An exclusive interview with Rusif Huseynov, сo-founder and editor-in-chief The Politicon research center (Baku).
1. How would You describe the current and prospect relation of Azerbaijan with NATO and what do You expect from the NATO summit this year?
Although Azerbaijan demonstrated quite a big interested in trans-Atlantic integration in the late 1990s – early 2000s, this direction was later replaced with a more flexible balancing foreign policy. Especially, the 2008 Russo-Georgian war and the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, during which the countries that openly announced their NATO membership aspirations were abandoned without any tangible assistance vis-à-vis Russia from the military organization, strengthened non-alignment position within the Azerbaijani authorities.
Moreover, the style to prefer bilateral relations with Turkey, a NATO member, which is Azerbaijan`s closest ally, over relations with the entire North Atlantic organization will most probably maintained.
Assessing the regional and geopolitical realities, the Azerbaijani leadership prefers to continue its balancing politics, which provides more room and more maneuvers in a tense neighborhood, towards Russia, Iran, Turkey, EU, USA and approaching China.
The NATO summit of this year must carve out a clear strategy towards Russia and the likes of Georgia and Ukraine. The alliance has to express unity and a stronger position in the Western-Russian clashes; otherwise, the vulnerable pro-Western sentiments in some of post-Soviet nations of the Eastern Europe would be badly hit, and NATO`s own image could be undermined.
2. How do you assess President Trump's proposal to transfer negotiations about Ukraine from Minsk to Astana?
Perhaps such a proposal to transfer negotiations from Minsk to Astana is either purely symbolical or a desire to send a message about warm relations between the United States and Kazakhstan, one of Russia`s main allies.
Yet, I am too pessimistic whether changing venues for negotiations could be but fruitful at all. The poor practice of other conflicts in the GUAM countries – decade-long negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, for instance, have not produced any results.
In this regard, this proposal, even if not materialized, could be a good boost for Kazakhstan`s image as an important regional actor, does not, however, promise any good prospect for the fate of Ukraine.
3. What do You think about the current policy of Turkey in Syria?
With designing the Global War on Terror, the United States and its allies paved the way for undermining any weak country`s sovereignty in the name of self-defense from terrorism. Thus, Erdogan`s Turkey, quite powerful regional player with neo-Ottoman ambitions, had to display that it was still dealing with Syria and hard on Kurdish terrorism Turkey has been suffering from for the last 30-40 years.
Like most experts I tend to think that the latest Turkish operation in Syria was launched upon the consent of Russia, the present dominating power in Syria and also directed against the Americans, who since the Iraq war have been arming and supporting the Kurdish militants. Turkey, who may not be able to change the ruling government in Syria, can however strengthen its position as an important regional actor and hit the Kurdish independence and irredentism.