Azerbaijani Politics 18 october — 13:50

With West’s support Aliyev takes control over the Caspian (Russian media)

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A couple of days ago, the Russian media outlet ‘Argumenti Ru’ made a sensational statement,  which spoke in details about talks at the Astrakhan summit of the Caspian littoral states. Basing on its own sources of information (ostensibly, in military structures of Russia), the publication comes to the conclusion that in 2016 the Azerbaijani naval forces in the Caspian Sea are likely to exceed in might even the Russian Caspian fleet. According to the Russian media outlet, President Ilham Aliyev backed by Israel, France and Croatia, may take control over the whole Caspian region. Cited below are the most interesting excerpts from that article ‘Who frustrated Russia’s Caspian triumph?’

‘…The most eloquent testimony to Aliyev’s ambitions is the active rearmament of Azerbaijan in the Caspian sea. By the way, today this is region’s sole country with real submarine force in the Caspian. As a whole, the Azerbaijani navy is second to Russian only, insignificantly though. If a program of Azerbaijani naval forces’ modernisation is adopted, the country will be able to excel the Caspian navy of Russia by 2016.

Showing the greatest interest in Azerbaijan’s rearmament are Israel, France and Croatia. Further complicating the case is the growing rivalry between world arms producers, particularly, between Israeli and French companies for deliveries of large patrol vessels.

These include patrol vessel contracts; one of them was concluded between Baku and Tel-Aviv later August 2014 for deliveries of 12 vessels of this type for the Azerbaijani coast guard. In the meanwhile, the French dockyard DCNS is doing its best to make it revise in its favour.

In so doing, it is active via its lobbyist in Azerbaijan – CIFAL, a consulting firm from France. Its representatives are urging Azerbaijani Defence Industry Minister Yaver Jamalov to purchase French patrol vessels Adriat, class Gowind …

Paris has a chance to compensate for its losses at the expense of land operations. Thus, the strengthening of the Azerbaijani naval forces makes it necessary to protect its bases and energy fields with reliable up-to-date anti-aircraft defence systems. Baku’s priorities is the possible purchase of consortium Eurosam, partner companies Thales and MBDA systems offered in August-September by French President Francois Hollande during his visit to Azerbaijan.

However, today Baku is concerned about further implementation of the program of its own flotilla of submarines within the framework of President Ilham Aliyev’s concept of modern fleet of highly manoeuvrable vessels designed for subversive-reconnaissance missions.

With their aid, Baku intends not only to hit naval forces of the enemy, but its strategic targets as well. At any rate, this weaponry enables Azerbaijan to effectively secure a part of the Caspian as its territorial waters.

The question is that a list of possible mini-submarine suppliers is restricted. For instance, they are produced by Northern Korea with its emphasis on cooperation with Iran and Russia. In any case, they are not going to deliver vessels of this type to Baku so far. Therefore, Baku has to follow another way, specifically through upgrading old Soviet mini-submarines at the private Croatian dockyard Adria Мар located of the Adriatic coast.

Note that Adria Мар is one of the few dockyards capable of updating old Soviet ships with the help of the latest know-how and spare parts. It is specialising in repair and modernisation of combatant ships of the Soviet period. As of July 2014, the dockyard has upgraded a couple of Azerbaijani mini-submarines Triton-M1 and M2 built in the USSR in the 1970s.

Worthy of note is the fact that from the moment of its creation in 2003 the company has largely been engaged in implementing its contacts with Libya , however, after overthrow of Kaddafi the company’s director general, Mladen Sarich, began looking for new sources of income. He succeeded in finding them in the person of Azerbaijani customer. It is no mere coincidence that Defence Minister of Azerbaijan Zakir Hasanov and his predecessor Safar Abiyev had repeatedly visited Zagreb.

Apart from military equipment deliveries for the Azerbaijani armed forces, Croatia also supplies Baku with special maps via Geofoto Zagreb, a Croatian company specialising in photometry and geographical information systems (GIS). The collaboration with this structure enables Azerbaijan to lay claims to its rivals supported by specific data, including the Caspian militarisation.

High accuracy of the survey is accounted for by the latest equipment used in the leading western countries. For this to happen, the company operates four aircrafts (Cessna Citation II, Piper Aztec and two Piper Cheyenne) equipped with digital cameras Vexcel Ultra CamX and display systems LiDAR IGI Litemapper 6800-400.

A crucial point is that its shareholder is the EBRD, which tried to declare it bankrupt last year and thus lay hands on it fully.

It is evident that Baku is building its naval potential not against purely terrestrial Armenia. Its further strengthening creates basis for force redistribution of resources of the Caspian Sea only. This, in turn, damages Russian interests.

Thus, President Ilham Aliyev opposes an idea of free navigation across territorial waters of Azerbaijan. He is also apprehensive of Moscow’s harsh response to the West-suggested construction of the Trans-Caspian underwater gas pipeline together with Turkmen deposits, through which Brussels has earlier intended to transport the natural gas from Central Asia to Europe bypassing Russia and Iran.

In any case, the situation is that Azerbaijan has covertly gained essential privileges in the region at the expense of other countries thanks to West’s blessing in defiance of Caspian summit regulations.

Aware of Brussels and Washington’s obvious support in militarising the Caspian, Azerbaijan may sooner or later oppose Turkmenistan militarily to avoid falling its deposits into hands of Chinese energy companies …’

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