Welcoming Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov to Foggy Bottom in early May of this year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could think of nothing more original to say than "Azerbaijan has a very strategic location that is one important not only to their country, but really, regionally and globally…." 
But what Clinton’s effusion lacked in originality it compensated for in accuracy. Azerbaijan is as strategically situated as any nation in the world within the current contest between Western plans for global military domination and control of energy resources and contrasting efforts by other nations to secure a peaceful and multipolar international order.
The nation of only slightly more than eight million people is nestled in the far southeast corner of the Caucasus on the coast of the Caspian Sea, bordering all the other Caucasus nations – Armenia, Georgia and Russia – on its northern and western borders and Iran on its southern one.
Even more than Turkey, Azerbaijan is that nation which links Europe with Asia and, neighboring Iran, also connects Eurasia with the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
Strategic Energy Projects Of The 21st Century
The nation is also the linchpin in several Western oil and natural gas transit projects comprising what the US White House calls the East-West Energy Corridor – the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline (delivering high-grade crude from Azerbaijan’s Caspian offshore Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli fields to Turkey’s deepwater Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan), the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and the Nabucco/Southern Corridor natural gas pipelines – which in turn are linked with several extensions running from and to three continents as well as the Middle East.
These include transporting oil (and natural gas) from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the eastern shores of the Caspian to Azerbaijan – either by ship or under the sea – then to Georgia and Turkey, where one route will ship oil from the Black Sea coast of Georgia to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and from there via pipeline to Brody and into Poland to Plock and then Gdansk on the Baltic Sea for further transport to Germany and the rest of Europe.
Other branches of this vast transcontinental energy transport project include those carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field to Europe through the "Interconnector pipeline linking Turkey to Italy via Greece and the White Stream, which would run from Georgia to Romania across [or under] the Black Sea,"  and the proposed shipping of oil from Ceyhan in Turkey to the Israeli Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon and from there by pipeline to the Red Sea port of Eilat where it can be shipped on tankers across the Indian Ocean to East Asia. Last year it was announced that "the pipeline company Ashkelon-Eylat [Eilat] initiated a channel for transportation of oil from the Turkish Ceyhan port to East Asia by using Israel’s infrastructure." 
The last-named presents the eventual prospect of oil emanating from as far east as Kazakhstan, which borders China, being shipped across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, then through the South Caucasus to Turkey, from there down the Mediterranean coast to Israel, and later shipped through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and back to East Asia.
During the European Union summit in Prague on May 7 of this year it was announced that the Nabucco gas pipeline – planned to transport natural gas from Erzurum, Turkey, where the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey gas pipeline ends, to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary – would be fed by natural gas from Northern Iraq through Turkey and from Egypt.
"After meeting with EU officials, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia and Turkey signed a joint declaration on the Southern Corridor [Nabucco] that involves countries from Central Asia, Southern Caucasus, Mashreq [Jordan, Lebanon, Syria] and the Middle East." 
"[Iraqi] supplies will be sufficient to feed the long-planned Nabucco pipeline, which proposes pumping gas to Austria via Turkey.
"The pipeline would reduce Europe’s dependency on gas from Russia.
"Iraq has the world’s tenth-largest gas reserves, and the world’s third largest supply of crude oil.
"A consortium of oil companies plans to revive a project to supply Europe with gas from northern Iraq." 
Azerbaijan: Central Link In Extended Chain
At the very center of this unprecedentedly wide-ranging energy transit nexus is a small country with a population only slightly larger than that of New York City, Azerbaijan.
And Azerbaijan is neither solely a transit state like Georgia and Turkey nor only an exporting nation like Kazakhstan, Iraq and Egypt, but both an oil- and natural gas-producing country and the very hub of a transportation network whose spokes reach out in almost all directions. All, that is, except for Russia and Iran, both neighboring Azerbaijan, which are deliberately circumvented in the energy routes listed above.
Without Azerbaijan’s participation various Western trans-Caspian and trans-Eurasian energy, transportation and military projects would have no central and unifying base.
Before Cold War Was Even Cold: NATO’s Designs On Former Soviet Space
The foundation of Western plans for Azerbaijan’s role in not only regional but ultimately global energy strategies began immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the creation of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the same year. After three and a half years of negotiations the so-called Contract of the Century was signed in the capital of Baku in 1994 with British Petroleum and other foreign oil companies including the American Amoco, Pennzoil, UNOCAL, McDermott and Delta Nimir firms.
