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Would Azerbaijan ever join the CSTO? - Andrew Korybko

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Axar.az presents the article "Would Azerbaijan ever join the CSTO?" by Andrew Korybko.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko told Izvestia on Monday in response to a relevant question that Azerbaijan could in theory join the CSTO following the establishment of diplomatic relations with member state Armenia. That's because such relations are a prerequisite to membership. Even so, it's unlikely that Azerbaijan would ever join the organization. It already proved itself capable of securing its national interests last year following its glorious victory in the Patriotic War. This was greatly assisted by the arms that it purchased from Russia and Turkey in the preceding years. With that security challenge successfully addressed, there's little reason for it to join a Russian-led military bloc.

Countries usually only join such organizations in order to defend their interests, though some nevertheless do so for reasons of prestige or to signal fealty to a larger country like is the case with some NATO members. None of these factors is applicable to Azerbaijan. As explained, it already completed its Karabakh campaign. Baku also has no problems with any of its neighbours, and those issues that might arise in the most unlikely of scenarios probably wouldn't result in any military solution considering all parties' natural interest in a diplomatic one. Wars do occur by miscalculation sometimes, but even in that scenario, Azerbaijan can confidently defend itself without needing to rely on other countries' troops.

The CSTO also isn't a NATO-like structure. On the contrary, instead of always seeking to expand and dispatch its members' troops to far-away conflicts, its membership has remained mostly stable for quite a while and it shows very little interest in multilateral interventions. The recent Kyrgyz-Tajik clashes illustrated this very well. Both Central Asian countries are CSTO members, yet the organization didn't take either of their sides nor contemplate dispatching peacekeepers to the contested frontiers between them. What the CSTO is mainly focused on is serving as a deterrent to conventional aggression against the bloc, largely implied to be from NATO, without replicating NATO's modus operandi. In other words, it's strictly defensive and not offensive at all.

Armenia found this out the hard way after it realized that Russia wouldn't intervene in its support during last year's Patriotic War. Russia strictly abides by all of its international responsibilities so it wasn't going to participate in perpetuating Armenia's nearly three-decade-long military occupation of what's universally recognized as approximately a fifth of Azerbaijan's territory. Still, some delusional nationalists in Yerevan thought that they could manipulate the situation in such a way as to prompt Moscow to stage a military intervention in their support, though they failed with their plot. Instead, it was Azerbaijan that agreed to Russian peacekeepers, not CSTO ones, to facilitate Armenia's withdrawal.

This was keeping in line with Baku's consistent stance that the conflict should be resolved peacefully if at all possible. When such a peaceful solution presented itself throughout the course of trilateral negotiations after Azerbaijan's crushing successes on the battlefield, Baku threw its support behind it and the related terms of the ceasefire including the unblocking of all regional corridors. As for the recent reported border incident between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the CSTO once again didn't rush to Yerevan's aid. The bloc wisely realized that the situation wasn't how Armenia presented it as and that it would have been a mistake to unquestionably accept its interpretation of events and risk worsening its other members' relations with Azerbaijan, especially Russia's.

That's not to say that the CSTO doesn't serve its members' interests, only that it serves their legitimate ones in defending them from foreign aggression. Armenia was never victimized by foreign aggression from Azerbaijan as the latter was only implementing the four UNSC Resolutions on Karabakh as well as defining the border between them following that conflict's conclusion. If Azerbaijan had invaded Armenian territory, then the CSTO might have thought to intervene, but since that hasn't happened, the bloc is pragmatically staying back. These calculations are only of concern for Armenia though since it was already explained how they're not that relevant for Azerbaijan. It doesn't need the CSTO to ensure its interests since it's proven that it can do this itself.

Date
2021.05.25 / 11:56
Author
Andrew Korybko
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