Summer 1999 (7.2)
- Reader's Forum
- 1. East Looks West For Security - Hafiz Pashayev, Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S
2. New Moves on the Caucasus Chessboard - Paul Goble
3. Taking Art out of Azerbaijan
Photo: During the Soviet period, one of the main functions of art was social education and propaganda. As it became a practice for bridal couples to visit national monuments, here the Russian artist Pimenov paints "Wedding in Tomorrow's Street", 1962. The stamp was issued as an art series by the Soviet Union in 1973.
East Looks West for Security
by Hafiz Pashayev
Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S.
The following letter was published in "The Washington Times" on the OP-ed page, A19, on April 21, 1999.
The most interesting topics for discussion at the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of NATO will be revision of NATO's strategic concept and the next phase of NATO enlargement. How these matters are resolved will affect the future peace and security of all of Europe, from Norway to Spain in the West and from Russia to the Caucasus in the East.
Optimists see NATO enlargement as eventually guaranteeing an end to large European wars of the kind that we have witnessed twice during this century. But pessimists are warning about the danger of a new Yalta, without regard to the interests of other European nations.
Let me cite my own nation of Azerbaijan as an example. After centuries of domination by various regional powers, Azerbaijan finally achieved true independence in 1991. Because Azerbaijan sees NATO as a stabilizing factor, we support the concept of NATO expansion, and we are actively involved in the Partnership for Peace program. At the same time, we are concerned about the reaction of Russia to NATO expansion, and, in turn, the United States' reaction to Russian concerns. The current Russian opposition to NATO expansion can lead it to one of two modes of behavior. It can either try to oppose further NATO expansion, or it can try to create regional security treaties to counterbalance NATO.
Where does this leave Azerbaijan in the critical year of 1999? We are the only ex-Soviet country, other than the Baltics, that has no Russian military bases on its soil. Azerbaijan is among the most pro-Western of the former republics. But we are only one of three Caucasian countries, which is united geographically but separated politically. Armenia has already thrown in its lot with Russia and is the recipient of the most modern Russian arms. Georgia is pro-Western but is limited in action by the existence of Russian military bases on its soil.
Beyond expansion, it is important that NATO's strategic concept also envision and deal with the security needs of nations like Azerbaijan. That is why we are so sensitive about the possibility of the United States and Russia reaching expansion-related accommodations that overlook the independence and security needs of other countries. To understand our security concerns, consider the following: Armenia, with more than $1 billion in illegal arms shipments from Russia, has conducted aggression against Azerbaijan and occupied 20 percent of my country, causing 1 million refugees, whose sufferings remain greatly unnoticed in the West due to lack of media attention. Armenia has consistently frustrated efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] to settle the conflict. And this year Russia announced plans to ship modern MIG 29 fighters and long-range S-300 missiles to Armenia.
This is why Azerbaijan objects when the United States so casually accepts Russian ideas such as the "common state" proposal for settlement of the conflict with Armenia. That is why it is beyond reason to the average Azerbaijani that the U.S. cannot find the political will to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, an Armenian diaspora-inspired piece of legislation that bans direct U.S. government aid to Azerbaijan, including military assistance.
We have made our choice to join the West and the European Community. We think the best hope for our continued independence and sovereignty, as well as for successful development of Caspian energy resources, is to become part of the European and Euro-Atlantic security structures.
Russia is a regional power that has historically sought to dominate its neighbors. We do not wish to be dominated any longer. The region, as well as its individual countries, face a choice of collective security arrangements. The options are either to follow the "proposal" for a collective security treaty (CST) under the auspices of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], or work out some form of guarantees with participation by the West. The first option will inevitably lead to a standoff between an enlarged NATO and a strengthened, Russian-sponsored CST, which would lead to the same bipolarity we witnessed during the post-World War II decades. In the second case, the U.S. participation would be essential.
I'd even like to see some form of charter on cooperation between the states of the region and NATO established (not unlike the arrangements NATO has with Russia or Ukraine). This is very likely to remove walls of distrust between feuding parties in the South Caucasus, and at the same time it would address the region's security concerns.
There is also the question of balance of forces in the region. It is over the means of striking that balance that the parties may differ. It can be achieved either by building up forces, or by reducing them to the lowest possible level. Azerbaijan believes the latter course is preferable, not only from a security standpoint, but also in the interest of development of a market economy and democratic societies.
New Moves On The Caucasus Chessboard
by Paul Goble
The following essay was broadcast by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty on April 16, 1999.
Several events in the southern Caucasus this week may lead to fundamental changes in power relationships not only there but across a much larger portion of the world as well. And because of that, some of the players both within the region and beyond appear to be positioning themselves to respond with new moves.
On Saturday [April 17], leaders from the Caucasus and Central Asia will mark the opening of a 515-mile pipeline that will carry oil from the Caspian basin to the West. And on the same day, Ukraine, Georgia and Bulgaria are scheduled to sign a treaty creating a new Black Sea rail ferry route. These moves, widely welcomed in the West, will allow the countries of this region to reach Europe without going through either Russia or Iran.
