Baku News

Azerbaijan oil&gas and more

 Gazprom   RusEnergy   Azerbaijan   World   Pipeliners  Zee Beam 

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ilkham Aliyev Visits Brussels, Moscow

11–09–2006 Kommersant by D. Baturin // Russia Courts Azerbaijan's Support Against Georgia
Today Russian President Vladimir Putin will suggest to Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev, who is visiting Moscow after a trip to Brussels to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that he decide whether Azerbaijan intends to continue with its "strategic partnership" with Russia. If Azerbaijan responds positively, Moscow will request Baku's cooperation in Russia's struggle with Georgia and will offer Russian arms and investment by UES Russia and RusAlum in return.
President Aliyev's visit to Europe unnerved the Kremlin chiefly because of Azerbaijan's projected defense spending for 2007: the country will spend $1 billion on the military next year, up from $600 million currently. Russia fears that this could be a preliminary step towards membership in NATO. If Azerbaijan joins neighboring Georgia in a NATO bid, the ex-Soviet Caucasus could end up hosting NATO and American military bases as the West seeks to control Iran.
In an effort to forestall the possibility of NATO bases near its southern border, Russia is attempting to lure Azerbaijan back to its own camp with promises of increased sales of cut-rate Russian-made weapons. Russia has been curtailing its arms trade with Azerbaijan, fearing to fan the flames of Azerbaijan's long-standing feud with neighboring Armenia.
Russia is also focusing on Azerbaijan in an attempt to create a unified front within the CIS against the Kremlin's latest enemy, Georgia. Moscow is seeking to impose an energy blockade on Georgia in the winter of 2006-2007, while Azerbaijan last winter stepped in with emergency supplies of electrical energy and gas when Russia interrupted deliveries to Georgia. In 2007, Gazprom is threatening to raise the price of gas for Georgia from $110 to $230 per thousand cubic meters. According to unofficial sources, the same proposal has been made for Azerbaijan as well, angering President Aliyev. The country currently pays $95-100 per thousand cubic meters for the 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas that it imports from Russia annually.
Other proposals from the Kremlin are more palatable: according to Kommersant's sources, Vladimir Putin will offer President Aliyev investment by the company RusAlum to the tune of a $1 billion aluminum plant in Azerbaijan. Mr. Putin will also mention interest on the part of the Russian company UES Energy in investing in Azerbaijan's energy sector.
Technically, Mr. Aliyev's trip to Europe before coming to Moscow puts Mr. Putin in the position of asking rather than dictating with regard to his Azerbaijani colleague. Mr. Aliyev demonstrated in Brussels that his trip to Europe was more about energy than military matters, though he met with the NATO leadership. After his meeting with Mr. Barroso, Mr. Aliyev announced agreements between Azerbaijan and the EU to guarantee energy supplies from the Caspian region and negotiations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine on a project to deliver oil to Eastern Europe. President Aliyev has held similar talks with Belarus, a project that cannot be interpreted as pro-Russian.
With regard to the "anti-Georgia bloc," the Azerbaijani president announced yesterday in Brussels that he hopes that relations between Russia and Georgia improve, since Azerbaijan "is building strategic partnerships with both countries." That stance is hardly likely to appeal to Vladimir Putin, meaning that today's meeting promises to be tense.

Contact me:  

eXTReMe Tracker This page is powered
by Blogger. Isn't yours?