Bolton’s South Caucasus tour: Whose interests contradict US politics?

Commentary Materials 30 October 2018 18:15
Bolton’s South Caucasus tour: Whose interests contradict US politics?

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 30

By Matanat Nasibova - Trend:

In the system of international relations and global politics, Azerbaijan is distinguished by its principled state strategy, which aims to support the foreign policy balance in the region and in the world.

This is also recognized by the leading powers, with which Azerbaijan is building partnership relations and versatile cooperation. Such a policy of the Azerbaijani state gives positive results and, which is extremely important, shapes the correct picture of Azerbaijan in different parts of the world. The leading world powers perceive Azerbaijan as a reliable partner that is capable of long-term and mutually beneficial cooperation.

This fact was also confirmed by the recent visit of US President’s National Security Adviser John Bolton to Azerbaijan as part of his South Caucasus tour. The fact that the visit of a high-ranking representative of the US foreign policy started namely from Azerbaijan is a clear indicator of Washington’s priorities in this strategically important region.

US priorities in Azerbaijan

The first visit of John Bolton to Azerbaijan is primarily an indicator of bilateral interests in the economic, energy and many other areas of diverse cooperation. This includes the large-scale Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project, joint efforts in the fight against international terrorism, as well as the security problem in the region, which is directly related to the unresolved Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The US is committed to the conflict’s peaceful settlement through negotiations, and this position of the US was once again confirmed during the visit of John Bolton to Azerbaijan.

This problem was discussed during Bolton's meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and was later touched upon at a briefing in Baku.

The US believes that the conflict’s successful resolution is important for both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and also has strategic consequences on a global scale, Bolton said, noting that the US takes its mediation role in the OSCE Minsk Group seriously.

US interest in SGC

As expected, John Bolton confirmed the support of the US for the Southern Gas Corridor. Bolton said the US considers this project extremely important and promising, and highly appreciates Azerbaijan's role as an alternative supplier of energy resources.

The fact that the US is interested in creation of a route transporting Caspian gas to European markets is quite clear and explainable. The senior US officials, including President Donald Trump, have repeatedly stated this.

This confirms the high status of the project in terms of ensuring the energy security of Europe and the desire to maintain stability in the South Caucasus region, which increases its geo-economic and geo-political significance.

This is also logical, since 10 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas, with the prospect of bringing the volume to 31 billion cubic meters, will be transported to European markets and meet the domestic demand for gas in some countries of the Old World.

Strategic Security Partnership

The agenda of John Bolton's visit to Azerbaijan, in addition to cooperation in energy, included issues of combating international terrorism, human trafficking etc. This was also expected, because Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to express support for the US in the fight against international terrorism.

For many years, Azerbaijan has been an active participant in various programs of international importance aimed at ensuring security in the region and the world. In this direction, cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO, as well as Azerbaijan’s contribution to the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), participation in NATO operations K-4, ISAF, and Azerbaijan’s contribution to the Resolute Support Mission are of particular importance.

Azerbaijan and Section 907

It is not surprising that the US politician also paid attention to respect for human rights and democracy, which are considered a part of US foreign policy.

Attaching great importance to respect for human rights and foundations of democracy, the US is conducting an active dialogue with Azerbaijan on this issue, he said.

Bolton said he sees many opportunities for cooperation and believes it is possible to learn a lot from each other.

By this message, Bolton made it clear that in the issues of democracy and respect for human rights, the sides have an understanding and points of contact.

The US diplomat did not ignore the issue related to Section 907, which limits US assistance to Azerbaijan.

In an interview with Voice of America, Bolton stated that Section 907, restricting US assistance to Azerbaijan, is a law passed by Congress. This is not necessarily entirely the policy of the executive power, he said. He stressed that in accordance with the US constitution, it is the president who establishes foreign policy.

In October 1992, the US Congress passed a law, called the Freedom Support Act, which regulates state assistance to the former Soviet republics. According to Section 907 of this law, the US government was forbidden to assist the Azerbaijani official structures.

On the whole, Bolton's visit to Azerbaijan confirmed the US readiness to further develop cooperation in many areas.

US interests in Georgia

In neighboring Georgia, the outcome of John Bolton’s visit was regarded quite positively.

According to the Georgian media, the sides spoke about the prospects for intensification of bilateral cooperation in the context of regional threats, as well as the reform of Georgia’s security sector.

Reportedly, the US side reaffirmed its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and stressed Georgia’s contribution to the international mission in Afghanistan.

It is not surprising as Tbilisi and Washington have been cooperating since 1992 in politics, economics, trade, and since the late 1990s in defense and security.

In January 2009, a charter of strategic partnership of the two countries was issued in Washington, which provides for cooperation in security, defense, economy, trade, culture.

Nevertheless, whatever the outcome of the visit of the American diplomat to Georgia, one should not ignore the fact that some well-known Georgian politicians favor Georgia’s pursuing a policy of non-alignment with the military-political blocs and distancing it from the United States.

Yerevan once again resorts to policy of blackmail

It seems that Bolton's visit to Armenia greatly impressed Yerevan​.

After the recent harsh statements by former US ambassador Robert Mills on Karabakh conflict (which are completely contrary to the interests of Armenia in this matter), they awaited the visit of the American diplomat in Yerevan warily and cautiously.

Therefore, it is not surprising that immediately after the departure of Bolton, a curious version was voiced in Yerevan that the US is trying to pull Armenia into the American influence in order to annoy Russia.

It is clear that the message from Yerevan is addressed to Russia - they say Armenia is in the zone of interests of the Americans. And this is a kind of PR stunt. But the unequivocal statements of the former ambassador Mills in Yerevan and Bolton in Baku about the US commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict (in the context of supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan) put Armenia to a nonplus.

Yerevan is surely aware that the priority for Americans is cooperation with Azerbaijan, rather than with Armenia, and the fact that the US sees the solution to the Karabakh problem in the return of the Azerbaijani territories, occupied by Armenia, is, in essence, the failure of Armenian and the triumph of Azerbaijani politics and diplomacy.

It also means that the Americans do not intend to support Armenia in maintaining the status quo, which for Yerevan is like a red rag for the bull.

Therefore, it is possible that Bolton's visit to Yerevan only consolidated the vision of the American side on the Karabakh conflict's settlement. In this situation, when relations with Russia have noticeably deteriorated, Armenia traditionally tries to resort to a policy of blackmail in order to increase its importance in the region in fears that it is definitely losing.


Matanat Nasibova, Trend columnist