The following article by IWP alumnus Vilen Khlgatyan was published on the site of The Armenian Weekly.
Over the course of the past seven years, the influence of the West has waned in the South Caucasus, as its attention has shifted away from the wider region. In turn, Russia’s moves to consolidate the North and South Caucasus have proceeded unabated with each year. Moscow has bolstered its military positions and pushed to re-establish itself as the supreme power in the area. Azerbaijan stands to lose from this geopolitical development. Baku has realized that its duplicitous policy of feigning close ties with all major poles of power only served to isolate it from others without paying lasting dividends. While some in the West may still view the Aliyev regime as a useful tool against Russia or Iran, the actual utility of Azerbaijan has diminished with the changing priorities of “friends” both old and new.
The Russo-Georgian War of 2008 showed that Moscow was serious in defending its stated national security goals, including the encroachment of NATO upon Russia’s near abroad or sphere of influence. The West demonstrated that its support is moral rather than martial. Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev took notice but continued to feign closer ties with the West. Feign is the key word here because in reality, Azerbaijan does not wish to be attached too closely to any one center or centers of power. Its strategy is non-alignment with East or West, but with the pretense of alignment when dealing with the respective sides. For the West, this included serving as a transit route to Afghanistan (Northern Distribution Network) for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and claiming to be a crucial partner for NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. This was in addition to the older policy of overinflating its hydrocarbon reserves for the EU’s energy diversification goals-backed by Washington.