Presence of US troops on the territories of former Soviet republics is no more a surprise for anyone. The hail of discontent that had arisen in Moscow, was crashed by Putin’s statement that the presence of American soldiers in the Central Asiatic and Caucasus regions was not a tragedy at all. As of today, US soldiers and their NATO allies are already present in Uzbeskistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan, several military experts are in Georgia. Azerbaijan may soon receive US soldiers as well.
On March 28 Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev sent an open letter to his American counterpart George W.Bush and asked the USA for participation in settlement of the conflict in Nagorny Karabakh.
Why did Heydar Aliyev remind the USA about the conflict once again? The USA is even now very active in settlement of the conflict, as it is one of the mediators at Baku-Yerevan talks. It is very likely that the president of Azerbaijan expects to get US assistance not only in the Karabakh conflict settlement. It is stated in the letter, Azerbaijan was going to bring the bipartite relations with the USA in regional security, power engineering, democracy and economic reforms (that are treated as strategic partnership on the whole) to a higher level. Special attention is to be paid to co-operation in regional security and economy, which are closely related to the Caspian problem, particularly, with the Caspian Sea demarcation between the five states of Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. All talks between the parties resulted in nothing. Much is expected from a Caspian presidents’ summit that is to take place in Ashkhabad. It looks as though Azerbaijan leadership plans to speed up settlement of the problem with US’s assistance.
All states of the Caspian region have no single position concerning demarcation of the sea, the strongest contradictions are between Iran and Azerbaijan. Conflicts about disputed oilfields have already resulted in several incidents, when boats of the Iranian naval forces pursued Azerbaijan ships attempting to start mining of the fields.
Azerbaijan got an immediate response to the letter: the USA said it would guarantee support in the conflict with Iran. Military assistance was meant at that.
Pentagon spokeswoman Mira Ricardel said on Thursday, March 28, authorities of the USA and Azerbaijan proceeded with bipartite consultations on further military co-operation. It is quite natural that the USA has got a lucre for rendering support to Azerbaijan. According to the experts’ estimates, the Caspian region is the world’s third regarding the oil and gas reserves. Besides, it should not be ignored that Iran is one of the “axis of evil” countries. Oil export is one of the most important budgetary clauses. We should also keep in mind, that the USA always accuses Teheran of financing terrorists.
By the way, the response of Iran to the USA-Azerbaijan alliance was immediate. Spokesmen for the Iranian government said, third parties should not interfere with the Caspian problem settlement. The concern of the USA, Azerbaijan and Iran is apparent. And what about Russia? US’s participation in development of the Caspian oil and gas fields may speed up construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline by-passing Russia. It means, the budget will not get any revenues from Caspian oil transportation along Russian pipelines. No official position of Moscow as concerning military co-operation between Baku and Washington has been published. Does it mean, the Russian leadership ignores the problem? Certainly, no. But how can Russia make other countries take its interests into consideration as well? Russia will get no profit, if it supports Baku’s plans. On the other hand, if it takes Teheran’s side, it will fall out with Washington. It means, Russia’s choice is poor. In any case, a way out is to be found. The summit in Ashkhabad has been probably designed for this very purpose. But I wonder, if it is going to be too late to try and settle the problems there.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/29/39005.html