#9 - JRL 7228
June 18, 2003
US Troops To Be Deployed in Azerbaijan
If it happens, Americans will have to deal with all problems of the region
The presidential election is to take place in the republic of Azerbaijan on October 15th. The closer the date, the stronger the intrigue. At first it was rumored that incumbent Azeri President Geydar Aliyev was going to refuse to participate in the election and nominate his son, Ilkham Aliyev. However, the president has recently announced that he is strongly determined to run for the presidency.
In fact, the 80-year-old president of Azerbaijan does not have any serious opponents at the election. But the intrigue has not vanished yet. Azeri mass media have recently reported that 15,000 American servicemen might soon be deployed from Germany to Azerbaijan. The corps, newspapers wrote, would be stationed in the country on a permanent basis. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote with reference to Wall Street Journal that American military men would guard the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and take part in the struggle with the international terrorism. These goals are not really clear. Pipeline perspectives are rather vague at present, although it has been said and written a lot about this project lately. The struggle with the international terrorism is not clear either, because Azerbaijan has not been listed as a country, where terrorists exercised their activities. The neighboring republic of Georgia has been mentioned in this connection instead, but it has not been reported yet that American troops were going to be deployed there. It was said, though, that American instructors would train Georgian servicemen. What stops the Pentagon from doing the same in Azerbaijan?
There is an opinion that the deployment of the American military contingent will pursue another objective - to guarantee the stability of the current political regime in Azerbaijan. It is very important for the American administration both from the political and economic point of view - the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the access to the Caspian oil.
It is an open secret that Azerbaijan takes an extremely important strategic position in the region - it borders on Iran. Nevertheless, all Caucasian republics can boast of their strategic positions, but it does not mean that American army bases will be situated on their territories. There are a lot of problems and conflict zones in the region, both internal and foreign ones: Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Osetia. If the American administration is seriously interested in the US military presence in the Caucasus, it means that American military men will have to deal with those issues sooner or later. Is the game worth the candle? To all appearance, Washington does not have all answers yet. At least, the US ambassador to Baku Ross Wilson stated that the American administration did not have any plans to deploy troops in the republic. Plans can change very quickly, though.