A new international coalition against the West?

Official visits to Azerbaijan have become more frequent since mid-April.

On April 24, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Zhaparov arrived in Azerbaijan on an official visit. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó arrived in Baku on April 25, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on May 6, and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev a day later.  On May 16, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko visited Baku.

On May 19, before the helicopter crash, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev at the border. The last state visit of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon to Azerbaijan took place on May 23. The listed countries or their current authorities are known in the world for the most part as pro-Russian. What is happening? What was the purpose of these visits?

International affairs expert Elman Fattah answers questions from ASTNA on this topic.

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Question: The intensity of official visits to Azerbaijan has increased recently. Over the past month, on April 24, the President of Kyrgyzstan, on May 25, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, on May 7, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, on May 8, the President of Bulgaria, on May 16, the President of Belarus visited Azerbaijan. During this month, there were also official contacts with countries such as Romania, Serbia, Albania and China. Finally, on May 19, the President of Azerbaijan and the President of Iran met at the border and made optimistic statements about the future relations between the two countries. What conclusion can be drawn if we summarize these trips and contacts?

Answer:  Recently, the authoritarian wave in the world has been taking revenge. Before the Russian-Ukrainian war, Russia was the locomotive of the international authoritarian coalition. However, this war has significantly weakened Russia. This has damaged its international image and indirectly its locomotive. Despite this, the Chinese-led coalition continues to strengthen its resistance to democratization.  The new strategy is to maintain coalition forces through regional authoritarian associations. As an example, we can cite associations that are trying to create in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.  Ilham Aliyev is also one of the leading figures of the international authoritarian coalition. In my opinion, the international authoritarian coalition, along with recognizing the powers of the gendarme of the Caucasus for Ilham Aliyev, also recognized his initiative in creating authoritarian unions in the geography where he has the opportunity to exert influence. In this regard, he is actively involved not only in the creation of an authoritarian association in the expanded Caucasus, encompassing Russia, Turkiye, and Iran, but also is active in coordinating the authoritarian countries of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. That is, the main purpose of intensifying ties in the expanded Caucasus with Russia, Turkiye, Iran, with authoritarian-inclined countries of Eastern Europe such as Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Albania, with the countries of Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, is to organize close cooperation of authoritarian unions created by in these three regions, to create an effective level of resistance to the pressure of the democratic countries of Europe.

Question: Meanwhile, Slovakia and Hungary blocked the statement of the European Union (EU) in connection with Georgia and are remembered for their statements against assistance to Ukraine. By the way, a few days ago, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin accused the EU of its attitude towards Iran and Azerbaijan. On May 13, former US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland accused China of secret military-industrial cooperation with Russia. And on May 16, the leaders of China and Russia made a joint statement in Beijing. Taking all this into account, some experts believe that there is some kind of blocking against the West. Is this possible?

Answer: In general, it should be noted that the international authoritarian coalition is more efficient in creating an alliance against the West. The second year of Russia's annexationist war in Ukraine is behind us, but the collective West has not yet been able to take effective measures to protect Ukraine. Contrary to this, countries such as China, Korea, and Iran have systematized their military assistance to Russia.

Both the collective West and the international authoritarian coalition are well aware that the outcome of this war will lead to the fact that the losing side will lose everything. If Ukraine loses, it will be the collapse of the democratic front, if Russia loses, it will be the dismantling of the authoritarian coalition. Therefore, both fronts accelerated the alliance.

Question: Many experts say that the main issue at these meetings is economic cooperation. And the East-West corridor is put forward as an argument. They believe that Azerbaijan is the main leading and central force of this corridor. How realistic do you think these statements are?

Answer: To a certain extent, it is real. As already mentioned, Ilham Aliyev's close ties with countries that will become potential members of authoritarian associations that are planned to be established in nearby geographical regions also serve this purpose. He has signed bilateral economic agreements with almost 15 European countries (most of which are EU members). The goal is to prevent the West from demonstrating a unified position against the government of Ilham Aliyev in the event of an escalation of the confrontation. On the other hand, active participation in the authoritarian community that will be created in Central Asia will allow Ilham Aliyev to moderate East-West transit, which, according to Ilham Aliyev, will force the West to be more restrained in its actions against him.

Question: It is curious that over the past month, Turkiye has been very rarely mentioned in the official chronicle. What is the reason for this?

Answer: Turkiye is the key to all three geographical regions (Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus).  In fact, the viability of the authoritarian associations that will be created in the region depends on Turkiye. If Turkiye continues to develop a new rapprochement with the democratic West, which has begun recently, this project of authoritarian associations initiated by Ilham Aliyev will not have much success. Without Turkiye, it will not be possible to create an authoritarian association called the "Turkic Union" in Central Asia, nor to create such an association in the expanded Caucasus, nor to ensure the effectiveness of the East-West economic corridor.

Question: How can these visits and political contacts end up? What would you suggest making Azerbaijan better off?

Answer: I have just noted the main purpose of these trips and intensifying contacts. The goal is to resist democratization by creating authoritarian associations in all 3 geographical regions. As for what could be the best scenario for Azerbaijan, then, of course, a successful scenario for Azerbaijan would be a commitment to a policy aimed at European integration, which is currently reflected in the country's strategic documents. But the reality is different. Ilham Aliyev sees in this scenario the greatest threat to his authoritarian government and drags the country to the foothold of the international authoritarian coalition. Unfortunately, this reality does not promise a successful future for the country.

Now the democratic West may seem non-operational. The concentration of the West may take some time. But all economic, scientific, military, and technological resources are in the hands of the West. There is no doubt that the West will be the victorious party as a result of the process. In the West, they already understand that there is no other way to win. If Ukraine loses, the West is doomed to win instead. 

But let us not forget that the West, which seems "restrained" today, will demand a report from all the leaders and countries that were on the opposite front after the victory. And then, as a country, we will have to pay the price for the current choice of the Azerbaijani authorities.

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