The pivotal Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project was agreed upon in 1998 and went into effect in 2006.
In March of this year the Azerbaijani government announced that its military expenditures had increased 9.7 times – almost 1,000% – over the past five years. Neighboring nation and fellow NATO outpost Georgia has registered a similar increase in the same period. In both cases income from oil and natural gas export and transport played a large role in funding this monumental percentage increase. Oil for war.
In this morning’s Azerbaijan press the head of NATO’s Defense and Security Economics Directorate, Michael Gaul, is quoted as saying that "NATO realizes the whole importance of the Nabucco project and backs Azerbaijan."
The same source added that "NATO can render assistance in provision of pipeline security." 
Ten days earlier the Russian ambassador to Brussels Vladimir Chizov warned "that Moscow is skeptical about any possible involvement of NATO" in arrogating to itself the right to police oil and gas pipelines and other means of transit from the Caspian. 
On May 6th Azerbaijan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Araz Azimov – addressing a conference in his nation’s capital called NATO-Azerbaijan: Assessing the Past, Looking at the Future – "said a new era started for NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union, adding newly established states in Eastern Europe and the issues of their independence were included in the new Strategic Concept of NATO which was prepared during the Rome Summit in 1991." 
That is, even before the recently fragmented remains of the Soviet Union could regenerate themselves, NATO had plans in place to absorb them. And Azerbaijan was among the priorities, if not the main one.
NATO formally established ties with the country in 1992 by bringing it into the North Atlantic Cooperation Council [the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council since 1997], the format the Alliance employs for coordinating relations between members and various partners and candidates.
Two years later Azerbaijan was one of the first nations to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program that trains nations for eventual full membership.
Challenging Post-Soviet Commonwealth Of Independent States
It was also chosen to be not only a member but the nucleus of the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) bloc formed in 1997 to create the basis for subsequent energy and military projects and to pull nations away from the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with Russia, effectively a second generation breaking up of Soviet space. The GUAM project was an initiative of the Clinton administration like the oil and gas Contract of the Century and its first realization, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which were continued and consolidated through the Bush and into the Obama presidency.
GUAM, now expanded to include Armenia and Belarus with the European Union’s Eastern Partnership, a subject explored in an earlier article in this series , is a de facto mechanism for NATO integration and membership.
A letter from US President Barack Obama was read to the opening ceremony of the Sixteenth International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference in the Azerbaijani capital last week which included this:
"Your success is exemplified in Azerbaijan’s invitation to international investors in the mid-1990s to develop its oil and gas fields, and the realization of the East-West Energy Corridor, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and South Caucasus gas pipeline." 
NATO’s Forward Operating Base At Border of Europe And Asia
Anyone visiting the capital recently would be forgiven for thinking he was in Brussels rather than Baku and perhaps at NATO Headquarters at that. If the matter was not so deadly serious it might be observed that the Azerbaijani capital resembles a gigantic NATO theme park.
Since the beginning of last month the nation has announced, hosted or been the subject of:
On May 1st a spokesman of the Defense Ministry boasted that "thousands of Azerbaijani military men have participated in more than 200 activities of NATO through the last year." 
The preceding day the Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev held a joint press conference at NATO Headquarters in Belgium, where the NATO chief informed the press that "It goes without saying that Azerbaijan is a very important player in the region, but also beyond, as a nation which is crucial in the very important area of energy, and energy security is a highly valued and highly respected partner of NATO.
"[O]nly last year almost in 200 events, Azerbaijan participated in the framework of our cooperation with NATO. We highly value this partnership. Azerbaijan is redoubling its military presence in Afghanistan."
The Azeri president said:
"We discussed today energy security and energy cooperation, and we cannot consider general security of the region regardless [of] energy security. Energy security, energy cooperation becomes more important in today’s world….So far our role was limited by the regional dimensions. But now I think there are very good prospects for mutual cooperation on a global scale. Our pipelines and oil and gas resource serve today’s stability and security of the region, and in the future will serve…global energy security." 
