NATO months in the Caucasus

Agency WPS
March 19, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Russky Kurier, March 15, 2004, p. 6

by Rada Guseinova, Marina Kalashnikova


American military and diplomatic delegation was met in Baku,
Azerbaijan, on March 12. The delegation includes a group of the
Supreme Consultative Council of the US Army European Command under
General Charles Wald. The delegation comprises Admiral Gregory
Johnson, US Navy Commander in Europe and NATO Commander in South
Europe, and numerous ambassadors.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with the Americans on
Saturday. In his speech, Aliyev ascribed rapid rapprochement with
official Washington and NATO in general to the necessity of
“reinforcing regional stability and security.” General Wald in his
turn added that terrorist acts in Spain testifying to activeness of
international terrorism only served to made Western aid in security
matters all the more assured. Efforts of the international community
should be concentrated on settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict, protection of Caspian energy resources, and elimination of
terrorist groups in the southern part of the Caucasus. That is why an
emphasis is made on military cooperation, not economy. Military
cooperation and interaction was the talk of the week in Baku. In
fact, the whole week became “American” for official Baku because of
the delegations from across the ocean coming one after another.

The capital of Azerbaijan was visited by a group of the US AF
College, Undersecretary Lynn Pasco, a delegation under Eric Schultz
of the US Department of State and Bruce Rogers, assistant political
adviser to the US mission to NATO. Washington’s plans are simple. It
is out to draw countries of the southern part of the Caucasus – first
and foremost Azerbaijan and Georgia – into the orbit of close
cooperation with NATO within the next two or three years. And to
bring their national armies closer to NATO standards. The latter
objective is inseparable from settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict. All these issues were discussed at length by Defense
Minister of Azerbaijan Safar Abiyev and Schultz and Rogers. A more
detailed discussion is to follow during Abiyev’s upcoming visit to
Washington in the near future.

For the time being, General Wald in Baku continues discussion of the
mobile groups, the idea he first came up with three months ago. A
well-informed and trustworthy source in military circles of
Azerbaijan says that the Americans came with specific suggestions.
Issues of the European ballistic missile defense are being discussed
among other things. An accord with Baku on the use of the Gabala
radar may be of particular interest from this point of view. For the
time being, the radar is a subject of the Russian-Azerbaijani
agreement in accordance with which the signatories share the
information obtained by the radar. Meanwhile, Baku signed several
information exchange accords with advanced countries including the
United States. According to the source, Wold is trying to convince
official Baku that “Azerbaijan should share the information obtained
by the radar with the United States as its military partner” since
“there are no legal obstacles to it, actually.” Details of military
cooperation will be discussed at the meetings with heads of the
Defense Ministry, State Border Service, and National Security

Inspired by the new stimuli of rapprochement with the European Union
and NATO, Aliyev with his Georgian counterpart is about to visit the
countries that have already been drafted into the NATO orbit. He will
meet with leaders of the Vilnius Ten in Bratislava within the
framework of an international conference on the “expanded Europe” and
“new neighbors” on March 18 and 19. Premiers of Ireland, Turkey,
Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovine were invited to the
forum too. NATO General Secretary Jaan de Hoop Sheffer and European
Union Expansion Commissar Gunther Verheugen will also be present.

US State Undersecretary Richard Armitage will tour capitals of the
Caucasus in late March. This visit may speed up the sharp turn of
countries of the southern part of the Caucasus to the West. Armitage
is known as a prominent specialist in matters of security and war on
terrorism. He intends to discuss pressing problems of the war on
terrorism with three presidents of the Caucasus. It was Armitage who
said in his time that establishment of US military bases in
Azerbaijan was but a matter of time. Neither is Armitage exactly
ignorant of Azerbaijani affairs. It is Armitage who knows everything
there is to know about the Aliyevs and their affairs and explains
their interests to the US Administration – both in the spheres of
politics and oil. When in the Caucasus, he will apparently discuss
Caspian oil, security of the Baku – Tbilisi – Dzheikhan pipeline,
location of mobile groups, and roles of the three countries of the
Caucasus in the war on international terrorism.

Translated by A. Ignatkin