Why Azerbaijan Deserves Better Strategic Consideration From Washington

America’s engagement with Azerbaijan issues greater than ever, with 2022 marking the thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the 2 nations. 

From Washington’s overseas coverage perspective, the strategic significance of the nation is plain. Its capital, Baku, is the biggest port on the Caspian Sea and an essential transportation hub for items shipped between Europe and Central Asia.

Azerbaijan, the one nation on the planet that borders each Russia and Iran, proactively seeks to broaden its relations with the West as a balancing issue.

Over the previous three a long time, since Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union, the U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship has grown comprehensively in advancing vitality safety in Europe, combating transnational threats, and boosting bilateral commerce and funding, amongst different coverage priorities.

The Caspian Sea nation’s huge hydrocarbons and different pure assets—the spine of its economic system—have been enabling it to function a big various to Russia for oil and fuel. That in flip has helped Europe’s vitality safety and, by extension, the safety of america.

Certainly, it’s within the clear, pragmatic curiosity of america and Europe to prioritize and advance relations with Baku because the crucial commerce, vitality, and financial hyperlink between the east and west of the Eurasian landmass.

The USA has lengthy supported Azerbaijan’s efforts to develop and export its vitality assets to Western markets, with U.S. firms having been concerned in offshore oil improvement tasks there.

The not too long ago accomplished Azerbaijan Southern Fuel Hall has additional introduced very important vitality assets from the Caspian area to the European market.

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As underscored by BP, a British oil and fuel firm, in December 2020:

Europe’s vitality provides have acquired a much-needed enhance at the moment as one of many world’s most complicated vitality tasks begins full operations.

The newly accomplished Southern Fuel Hall (SGC) pipeline system is now transporting pure fuel from beneath the Caspian Sea offshore Azerbaijan to European prospects 1000’s of miles away.

The mammoth engineering milestone concerned seven nationwide governments, 11 completely different firms, and greater than 30,000 folks.

The result’s a 3,500-[kilometer] pipeline system that climbs over mountains, crawls beneath seas and stretches your complete width of Turkey—opening up a brand new vitality provide path to the European Union.

The Southern Fuel Hall consists of three pipelines—the South Caucasus Pipeline by Azerbaijan and Georgia; the Trans-Anatolian Pure Fuel Pipeline throughout Turkey; and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline by way of Greece and Albania to Italy.

In a very welcome improvement on Monday that can assist the European Union scale back its reliance on Russian vitality, the European Fee signed a take care of Azerbaijan to double imports of pure fuel by 2027. 

Throughout her go to to Baku for the essential announcement, European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen famous, “In the present day, with this new Memorandum of Understanding, we’re opening a brand new chapter in our vitality cooperation with Azerbaijan, a key associate in our efforts to maneuver away from Russian fossil fuels.”

Azerbaijan is and can proceed to be a rustic of geopolitical significance, with its relevance to Europe and america elevated, significantly within the context of increasing and securing options to Russia as an vitality supply.

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Better utilization of the Southern Fuel Hall from Azerbaijan to international markets have many advantages for the area, in addition to for the U.S.

In that strategic context, greater than ever, persevering with to undertake better reform measures and to advance financial freedom is crucial to Azerbaijan.

Over the previous a long time, the nation has succeeded in lowering its poverty price and directed revenues from its oil and fuel manufacturing to develop extra trendy and much-needed infrastructure.

In line with The Heritage Basis’s annual Index of Financial Freedom that measures essential coverage areas of the rule of regulation, fiscal well being, regulatory effectivity, and market openness, Azerbaijan has been on a notably upward development of financial freedom for the reason that nation was first included within the index in 1996, with its total rating persistently above the world common over the previous decade. (The Every day Sign is the information outlet of The Heritage Basis.)

Azerbaijan has made significant progress in liberalizing its economic system. In 1996, the primary 12 months that The Heritage Basis included the nation in its index, Azerbaijan was thought to be a repressed economic system. Since then, nevertheless, Azerbaijan has measurably superior its financial freedom. Its total score enchancment has grow to be one of many highest.

But extra can and needs to be performed as Azerbaijan strikes ahead. Washington can help this essential and dependable associate within the Caspian Sea area by widening and deepening the frank, open, and forward-looking dialogue between the 2 international locations on problems with mutual concern.

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To that constructive finish, Azerbaijan deserves strategic and sensible consideration from U.S. policymakers greater than ever.

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