Our Analytics 25 december — 16:09

What is Russia for us? (Afterword to President Aliyev's interview)

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BY EUNULLA FATULLAYEV

A few more days remain until the end of 2018, however, official Baku already has every reason to consider it as particularly successful. The outgoing year was marked by the stabilisation of the Azerbaijani economy: the government successfully coped with the consequences of the financial crisis that erupted in 2015, although the culmination of the fall in the national currency occurred in 2016-2017.

Azerbaijani authorities have successfully continued the implementation of a multi-level and multi-vector foreign policy concept, because foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy. And the whole philosophy of the policy of the Azerbaijani government is based on the principle of superiority of stability over political freedoms. The bitter lesson of the Arab Spring and permanent chaos in the countries of the revolutionary democracy of the CIS space further strengthened the awareness of the lack of alternatives of the chosen concept: Azerbaijan defined itself in resolving the dilemma given several years ago by European thinkers - stability, of course, is above democracy.

Orange evil

And, of course, the new value-based approach has led to new foreign policy priorities and benchmarks. Since 2013, the government has laid a solid foundation for the accelerated development of the Russian-Azerbaijani strategic partnership. Azerbaijan is more comfortable with Russia. Not because, unlike, say, the West (although the West is quite multifaceted today as well, this is no longer a single philosophical definition), the Kremlin does not resort to ornate liberal rhetoric. But because, in contrast to the Euro-Atlantic powers, Russia is building its foreign policy and, above all, relations with its neighbours on the basis of the principle of non-intervention. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, unlike the other representative of tandemocracy Dmitry Medvedev, is not at all sure that freedom is better than non-freedom, confirmed Russia's approach on the example of recent events in Armenia. Despite the unlimited military-political presence in this country, Russia did not interfere in the course of the revolutionary events. Although the Kremlin had many ties with the Karabakh clan that was displaced during the revolution. In Armenia, pro-Western forces came to power, which in this case are not going to repeat the mistakes of Saakashvili and Poroshenko. That is, for Russia the main thing is that the participants of the regional security system built by the Kremlin do not violate the interests of the Eurasian power. But at the same time, Moscow recognises the right of the people to choose.

Paradoxically, the United States is pursuing approximately the same policy with respect to the Middle Eastern monarchies, say, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and its other satellites. But for some reason, with respect to countries located in the zone of vital interests of Russia, Washington sets completely different standards. However, after Trump came to power, who greatly strengthened isolationism in American foreign policy, the approaches of the White House and the State Department changed in many ways. But still... The Euro-Atlantic community is still shaping its relations with the countries of the former USSR in accordance with the type of political regime built there.

Yes, Azerbaijan has 20-year old economic, oil ties with the West. But with all the multi-vector foreign policy of Azerbaijan, our government feels more comfortable with Russia than with the European community. More comfortable even with Israel and Iran. The governments of these countries do not ask uncomfortable questions. The West, on the other hand, in particular Washington, especially during the rule of the Democrats, requested from Azerbaijan things it did not dare to request from Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

US president bows to Saudi king

Let's say President Bush could rudely tell Parviz Musharraf, in a rather harsh manner, 'Take off you uniform! And become a civilian.' Washington can afford such rhetoric with countries like Pakistan. After all, Islamabad is unable to bring down world oil prices, or to blackmail Iran with a new policy, so Pakistan could be spoken to in such a tone.

Here is a qualitative difference in the approaches of Russia and the West. Another important and pressing issue is what can the West give Azerbaijan? This is not about a civilisation approach, because when we talk about the scientific and cultural renaissance and progressive education, then, of course, we are talking about the West. Neither the CIS, including Azerbaijan, nor the West are ready for full political and economic integration. And our potential sales markets are in Russia and Central Asia, and not in the West, where even developed countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal do not withstand competition... Economically, socially and, finally, mentally, we will be in Eurasian space for more than fifty years to come, if not hundred! Look, with what irritation the Europeans expel from their capitals Ukrainians and Georgians, who on the crest of a wave of popularisation of European integration rushed to Europe in the hope of a better life. Nobody was waiting for them there. They didn’t wait for the Balts too, who are still perceived by Europeans, especially the Scandinavians, as a sore appendix. The Baltic states are a kind of retrograde planet, it never caught on in the West, reminding about itself with quite frequent corruption and banking scandals. A kind of small oasis for laundering billions from the CIS.

Therefore, as a matter of fact, in the light of the collapsed illusions and hopes for a single global liberal world state with its capital in Washington, Azerbaijan has, as it were, no alternative path of development. And what are we for this world state? Just a raw material appendage. Something like Sierra Leone with bloodstained oil...

For the past two centuries, Russia has been a window to Europe for Azerbaijan. Russia was for us an inexhaustible potential for the development of culture, education, economy, industry... And this window largely saved us from the socio-cultural expansionism of mythologised Iranian Shiism and Ottoman kitsch. After all, we could, in the cultural aspect, turn into a backward and uneducated society, as in the South Azerbaijan - the citadel of militant Shiism.

And now the prevailing geopolitical alignment is somewhat reminiscent of the alignment of forces around Azerbaijan at the very time when we could be absorbed by the Eastern Middle Ages.

Putin and Aliyev created a solid foundation

Last year, President Ilham Aliyev pointedly emphasised: 'Russia is the guarantor of stability in the region.' And those who created the orange belt around Russia, and who are now trying to weaken the Eurasian power as much as possible, understand that the region can be shaken only by undermining the 'Russian world' that has risen from dust. The strength and influence of Russia is vital for a multi-ethnic Azerbaijan. This is a guarantee of our self reliance!

Russia, of course, recognises the integrity of Azerbaijan, opened its doors to millions of our compatriots, sells us modern weapons, is ready to help in a difficult hour...

On the eve, speaking about a solid foundation for political relations, President Ilham Aliyev meant precisely historical friendship. The Azerbaijani leader said so. And, perhaps, therefore, in his congratulatory letter, Russian President Vladimir Putin openly admitted that he valued the relations established with Aliyev. After all, according to the wisely experienced statesman, the Russian president: 'Ilham Aliyev is a far-sighted and experienced politician, the true leader of his country.'

The fate represented by such an intelligent and sensible politician as Ilham Aliyev gave Azerbaijan a new historical chance. And in the upcoming 2019, from the height of this solid foundation laid by Putin and Aliyev, we again believe that we will overcome great historical trials. Ahead is the struggle for Karabakh, reforms in politics and economics and, of course, as in the past, the task is to protect Azerbaijan from new evils...

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