STRONG PACT

Azerbaijan 2016 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: NATO & AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijan and NATO share a long, multi-faceted history of mutual cooperation and collaboration in the international and regional security arena, as well as in civil planning, disaster relief preparation, and more.

The history of the relationship between NATO and Azerbaijan goes all the way back to its roots, just after its independence from the Soviet Union. It was at this time when Azerbaijan joined the precursor to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Former President Heydar Aliyev signed the Partnership for Peace document in 1994, which served as the foundation of Azerbaijan's relationship with NATO. As both the country and organization have undergone significant changes over the past decades, a newer and more personalized relationship was forged between NATO and Azerbaijan in 2004 with the creation of an Individual Partnership Action Plan. These plans are joint agreements that last for two years. Since then, Azerbaijan has played a pivotal role in safeguarding the energy security of Europe and the stability of the Caucasus region

The relationship with NATO is not solely focused on defense, but is instead surprisingly complex. Azerbaijan is engaged in political dialogue cooperation efforts with NATO, collaborating on issues such as regional security, the Azerbaijan-Armenia situation, energy security, and more. This dialogue takes place at the highest levels and offers a practical forum to achieve meaningful progress on a plethora of significant issues. In addition, Azerbaijan collaborates with NATO in regards to civil emergency planning efforts. The NATO partnership in Azerbaijan advances the development of domestic disaster management and assists the national emergency services. In this capacity, NATO programs have contributed to the training of the specially trained search-and-rescue teams in Azerbaijan. NATO works with the Ministry of Emergency Situations as well, helping it develop Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) teams to be deployed at a moment's notice during disaster relief operations. Moreover, Azerbaijan participates in the Science for Peace and Security Program. Under this program, Azerbaijan has participated in around 30 cooperative projects and has received many different grants. Examples of these types of projects include collaborating on protecting sources of drinking water in Azerbaijan from terror attacks and protecting potentially vulnerable areas of the pipelines in operation throughout the country.

As expected, the main role of the partnership with NATO is related to security. Exemplifying its commitment, Azerbaijan has taken part in many different NATO-led operations. Azerbaijan offered troops to participate in the KFOR operation in Kosovo from 1999-2008 and has been actively contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 2002. In the ISAF operation, which is designed to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan has repeatedly increased the amount of Azerbaijani troops involved in this operation. Azerbaijan also contributes in this operation through logistics and transit support, and through providing financial assistance to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. In addition, Azerbaijan helps fight against terrorism in the world through the framework of the Partnership Action Plan on Terrorism (PAP-T), which includes intelligence sharing, threat analysis, and improving border protection.

Apart from military operations, Azerbaijan receives help from NATO with regard to the structure and overall defining characteristics of its armed forces, which has included restructuring the military in line with NATO standards. For example, the transformation that took place within Azerbaijan's military, which was manifested in the new JGS structure and the reorganization of the lower level of corps and brigades, was based on shared experiences and collaboration efforts with a number of NATO countries.

Azerbaijan has a domestic point of contact with NATO through the Embassy of Romania. Romania's role as the point of contact includes helping Azerbaijan maintain an active dialogue with NATO. The Romanian diplomatic mission also brokers different conferences, roundtables, and discussions on salient security issues facing the country and works to increase public awareness of the benefits of cooperation with NATO. These events have taken place all across Azerbaijan, in Baku, Quba, Sheki, Mingachevir, Nakhcivan, and more. As Azerbaijan's economic influence and proclivity for hosting international events catapults them further into the global spotlight, their presence in world security matters has increased as well. Highlighting this, President Barack Obama recently invited Azerbaijan to attend the fourth nuclear security summit in Washington, DC. In his invitation, President Obama noted Azerbaijan's continual commitment to the international nuclear security system.