Will Azerbaijan Attend the NATO Summit? Expert Jasur Mammadov Weighs In

In a notable development, Azerbaijan has been extended an invitation to the upcoming NATO summit in Washington, an event set to host 30 NATO partner countries. This announcement came from James O'Brien, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, during his visit to Baku. "Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is organizing this summit for all partners, including Azerbaijan and Armenia," O'Brien confirmed.

While Armenia has promptly accepted the invitation, Azerbaijan has yet to issue an official response. This hesitation has sparked discussions and speculations among political analysts and experts in the region.

On June 2, Colonel General Kerim Veliyev, Azerbaijan's First Deputy Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff, met with Major General Stefan Fix, the Deputy Chief of Staff of NATO's Joint Forces Command in Brunsum, who was visiting Baku. Veliyev expressed optimism about continuing mutually beneficial relations between Azerbaijan and NATO, indicating a potential positive response to the summit invitation.

However, the geopolitical implications of Azerbaijan's participation have not gone unnoticed. Moscow and Tehran have expressed clear discomfort with these developments. Jasur Mammadov, head of the Institute of Caspian Military Studies, shared his insights in the program "A Difficult Question," hosted by journalist Kamran Mahmudov.

Mammadov highlighted Azerbaijan's 30-year history of cooperation with NATO, emphasizing the strategic advantages gained from these relations. "Azerbaijan and Armenia were invited to the NATO summit as countries without mutual conflicts, a significant change from the pre-2020 era," Mammadov noted. He argued that the current peace in the region should encourage both countries to leverage their NATO ties fully.

The reaction from Russia underscores the sensitivity of the issue. Russian Foreign Ministry representative Karasin issued a warning that NATO's growing influence aims to draw Azerbaijan and Armenia away from Russian orbit. This was the first instance where both countries were jointly mentioned in such a context by the Kremlin.

Mammadov underscored the necessity for South Caucasus nations to balance Russian concerns through diplomatic channels. Despite Baku's official stance of non-alignment, its military development closely follows NATO standards, primarily influenced by its robust defense relationship with Turkey, a leading NATO member. "While Azerbaijan's policy of non-alignment is currently a diplomatic balancing act, it will eventually need to make a definitive choice," Mammadov predicted.

The expert also pointed to Azerbaijan's burgeoning military and economic ties with China, advocating for a well-defined policy towards Beijing. The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war has significantly altered regional dynamics, positioning Azerbaijan and Armenia as potential equal partners for NATO, a status unattainable before Azerbaijan's victory.

Energy cooperation with Europe remains a critical aspect of Azerbaijan's foreign policy, which Russia has reluctantly accepted. Should Azerbaijan decline the NATO summit invitation, Mammadov believes that the nation's relations with NATO will persist through other programs and engagements.

Mammadov also discussed recent legislative developments in Azerbaijan, particularly the liberalization of the arms business. New laws now allow private entities to produce and import weapons, potentially easing the state's financial burden. While this move could introduce competitive dynamics in the sector, it also raises concerns about monopolization and the integrity of tender processes.

The expert expressed satisfaction with the reduction in non-combat military casualties in recent months but stressed the need for continued vigilance and support for soldiers' mental health. He recommended the Ministry of Defense implement a specialized program to address suicide rates within the military.

As Azerbaijan weighs its options regarding the NATO summit, the decision will undoubtedly reflect broader strategic considerations, balancing regional alliances and global partnerships. The path forward remains complex, with significant implications for Azerbaijan's future military and diplomatic trajectory.

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