The Russia–Ukraine War: Perspective of Azerbaijan

For the three countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), the Russia–Ukraine war has been both a challenge for their national security and a test for the resilience of their foreign policies. Armenia, an ally of Russia with multiple institutional and contractual arrangements, and Georgia, a country with traditionally strong pro-Western aspirations, sought to remain cautiously neutral and supportive-at-a-distance, respectively, without unequivocally allying with one side against the other. For Azerbaijan, a country that has, since the mid-1990s, prioritized its national interests in pursuing its foreign policy (i.e., maintaining more-or-less equal distance from all major powers while avoiding any alliance or confrontation with one against the others, which is often portrayed as a ‘balanced approach’), the tense security situation in the close neighbourhood caused by the war reaffirmed the utility of this strategy. Having signed declarations on allied cooperation with Türkiye (June 2021) and Russia (February 2022), Azerbaijan sought to minimize the threats to its national security – which was critical amidst occasionally escalating tensions with Armenia. This has been, however, a remarkable challenge for Azerbaijan’s foreign policy as the country is in a strategic partnership with Ukraine and cannot ignore the security challenges and humanitarian tragedies Ukraine has faced. The analysis pursued in this paper is focused primarily on the policy responses of Azerbaijan vis-à-vis the Russia–Ukraine War. Through analysing how Azerbaijan reacted to this war, the paper argues that, although Baku continued to take a vigilant stance in the West–Russia standoff and sought not to provoke a negative reaction towards itself, it provided tangible support to Ukraine and declared support for the country’s territorial integrity.

Authors: Vasif Huseynov