On May 5th former Turkish foreign minister and current NATO senior civil officer in Afghanistan Hikmet Cetin was in Baku and asserted "[O]ne day Azerbaijan will be a full-fledged NATO member" and in addition "NATO is counting on expanding its activity in the South Caucasus states by admitting them as members." 
He also applauded Turkey’s role in that process, affirming it "has been playing a key role in bringing Azerbaijan`s armed forces in line with NATO standards." 
The same day the US Defense Department’s Deputy Assistant for European and NATO Policy Mary Warwick arrived in the Azerbaijani capital to attend the NATO-Azerbaijan: Assessing the Past, Looking at the Future conference commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the nation joining the NATO Partnership for Peace program.
A video address to the conference by NATO Secretary General Scheffer communicated the fact that "he highly appreciated Azerbaijan’s participation in the ISAF program in Afghanistan" and quoted him saying "We are working with Azerbaijan as a reliable partner in the field of regional security." 
Azerbaijan General Major and Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations Etibar Mirzayev used the occasion to state "We want some NATO exercises to be held in Azerbaijan," and elaborated by saying "We propose to hold some NATO exercises in Azerbaijan. Sea rescue, oil pipelines security and other exercises can be held in Azerbaijan." 
On May 12th Robert Pszczel, NATO’s Deputy Press Secretary, said that "Azerbaijan is one of the most active participants in military exercises" and "There is a bright future in co-operation between Azerbaijan and NATO. A number of issues, particularly the country’s role as a main energy exporter, bear huge importance…." 
The same day the Romanian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Nikolai Ureki, whose country has been tasked by the Alliance to be the main liaison for the country’s NATO integration, stated that "Azerbaijan’s strategic location may be beneficial for NATO in case of it joining the alliance" at the European Security and NATO conference, adding "One of the advantages is the country’s strategic location on the South Caucasus, as an important transit route." 
The following day Azerbaijan`s Defense Industry Minister Yavar Jamalov hosted former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh and the two "discussed prospects for boosting military cooperation between the two countries." 
Azerbaijan-Israel-NATO Connection: Armenia And Iran Targeted
Israeli President Shimon Peres is expected in Azerbaijan on June 28 to consolidate energy and military ties with Baku, much as Tel Aviv has done with Azerbaijan’s neighbor, Georgia, modeling both relationships after those with Turkey.
Last September Israel concluded a weapons deal with Azerbaijan worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
"According to agreements signed by the Defense Ministry and the government of Azerbaijan, which borders on Iran, Israel will sell the southern Caucasus state ammunition, mortars and radio equipment.
"Foreign news outlets have reported that the two countries maintain intelligence and security contacts. The bolstering of these ties has reportedly been achieved by former Mossad agent Michael Ross."
And on the other end of the Caspian Sea, "Israeli companies have also recently signed deals worth tens of millions of dollars with Kazakhstan." 
An Azeri press agency revealed that military cooperation with Israel was no new phenomenon as "Israel was supplying weapons to Baku in the period of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh" and "US sources stated at different times that Mossad helped Azerbaijani special services" and "that Israeli points of radioelectronic reconnaissance are set on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border." 
The above developments alarmed Armenia, still at conflict with its neighbor over Nagorno Karabakh. In an article of last October, shortly after the five-day war between Georgia and Russia in the South Caucasus, called "Israel selling weapons to Azerbaijan fuels possibility of new war," an Armenian website wrote that "A dangerous pattern is emerging in the Caucasus with new reports that Israel is continuing to sell advanced military armaments to Azerbaijan, costing hundreds of millions of dollars."
The above feature quotes a former chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America as saying, "They [the Israelis] sell these arms at a time when Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, has repeatedly threatened to recapture Nagorno Karabakh by military force." 
At the fifteenth anniversary NATO conference in Azerbaijan early in May Turkey’s Hikmet Cetin said of the lingering Nagorno Karabakh conflict:
"I think not only the Minsk Group, but the USA, Turkey and Russia, as well as NATO can reach [a] solution to the problem.
"NATO has larger opportunities and therefore I consider that NATO should be involved in the process." 
Azerbaijan and the West: Strategic Partnership At Eurasia`s Crossroads
On May 14 the US think tank the Jamestown Foundation hosted a conference in Washington called Azerbaijan and the West: Strategic Partnership at Eurasia`s Crossroads at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Speakers included former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy Daniel Fata, now with the Cohen Group of second term Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Cohen.
