen its first results. As assumed, the process of dissolving the Georgian Dream Coalition and strengthening the Kremlin’s main pillar – former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze – has begun. And it means full isolation of Pro-western powers within the ruling coalition.
Despite all that, the real addressee of Putin’s visit was not Baku, Yerevan or Tbilisi. It was Ankara. As Leonid Gusev, Moscow’s International Relations Institute researcher says, the main reason behind Putin’s visit to Baku is the issue of cooperation on military issues. According to the researcher, this is why Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu was included among the delegation.
“Putin took Shoygu because the news spread before the visit that Turkey and Azerbaijan were planning to create a joint army that Georgia could also join. Turkey is a NATO member. Of course, it is early to say anything concrete, but if tight movement starts with the Turkish army, it will cause Russia’s legitimate interest,” Gusev says.
The idea of creating a joint army was raised by Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan after the 2008 August War. He suggested to the then Prime Minister of Russia to create a joint peacekeeping army in the Caucasus that would include army units of the Caucasus countries and Russia. The mission of this military contingent would fulfill the peace mission in the Caucasian conflicts. Back then, Putin left Erdogan’s proposal unanswered. But now it is time to respond.
After Azerbaijan rejected Nabucco and gave preference to TAP, prospects for cooperation with Baku on energy issues opened for Moscow. Thus, President Putin would not go to Baku with empty hands. More details on the results of President Putin’s Baku visit will probably be revealed later.
By Zaza Jgharkava