On October 4, the Russian media outlet Vzglyad published an article titled "Why Does Russia Need Azerbaijan?" explaining why Moscow does not appear to be in a hurry to help Armenia against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. In answer to this question, the article quoted Vasily Nebenzya, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, who recently stressed that just because Turkey unequivocally supports Azerbaijan does not mean that Russia supports Armenia against Azerbaijan.
The article goes on to quote Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko, who explained that for Russia, Azerbaijan is no less strategically valuable than Armenia. He added that the relationship between Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin is much better than that between Putin and the Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power in the wake of the 2018 "color revolution."
Also quoted in the article is Konstantin Simonov, director-general of the Moscow-based National Energy Security Fund. He assessed that the Moscow-Baku relationship can be defined as a pragmatic partnership.
Below is the Vzglyad article:
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russian Permanent Representative To The UN Nebenzya: Turkey Unequivocally Supports Azerbaijan – But This Does Not Mean That We Support Armenia Against Azerbaijan
"The escalation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh has raised a number of questions. In particular, why isn't Moscow in a hurry to intercede for Armenia, and why doesn't it sharply criticize Azerbaijan? The answer is that Moscow and Baku have a very close relationship, and not only an economic one. So why is Azerbaijan so valuable and indispensable for Russia?
"Yesterday [October 3], Vasily Nebenzya, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, reiterated Moscow's position: 'We have serious concerns about the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh – not only because it is very close to our borders, but mainly because both Armenia and Azerbaijan are countries that are not unfamiliar to us and we have special relations with both of them. Yes, Turkey unequivocally supports Azerbaijan. But this does not mean that we are on the other side, supporting Armenia against Azerbaijan,' he said, according to the TASS [news agency] Moscow, as Nebenzya stressed, advocates an immediate ceasefire by both sides and a fair settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict.
"The Russian permanent representative to the UN's explanation came in the context of a discussion on whether Russia should support any side that is party to the escalation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. [Should Russia support] Armenia, which – like Russia – is a member of the collective security Treaty Organization (CSTO)? Or [should it support] Azerbaijan, which is linked to Russia by economic ties and military contracts? Azerbaijan is perceived, and indeed is, the closest partner of Turkey, which is currently fueling Baku's military campaign in Karabakh. Moscow, as Nebenzya's words suggested, seeks to reconcile the parties and bring Yerevan and Baku back to the status quo [ante], before the conflict escalates [further]."
Russian Military Expert Korotchenko: The Aliyev-Putin Relationship Is Much Better Than The Putin-Pashinyan Relationship
"'Russia is taking a neutral, equidistant position in the Karabakh conflict. For us, Azerbaijan is no less strategically valuable than Armenia,' Igor Korotchenko, military expert and editor–in-chief of National Defense magazine, told Vzglyad. Moreover, he added, good personal relations between presidents Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev have become an important factor in Russian-Azerbaijani contacts.
"'In the relationship between the heads of the two states, there is what is called 'mutual chemistry' – sympathy, support, and affection – which is important in international contacts. Our president [Putin] is a discreet and cautious politician. He keeps his distance from most of our partners in international politics. Thus, [his] good relations with Aliyev are very meaningful,' said the expert [Korotchenko]. In particular, the friendly communication and joint speeches of the two leaders at the Valdai discussion club last October could be a good example.
"'The biographical aspect is important here,' added [Korotchenko]. 'Putin and Heydar Aliyev, the father of the current Azerbaijani president and the long-time leader of the republic, had a role in common. Heydar Alievich [Aliyev] was a state security officer who went from junior lieutenant to KGB chairman of the Azerbaijani USSR, after which he began his work as a statesman in the Politburo and the Council of Ministers of the USSR.'
"In general, according to Korotchenko, the 'background' of the Aliyev family is familiar for the Russian leader: 'Ilham Aliyev is a graduate of MGIMO [University], and he is equally proficient in Russian and English.' On the other hand, the Armenian leader, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, came to power in the wake of the 'color revolution' of 2018. The expert believes that 'the personal relationship between Aliyev and Putin is much better than that between Putin and Pashinyan.' He stressed that this is about personal cooperation at the level of the leaders of the countries, whereas concerning relations at state level, Moscow is equidistant (or, on the contrary, equally close) to both Yerevan and Baku.