A few days later it was announced that Azerbaijani troops would participate in several NATO Partnership for Peace military trainings including in fellow GUAM state Ukraine where they would be given a "tour to the military facilities in Simferopol and Sevastopol." The two cities are in the Crimea where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based. 
In a May 19th report called "Azerbaijani, US militaries hold joint events" a local news source noted that "The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry is holding joint military events with the United States in Baku…in accordance with the bilateral cooperation plan signed between Azerbaijan and the United States," and that "a business meeting is being held on May 18-22 to support the implementation of the Strategic Defense Review and development of final documents." 
To demonstrate how thoroughly NATO’s efforts are to infiltrate every aspect of the country’s existence, two days later "NATO’s representative in Azerbaijan’s Romanian embassy and the NATO International School in Azerbaijan (NISA) organized a roundtable on the theme NATO and Azerbaijani youth." 
On the same day it was reported that NATO Supreme Allied Commander and the US European Command chief General Bantz John Craddock met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on the topic of "implementing fruitful bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and the USA." 
In the same visit to the capital of Azerbaijan Craddock also met with the country’s Defense Minister Safar Abiyev and "hailed Azerbaijan`s contribution to the international security system and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan." 
Early this month Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Araz Azimov was in Brussels to attend the Azerbaijan’s European and Euro-Atlantic Integration – Trends and Future Prospects conference which was addressed by Assistant Secretary General of NATO Jean-Francois Bureau, Permanent Representative of Romania to NATO Sorin Ducaru and Deputy Director of the International Military Staff of NATO Maj. Gen. Georges Lebel.
For whatever the distinction is worth, the meeting was nominally under European Union auspices.
At the same time the Pentagon was conducting a workshop in Baku in conjunction with the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as part of bilateral military agreements.
First Full NATO Member In Caucasus: "Azerbaijan is NATO’s Strategic Point in The South Caucasus"
On June 4th the George Soros Open Society Institute’s EurasiaNet website ran an article entitled "Azerbaijan: Baku Can Leapfrog Over Ukraine, Georgia For NATO Membership" and included the claim that "A senior source within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Joint Force Command has told EurasiaNet that Azerbaijan stands a better chance of gaining NATO membership in the near future than either Georgia or Ukraine."
The feature went on to say that "’Earlier, the perception in both Brussels [North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] headquarters] and Baku was that Georgia should integrate into NATO first and Azerbaijan should follow,’ the source said. ‘However, the situation has changed and it might be that in the year to come Azerbaijan will become the frontrunner. Baku may enter NATO earlier than Ukraine and Georgia.’
"If Azerbaijan opted to petition for NATO accession, ‘no one could stop it,’ he continued. ‘And if NATO will decide to accept Azerbaijan, Russia would hardly be able to hold it back.’" 
The same report concluded by adding: "A NATO diplomatic source, who did not want to be named, said some key officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels were pushing hard for engaging Azerbaijan on the membership question. ‘Turkey, Romania, Italy, Poland, [the] UK and [the] Baltic states,’ are among the member-states also backing a fast track for Azerbaijan’s NATO membership, the diplomatic source said."
Romanian Ambassador to Azerbaijan and official NATO point man for the country Nikolae Ureke, also pointing out the nation’s strategic location ("The case for Azerbaijan comes down to geography and energy"), is quoted as saying that "Azerbaijan is NATO’s strategic point in the South Caucasus." 
On June 10th Azerbaijan begin hosting its annual NATO week in Baku, actually a seventeen day "series of workshops, conferences and working meetings" including a "conference on the Role of Armed Forces and Law-Enforcement Organizations in Cooperation between NATO and Azerbaijan."
NATO’s Partnership for Peace liaison officer for the South Caucasus, Poland’s Colonel Zbigniew Rybacki, flew in for the events. 
At the same time the Azeri press announced that the nation was working on fifty NATO partnership projects and on the second phase of its NATO Individual Membership Action Plan. 
Also in attendance, Romania’s Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs Bogdan Aurescu assured the host government that the "alliance’s doors are open for the country," 
On June 9, a day before the official opening of the extended NATO Week in Baku, Aurescu also delivered "a speech on the role of NATO in the 21st century at the NATO International School in Azerbaijan."