Together, such shifts on the chessboard of the Caucasus may come to transform the geopolitical environment of both this region and Eurasia as a whole. As one senior Azerbaijan official put it, these steps mean "the world to us," giving Baku "direct access to the West" and thus allow Baku to free itself from Russia "after 200 years."
Indeed, if both this pipeline and ferry arrangement work out, Russian leverage over these countries will decline still further. And as if to underline the decline in Russian power there, approximately 100 soldiers from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine began a four-day military exercise on Tuesday at the Krtsanissi range just east of Tbilisi.
While the number of troops involved is small, such a joint exercise highlights the continuing decay of the Russian-backed Commonwealth of Independent States as the chief security organization of the post-Soviet region. And it gives new content to GUAM, an organization that includes Moldova as well as the three countries taking part in these maneuvers. [On April 24 in Washington, D.C., during the meetings related to the 50th Anniversary of NATO, Ukraine officially joined this group, making the acronym read as GUUAM now].
Many Russian officials are likely to view this exercise as a direct challenge to Moscow, particularly because it comes on the heels of a decision by several CIS states not to continue to participate in the Commonwealth's defense agreement. Even more, officials in other countries in this region are certain to be following this exercise as a test of what may now be possible for them as well.
But precisely because so much is at stake not only for these countries but for others as well, several countries have moved some pieces on this chessboard as well. On Wednesday [April 14], Russia and Iran signed an agreement to cooperate in the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the region, a direct response to the new Azerbaijan-Georgia pipeline.
Russian oil minister Sergei Generalov and his Iranian opposite number Bijan Namdar Zanganeh initialed an accord that will expand the already large degree of cooperation between the two states from which many in the Caspian basin seek to become more independent. Whether this accord will give these two states more opportunities to counter the new East-West Corridor in the southern Caucasus remains to be seen. But on Wednesday, Moscow took another step designed to defend or even expand its influence there.
General Anatoly Kornukov, the commander of the Russian Federation air force, visited Yerevan to mark Armenia's expanded participation in CIS air defense. While there, he announced that Moscow will send more fighter jets to its military bases in that Caucasus country.
Kornukov went out of his way to say that this new buildup was in no way a threat to Azerbaijan, with which Armenia has been locked in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region for more than a decade. But few in Baku or elsewhere are likely to see this latest Russian move as anything but precisely that.
Indeed, when Moscow recently deployed advanced S-300 missiles and MiG-29 fighters to Armenia, Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev protested this move as inherently destabilizing. They are almost certain to raise their voices again now that Moscow has introduced still more weaponry into Armenia.
Such moves and countermoves serve as a reminder not only of how complicated this region remains and how much is at stake for how many people, but also of how difficult it is for any of the participants in this geopolitical game to make a move to which the other side cannot quickly respond. And that in turn suggests that neither side is likely to be able to move its geopolitical chess pieces into an endgame anytime soon.
Taking Art Out of Azerbaijan
You may be wondering how to acquire art and take it out of Azerbaijan. Because the government is concerned that no "national treasures" be taken out of the country, there are several steps to follow when buying art. It's important not to postpone the clearance process until the last few days of your stay. Most artists will generally know how to handle this process and can provide guidance. If you need further assistance, contact the Artists' Union (19 Khagani Street, Baku Center), Tel: (99-412) 93-62-30.
Photo: Mir Nadir Zeynalov, "Peasant's Still Life", 100 x 120 cm, oil on canvas, 1975. Tel: (99-412) 69-13-89; 53-12-57.
At the Artist's Studio
Most people buy artwork directly from the artist's studio. We have provided the telephone numbers for each artist featured in this issue (See photo samples or the note at the end of each article). If you don't speak Azeri or Russian, you may want to take someone along to translate for you. When you find the work(s) you like, negotiate a price and get a receipt from the artist. Take two photos of each piece of artwork.
Take the photos to the Artists' Union for approval and fill out the application form. If the artist has been deceased 25 years or more, then you'll need to get approval from the National Art Museum, located at 9 Niyazi Street (near the President's Aparat); Tel: (99-412) 92-57-89.
For carpets, take photos to the National Carpet Museum (Neftchilar Prospect, formerly the Lenin Museum).
A Commission will appraise the work and confirm that it can be taken out of the country and is not a national treasure (antique). The Artists' Union Commission meets once a week, on Tuesdays. However, a certificate can be acquired other days for a small additional fee. But we recommend that you not wait until the last minute for approval. You will be given an official export certificate with an official seal affixed to the photo that is returned to you.
When you leave Azerbaijan and take the artwork through customs, show the customs officials your approved certificate and its accompanying photo. We recommend taking an Azerbaijani friend with you to customs to make the process go smoother. There is likely to be a nominal fee at customs.
Even though the entire official process of acquiring the documents and going through customs may be a bit time-consuming and inconvenient, artwork from Azerbaijan is likely to be the most memorable and valuable keepsake that you can take home with you-one that you and your loved ones will enjoy immensely for years to come.
From Azerbaijan International (7.2) Summer1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.