"'Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) But let's note that Azerbaijan also expressed a desire to become an observer in this organization. Yerevan blocked this decision long before it could be discussed,' said the expert [Korotchenko]. 'Armenia buys Russian weapons, but Azerbaijan [also] buys large quantities of our weapons. It is important that Baku is one of the few partners who pays with real money. Azerbaijan has a financial base for these purchases,' he said. Armenia pays by means of targeted loans provided to Yerevan by Moscow.
"'In recent years, Russia has sold more than $5 billion worth of weapons to Azerbaijan. These include multiple rocket launchers, heavy flamethrower systems, and a huge number of modern tanks and armored personnel carriers, as well as the latest model of S-300 systems. A couple of months ago there were reports that Azerbaijan had shown interest in the purchase of new Russian Su-35 and MiG-35 fighter jets,' said the expert.
"In addition, by the end of August, the parties visited each other. [Russian] Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Baku, and the new head of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Jeyhun Bayramov, visited Moscow the next day."
Azerbaijani Expert Valizadeh: "We Should Not Forget That Azerbaijanis Too Are Indigenous To Southern Russia'
"'Judging by the trade turnover, which last year exceeded $3 billion, both countries are also interested in economic contacts,' Ilgar Valizadeh, Azerbaijani expert and head of the South Caucasus political club told Vzglyad. The Russian Ministry of Economy recorded a two-fold increase in trade turnover by the end of last year.
"According to Valizadeh, a significant factor in the relations between the two countries is the presence of a significant Azerbaijani Diaspora in Russia. 'Estimates of the number of immigrants from Azerbaijan in Russia vary. According to official statistics, about 600,000 Azerbaijanis have Russian citizenship. The number of residents of our Republic who permanently or largely live in Russia, or often come and go, exceeds three million people,' said the Azerbaijani political scientist.
"'Azerbaijani businesses in Russia, particularly in the sphere of services and trade, plays a driving force in these regional ties,' stressed Valizadeh. Azerbaijanis also have a presence in large Russian businesses. First of all, we should mention a native of Baku, Russian citizen, president of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov (the company's capitalization as of last year exceeded $67.2 billion, and the personal fortune of the businessman is $20.7 billion). The co-owners of the Kiev Square group, Zarakh Iliev and God Nisanov (with a fortune of $3.5 billion each), and Araz Agalarov ($1.9 billion), the president of Crocus Group holding, also hold significant positions.
"'Statistics about Azerbaijani presence in Russia vary, but in any case these people are the link between our countries,' said Valizadeh. 'We should not forget that Azerbaijanis too are indigenous to southern Russia – In Dagestani Derbent, they make up more than 30% of the population.' The expert added that Azerbaijan officially maintains relations with more than 80 Russian regions."
National Energy Security Fund Director Simonov: Relations Between Moscow And Baku Can Be Assessed As A Pragmatic Partnership
"'In one sphere – the supply of hydrocarbons – Russia and Azerbaijan compete fiercely,' Konstantin Simonov, director-general of the National Energy Security Fund, told Vzglyad. 'On the one hand, we are both participating in the OPEC+ deal, but on the other, we produce the same product and offer it to the same market,' he explained.
"'As for natural gas [supplies], Azerbaijan has us beat on its supplies to Turkey. The TANAP (Trans-Anatolian Pipeline) natural gas pipeline is operating, and about six billion tons [of natural gas] go to Turkey. Also, soon the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) gas pipeline (the last part of the southern gas corridor) will open and Azerbaijan will supply 10 billion tons to the EU – eight billion to Italy and one billion to Greece and Bulgaria,' the expert said.
"Russia is ready for this competition, and the Turkish volumes will not 'shut down' the Russian ones, but all this indicates that Baku is a direct competitor of Moscow on the gas market. 'Azerbaijan was considered by the Europeans to be an alternative supplier of natural gas to Russia, and the southern corridor [was considered] to be a diversification of Russian pipeline supplies,' Simonov said.
"In general, relations between Moscow and Baku can be assessed as a pragmatic partnership. In particular, Russia obviously benefits from the supply of Azerbaijani products to our country, Simonov said: 'We don't compete in [the supply of] tomatoes.' But, he added, there is a subtle detail in the mutually beneficial purchase and sale of Russian weapons: Baku buys them with 'oil' money. 'In other words, a subtle fact can be noticed: Azerbaijan sells oil, competing with us, and spends petrodollars on our military equipment,' Simonov said."