Today.Az » Politics » Azerbaijan-Turkey: Beyond lofty asseverations
16 May 2022 [17:55] - Today.Az
By Orkhan Amashov
The past three decades have seen Azerbaijani-Turkish relations evolve from a deep-entrenched strategic partnership, founded on a shared past underpinned by ethno-linguistic roots, to the level of an integrated alliance, buoyed by an increased emphasis on a common destiny.
The Shusha Declaration, which constitutes the current apex of bilateral ties, is by no means, the final destination, but rather a comprehensive framework which is to be a prelude towards a further deepening of these relations.
"We are friends, brothers and now officially allies", said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev whilst addressing an enthusiastic and jubilant audience in Turkey on 14 May. This concise and punchy line could be deemed as a reference point, enabling one to cast a light on the present degree of interconnectedness between the countries, envisioning a bright future in store.
The solid foundations upon which the contemporary ties between Baku and Ankara are contingent are multilayered having, at its premise, what one may call an "emotional vortex", engendered by a panoply of commonalities.
All interstate relationships are deeply rational and based on common interests, as is the case for the Azerbaijani-Turkish situation. But had it not been for that incessantly revitalised emotional vortex, recurrently reinforced and moulded to meet temporal needs, the current depth of interaction would not have been achieved.
Nevertheless, the intention here is to investigate the subject, as the title suggests, beyond lofty asseverations, and focus on the rational crux of the relationship. Azerbaijan and Turkey are mutually interdependent. The former's success maximises the latter's influence and vice versa. This is particularly relevant in the realms of defence, diplomacy and energy.
One nation, one military
In a volatile world in which security risks run high and stability is constantly threatened, the military dimension of the relations looms large. Turkey did not just provide indispensable political and moral support for Azerbaijan in a time of strife and played a critical role in strengthening Baku's military prowess through training and arms exports prior to and during the Second Karabakh War, but also, as President Aliyev made abundantly clear in his numerous interviews given during the war, effectively blocked the danger of third-party intervention. Naturally, the nature of that party is known to us all.
Back then, the Azerbaijani leader did not specify the identity of the potential interloper, following the time-honoured adage of diplomacy in line with which enough should be said and nothing should be harmed.
The Shusha Declaration, in addition to reaffirming the pre-existing military arrangements, has crystallised the provisions on cooperation in this field, and, more importantly, a collective defence mechanism, akin to Article 5 in NATO's founding treaty. In fact, Baku and Ankara had been coming to this point of formalisation for over a decade. The year 2010 was crucial, and the succeeding 11 years gradually brought the whole alliance to fruition.
The incisive Can Kasapoglu, writing for the Jamestown Foundation, believes by virtue of intensive joint drills and increased interaction, Azerbaijan and Turkey have already progressed from "one nation in two states" to "one nation and one military".
This may appear a slightly precipitated conclusion just now, but this seems to be the logical objective of the policies pursued by Baku and Ankara. The Azerbaijani Army is currently being reconstructed along the lines of the Turkish model, and President Aliyev himself remarked the intention is to create a smaller version of the Turkish army.
Diplomacy and energy
Baku and Ankara also consult on a wide array of international issues and act in a coordinated manner. Whilst in Kenya in early May, I had a chance to converse with the Turkish Ambassador in Nairobi, His Excellency Ahmet Cemil Miroglu, who confided to me that Turkey - ranked the fifth country across the globe in terms of the number of worldwide diplomatic representations, has a massive footprint, and wherever Azerbaijan is not represented, Ankara provides its ally with necessary information and steps in, if necessary.
Azerbaijan has its own uniquely pivotal place in the energy market. Although Baku is no match for Russia in terms of providing gas for Europe, it is still a reliable and trusted supplier. It may play an even greater role in coming to the rescue of south-eastern Europe, namely the Balkans. This enables Turkey to increase its leverage over its western neighbours and to be indispensable within the whole scheme.
Azerbaijani-Turkish relations are critical to the future of the Organisation of Turkic States (OTS). Some commentators believe the Shusha Declaration will be a model, both for the relations between Turkey and other Turkic states and interconnectedness among the members of the organisation in general.
The OTS has no chance to be a global force to be reckoned with without its biggest and most powerful member - Turkey. Ankara alone cannot bring cohesion to the entity. Azerbaijan is indispensable, inter alia, as a gateway to Central Asia, enabling the Turkic power with the most impressive international clout to connect with the eastern branch of the organisation.
Although it is undoubtedly true that Azerbaijani-Turkish relations are beyond the mundane vicissitudes of international politics and, irrespective of the governments in charge, will always meet certain high standards of sufficient closeness, it is important to ascribe due importance to the impact of a personality factor.
Aliyev and Erdogan, for a period spanning almost two decades, have managed to establish an extraordinarily excellent rapport, upgrading the "one nation in two states" to a whole new level. This relationship has passed many tests of time, including the 2009 conundrum engendered by an ill-conceived Turkish-Armenian normalisation, the necessary basic conditions for the inception of which did not exist at the time due to the then-ongoing former Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Both leaders rose to the occasion and transformed what seemed to be an unfortunate misunderstanding into an opportunity, and the momentum gained thereafter has never been lost, but fostered and reinforced.
Any sober reflection requires a mind unblemished with feelings. As stated at the outset, in relations between the two Turkic nations, there are too many uncontaminated fundamentals which precede the rational crux.
This year Ankara and Baku celebrate the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the very inception of which goes back to 1918 when Ottoman Turkey recognised the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic (1918-20). The present chronological vantage point provides an excellent opportunity to throw a retrospective glance at history.
If there is one aspect that Turkophiles in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanophiles in Turkey must keep in mind, it is that at no point should it be assumed that supreme refinement has been achieved. Nothing that seems to be a foregone conclusion should be taken for granted. Turkey and Azerbaijan are bound to constantly strengthen, compose and re-attune themselves, moving towards an ever-closer union.