Despite the smiles, hearty handshakes and declarations of partnership, President Obama’s meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in New York last month was actually a symptom of waning U.S. influence in Eurasia. And neither that encounter nor the recent visits to Baku by the secretaries of state and defense will accomplish much of anything in terms of advancing long-term U.S. interests until the administration comes up with a strategy for engaging the countries of the region.
The extraordinary high-level attention paid to Azerbaijan is a result of that country’s recent temper-tantrum approach to foreign policy. Due to a variety of snubs both imagined and real (in particular the decision not to engage Baku as the United States pursued normalization of relations between Azerbaijan’s archrival Armenia and its ally Turkey), Aliyev felt his country was being overlooked by the Obama administration. So he decided that the best way to get U.S. attention was to lash out, specifically by putting the screws on the Turks to scupper the Armenia rapprochement, cozying up to Moscow on energy deals and threatening to pull the plug on the overflight agreement that allows the U.S. military a crucial corridor to Afghanistan.
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The above excerpt was originally published in The National Interest.
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