Today he was a speaker at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council seminar Energy Security: Challenges and Opportunities, also held in the Azerbaijani capital. 
On June 11 the new US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Gordon, arrived as part of a three day visit to the South Caucasus. While in Azerbaijan Gordon, former Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, "will discuss US-Azerbaijan cooperation on energy matters and security." 
It was also reported today that on June 16-19 another conference, one billed as The Role of Reforms in Azerbaijani Law-Enforcement Bodies and Armed Forces in the Integration into the Euro Atlantic space," will be conducted and that "The conference will be held with the support of NATO and the Turkish embassy in Azerbaijan. NATO Liaison Officer in the South Caucasus region Zbigniew Rybacki will also attend the conference." 
Romanian Foreign Ministry Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs Aurescu was quoted again today, this time stating:
"Energy security must be reflected in the coming NATO documents. Romania see NATO’s role in support of regional initiatives and beginnings. Diversification of energy resources is a peculiar bridge which links Europe with the Caspian region." 
US Energy And Geopolitical Objectives Converge
The efforts by the State Department’s Philip Gordon will be joined with those of the new US Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy and Caspian Basin "energy diplomacy," Richard Morningstar, who was in the Azerbaijani capital on June 1-3 for the Caspian Oil and Gas international exhibition and conference.
While there Morningstar said, "Delivering its gas to Europe via the Southern Corridor, Azerbaijan will be able to establish strong relationships with the West," and "We are ready to assist Azerbaijan in the delivery of hydrocarbons to markets." 
"Morningstar’s remarks echoed a consistent theme of Washington’s since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent development of the Caspian’s hydrocarbon resources: that oil should move westwards along a Western-built and dominated energy corridor, bypassing both Russia and Iran." 
He had traveled to fellow oil-rich Caspian nation Turkmenistan before arriving in Baku and left for Turkey afterward. While still in Baku Morningstar said, "These projects are very important in terms of diversification of energy sources and strategy. These projects will have a positive influence not only on Azerbaijan, but also on Turkmenistan and Iraq…."
When asked about Iran, a far more sensible supplier of and transit nation for Caspian hydrocarbons, he said, "Iran continues violating the international commitments and posing a threat to peace and stability. Under these circumstances, it is too early for this country to realize its gas resources within any project…." 
Threat To Iran
US and NATO forces are stationed in and have airbases or access to them in three nations that border Iran – Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan – and nearby in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania and Washington’s and Brussels’ military integration of Azerbaijan will add to the encirclement of the country. In addition, ethnic Azeris are the largest minority group in Iran, estimated to constitute 15-18% of the nation’s population, and Azerbaijan could be used to foment separatist violence after the Yugoslav model, possibly in unison with a "velvet" or "color" uprising scenario as the national presidential election occurs in less than two days.
NATO’s role in expanding into the South Caucasus and in building a string of military bases from the Balkans to Central Asia have been dealt with in previous articles [41,42].
This past March the Pentagon’s US European Command (EUCOM), whose commander is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, announced that it "will continue the Caspian Regional Maritime Security Cooperation Program with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in 2009….The United States is planning to continue its efforts toward the coordination between the navies of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan within the program." 
Not identified as such, the Pentagon’s plan to project military presence into the Caspian Sea Basin is a continuation of the Caspian Guard initiative of the first George W. Bush administration’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who launched the program in 2003 and by 2005 had allotted over $100 million dollars for it.
US naval forces in the Caspian Sea, even if initially as advisers, are the equivalent of Russia and Iran signing an agreement with Canada to deploy military vessels in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes, the American response to which wouldn’t be long in coming and wouldn’t be pacific.
Eurasian Heartland and Plans For Global Domination
Azerbaijan lies at the very center of what 20th Century British geographer Halford Mackinder named the Heartland – Eurasia from Eastern Europe to China – control over which would guarantee domination of what he termed the World Island (Eurasia, Africa and the Middle East), which in turn would allow for control of the entire world.
It is also in the middle of what the contemporary adaptation of Mackinder’s model by the Russophobe and self-styled geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski refers to as the Eurasian Balkans.
Perhaps never before in modern history has such a small country as Azerbaijan been poised to play such a large role in the grand schemes of major powers.
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