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NATO creating its subsidiary in Transcaucasia?

07.06.2005 00:00

The US-Israeli Center for Strategic Forecasts (STRATFOR) reports that an understanding has been reached between the US and Azerbaijan about stationing a US military contingent - the so called "mobile force provisionally deployed in Azerbaijan" ? at Kurdamir, Nasosny and Gulli airbases. The report says the deployment issue was finalized at night on April 12, at Baku Airport, during a short unofficial visit by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Azerbaijan.

Experts of the Center say that, according to US military planners, the mobile force is intended to carry out "strategic missions" not only on Azeri soil, but also in other Transcaucasian republics. One of such missions might be guarding the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeikhan (BTJ) oil pipeline, said to be strategically important for the West.

The strength of the US contingent will vary according to the kind of objectives the US leadership may be pursuing in the region at any given moment. Furthermore, according to Western media, to guard the BTJ and other Caspian pipelines a special operational element code-named "Caspian Guard" is being created within the structure of the US Armed Forces Command in Europe.

Authorities in Baku deny point-blank the existence of any such plan for stationing US troops on Azeri soil. However, the probability level of this information is fairly high, as Azerbaijan is interested in developing military cooperation with the US, while the US would like to strengthen its military presence in the Transcaucasia and on the Caspian Sea. This presence is thought to be an important condition for a successful realization of the concept of creating a new geopolitical axis East-West bypassing Russia. The eastern end of the axis would be represented by an alliance of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia. Ukraine joining the alliance is not to be ruled out. The visible product of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia working toward the alliance is thought to be the Baku Declaration ? a document featuring, inter alia, a military-political component.

It should be noted in this connection that the idea of creating a military alliance of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia closely interacting with the US and NATO had been aired already several years ago. But since then its practical implementation was hindered by such factors as the presence of Russian military bases on Georgian soil, as well as discord amongst Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia on a number of organizational matters.

Since the problem of the Russian troops withdrawal from Georgia has been practically settled, after the commissioning of the BTJ pipeline the idea of the tripartite alliance may get material content. At any rate, a Turkish military delegation is expected to arrive shortly in Baku to discuss not only technical problems related to the signing of an agreement on further developing the Turkish-Azeri military cooperation, but also the prospects for creating a Turkish-Azeri-Georgian military bloc. This question is expected to be the main item on the agenda of the defense ministers of the three countries meeting this summer in Baku.

Thus, despite the absence of any document about military-political cooperation signed at the level of foreign ministries of the US, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, it is quite possible that such agreements do exist between the defense ministries of those countries.

The agreements may be of a limited nature and envision the use of armed forces exclusively for solving problems of regional security. At the same time it may mean the beginning of a rapid militarization of the "Transcaucasian Alliance" and its eventual transformation into a regional military-political bloc, a kind of a NATO subsidiary.