An Interview with Dr. Aleksandr Karavayev Deputy DirectorGeneral of the Information-Analytical Center at Moscow State University

January10, 2011

Baku/Moscow,Azerbaijan/Russian Federation



Azerbaijan in the World:  Please give yourreview of the main achievements of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy in 2010.


Dr. Karavayev:  I would highlight the following cases whereAzerbaijani diplomacy through the efforts of the foreign ministry and presidentas well as of others was able to achieve major goals.  First of all was Turkey’s refusal to continuethe policy of rapprochement with Armenia.  Then was the acquisition of the S-300 defensesystems—although this was never confirmed officially, it had a significantresonance in the media and signaled the existence of military-technical supportfrom the side of the Russian Federation.  Yet another important event was the decisionof Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan not to go to the NATO summit.  That too was a success for Azerbaijanidiplomacy, albeit an indirect one.


Onemust also mention the spring resolution of the European Parliament (No. 2216)concerning the situation in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Its contents backed Baku’s position which wasespecially significant given that it was adopted while elections were beingconducted in the separatist enclave.  


Sometimesinternational summits also can be considered as serious achievements ofnational diplomacy.  In this connection,it is necessary to call attention to the Third Caspian Summit in Baku and theworld inter-religious summit which took place last spring and was organized bythe Administration of Muslims of the Caucasus with the support of the RussianOrthodox Church.  That event included thevisit to Baku of Garegin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians.  


Finally,one should also note the significant strengthening of relations with neighborsin the former USSR, with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.


AIW:  Please list whatyou see as the main shortcomings of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan in 2010.


Dr. Karavayev:  There were probably certain technical andcadres shortcomings, but for me, in any case, they were not notable.  At the strategic level, Azerbaijan’s diplomacydeveloped correctly as it attempted to include in its arsenal an ever greaterquantity of means and to develop all main directions.  Let us assume there were indeed some shortcomings:the weak relations with the countries of South America and with South East Asiaand China, but these are not so much deficiencies as only the first steps inthe correct direction.


AIW:  How do you assessthe progress achieved in 2010 in the process of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakhconflict?


Dr. Karavayev:  There is still no progress. That the powersin their joint declarations (G-8 and otherwise) have spoken of the necessity ofthe withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied districts is difficult tocall progress.  It did not lead to anypractical movement.  Nor did two majorattempts, one by Turkey and the other by Russia, to push the process off itscurrent stalemate bear any fruit.


AIW:  How do you assessthe energy diplomacy of Azerbaijan in 2010 and what in your view are the prospects in thisregard for the future?


Dr. Karavayev:  Let us see what the results from the visit toBaku of European Commission President Barroso will be.  If one talks about prospects, then Azerbaijanhas adopted a correct approach by promoting the export of liquefied natural gasthrough Georgian and Turkish ports, the broadening of foreign investments bythe State Oil Company in the network and development of pipelines.  Of course, it is also important to develop forexport oil distillates as produced by Azerbaijani refineries.


AIW:  How do you assessthe dynamics of relations of Azerbaijan with its nearest neighbors—Russia, Iran and Turkey—in 2010 and what in your view are the prospects for thefurther development of these relations in 2011?


Dr. Karavayev:  The relations of Azerbaijan with Russia andTurkey of course have their own dynamic, but they are brought closer togetherby a common interest in, and the existence of, an atmosphere of politicalstability which supports the development of business.  Of course, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict hasan impact on both sets of relations, but Baku at a practical level divides itsforeign policy moves in such a way that the Karabakh impasse does not block thedevelopment of political contacts and the rest of the spectrum of relationswith other international subjects.  Therefore,in my view, mutually profitable stability will be preserved on both theselines.


Asin the past, relations with Iran will continue to be unsettled.  It is a difficult neighbor, and forAzerbaijan, not to have major problems with Iran or with the Western coalitionbecause of cooperation with Iran is already an accomplishment, something Bakuhas been able to achieve through its skillfully effected multi-vector foreignpolicy.


AIW:  How do you assessthe dynamics of relations of Azerbaijan with the United States in 2010 and what in your view are the prospects for thefurther development of these relations in 2011?


Dr. Karavayev:  This is quite a complicated and multifacetedissue.  There are no obvious problemsbetween the US and Azerbaijan.  More thanthat, there is a large list of well-known lines of cooperation involvingregional problems and Washington-sponsored initiatives.  But at the same time, it appears thatWashington, despite that, has ignored the growing ambitions of Baku.  The impression is thus created that inWashington they do not know what line to follow and thus give contradictorysignals.  What line will dominate in thecoming year is difficult to say.


AIW:  How do you assessthe activity of Azerbaijan in public diplomacy in 2010?


Dr. Karavayev:  The soft power mechanism is not a discoveryfor Azerbaijani diplomacy, for in essence, any positive activity of theAzerbaijani diaspora in the world is a manifestation of public diplomacy andbrings significant fruits in the task of forming a positive image of thecountry.  But systematically and in anorganized fashion, this diplomatic tactic has been employed relativelyrecently.  Among the successfulachievements of public diplomacy of Azerbaijan on the post-Soviet space, Iwould note the opening in Ulyanovsk of a general education school that wasrefurbished by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, something that no other foreigndiaspora has done in Russia.  Alsonoteworthy is the activity of the small Azerbaijani diaspora in Crimea.  At one time, I conducted research on thatsubject and know the leader of the community.  Without having serious financial and othermeans of influence on the local authorities, they have been able to attractattention to the destruction by vandals of a memorial complex to Sovietsoldiers at Sapun-Gore in Sevastopol, where a large number of Azerbaijanisoldiers died.  Therefore, therestoration of this memorial is the direct result of public diplomacy of thelocal diaspora.


Onealso needs to recall the successes of the Justicefor Hojaly program that has resulted in actions in many countries of Europeand in the United States.


However,one must not forget that public diplomacy to a significant degree is an elementof inter-cultural dialogue.  Politics inthis case should play a secondary role.  Itis necessary to broaden the geography of exhibits of Azerbaijani artists and todevelop its film industry in order to allow it to play a larger role in theworld market.  In this direction, thereis a great deal of work to do.  There isa need for greater inventiveness, and it would be wise to try in the majorcities and capitals of the world to open a network of Azerbaijani culturalcenters which could host exhibits, conduct forums and presentations, and serveas offices of national commercial brands of Azerbaijan, from tourist firms toproducers of food products.


AIW:  What challengesin your view stand before Azerbaijani foreign policy in 2011 and what actionsshould Azerbaijan undertake in response?


Dr. Karavayev:  There is clearly a need for new approaches tothe resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Baku needs to bring the Azerbaijani plan forthe post-war reconstruction of the social and economic life of the currentlyoccupied territories, including Nagorno-Karabakh, to the attention of worldpublic opinion.  And even if this projectcannot be carried out in the near term, then at any case, it will become anadditional argument for Baku’s diplomacy.  This concerns general strategy.  


Ifone makes a prognostication about the practical development of the conflict,then in 2011 there is a growing chance of a major provocation by Armenia withthe goal of drawing Azerbaijan into a major armed conflict and thus present itto the world as an unrestrained militarist power.  


Atthe same time, and as usual, the main global challenges, connected with thesituation around Iran remain important.  Inboth cases, restraint is needed.



Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

ADA Biweekly,Vol. IV, Issue 2 (January 15,2011)