On August 29th, Turkey announced that based on shared geography, history, and religion, she wants to increase the already close collaboration that she holds with Azerbaijan:
Ankara and Baku need to increase solidarity and collaboration in the region, Turkish Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım said yesterday during his official visit in Azerbaijan.
“Turkey and Azerbaijan share the same faith in the same region. There are some serious plans in our region nowadays,” a statement from the parliament quoted Yıldırım as saying at a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Oktay Asadov.
“We need to increase our solidarity and collaboration against these plans. We need to have a firm stance against those who want to destabilize our region,” he added.
For his part, Asadov said Azerbaijan wants to further increase the bilateral relations with Turkey.
“Last year, the bilateral trade volume was $2.6 billion and it was $1.9 billion in the first half of this year. Our presidents ordered the increase of these number. We will work more for this,” Asadov added.
Yıldırım said these numbers are low considering the potentials of the two countries. “We need to increase trade. For this, it is beneficial to have more mutual talks,” he added.
Yıldırım will be received by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and meet Prime Minister Novruz Memmedov in capital Baku during his visit. (source)
At the same time as Turkey announced her partnership with Azerbaijan, Germany concluded her meetings with the Azeri government, which Azeri MP Tahir Karimli announced were “extremely important” because Germany has chosen Azerbaijan as her main partner in the region:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Baku was extremely important, Azerbaijani MP Tahir Karimli told Trend Aug. 28.
The MP said that Merkel’s statements on regional security and the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are very important.
“In her statement, Merkel said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the UN Security Council’s decisions,” Karimli said. “This is in favour of Azerbaijan. At the same time, Germany, as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, has always supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The intensification of Germany’s position in connection with Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is also beneficial to Azerbaijan.”
The MP also added that the chancellor during her visit expressed unequivocal support for the Southern Gas Corridor and stressed the role of Azerbaijan in the energy security of Europe.
“I think that the activity of more than 150 German companies in Azerbaijan and the existence of the German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce are a solid basis for further expansion of economic ties between the two countries,” Karimli said. “Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also called on German companies to participate in the development of the country’s non-oil sector.”
“This visit and Merkel’s statements demonstrated that Germany chose Azerbaijan as its main political and economic partner in the South Caucasus,” he said. (source)
Why is Azerbaijan, a former Soviet satellite nation smaller than the US state of Maine and with a population of just under ten million being actively courted by both Germany and Turkey at the same time? Would either nation not consider this to be a form of regional economic competition with each other that could lead to rivalry and even a potential war, especially since as the previous article states, Germany has 150 companies operating in the nation, and now Germany admits that she is going into Azerbaijan specifically for her oil and gas resources, which is something that Turkey also needs to access to build her growing economy and army?:
Uniper, a German energy giant and SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan have signed a deal to improve the energy efficiency of oil and gas production in the Caucasus nation. An agreement between the two companies was signed during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Baku in late August. Uniper has collaborated with SOCAR for years, but this is the first tight cooperation between the two companies in the field of energy sufficiency.
“Uniper provides a great opportunity for Azerbaijan to realise its natural resources as well as benefit from modern technologies. Enhancing energy efficiency is of great value both for environmental protection and gaining additional value from the natural gas saved in this project,” said Rovnag Abdulayev, the president of SOCAR.
The visit of the German chancellor to the South Caucasus had generally positive results in all three countries. Besides cooperation with Azerbaijan, which remains the most significant partner of Germany in the region, Mrs Merkel also pledged support for various projects in Georgia and restated the importance of the country’s wellbeing.
“[Mrs] Merkel’s visit is important in the long-term perspective because the EU is working to diversify risks in the energy sector, as both the US and Russia are using energy as a political weapon. In this sense, Germany is looking for new routes and the South Caucasus corridor is one of the best options,” said Gia Khukhashvili, a Georgian political scientist.
Political scientists and experts in Armenia believe that Mrs Merkel’s visit moved the country into a different European league. The most important promise Armenia received from the chancellor was continued support and an eagerness to implement the Armenia-EU agreement.
“As for the economic aspect of the visit, I think various programmes have been introduced regarding Armenia. However, the most important thing is not their presentation but rather their consistent implementation,” said Edgar Arakelyan, an Armenian analyst. (source)
Azerbaijan is also a majority Shia Muslim nation at over 90% of the population. Turkey is a majority Sunni Muslim nation, also at more that 90% of the population. Given the historical hatred between Sunni and Shia, and how Azerbaijan is so close to Turkey and by religious affiliation would have greater sympathies with Iran, why would Turkey not attempt to subjugate Azerbaijan instead of calling her a friend and working with her as an ally and her second largest trading partner after Italy, and of which the third largest of hers is none other than Germany?
Azerbaijan is a Caucasian nation whose history has been greatly shaped by both the Persians and the Turks. Originally known to the Greeks and Romans as “Albania,” she was a pagan nation for many centuries and was a major center of Zoroastrianism and even Hinduism. When Christianity arrived many converted, but many also persisted in paganism. Islamic armies entered and seized Azerbaijan in 667 AD, and from then the presence and influence of Islam grew. The resettlement of Turkic peoples beginning with the Seljuks during the 9th century brought Azerbaijan into the influence of what would eventually become the Ottoman Empire and later, Turkey. The Turks, who were a shamanistic people, embraced Sunni Islam and especially Sufism, which far from being peaceful gave a mystical layer to the shamanism of the Turks. However, owing to the historical proximity and cultural ties with Persia, it was in the 16th century under Shah Ismail I, the leader of Persia who embraced Shia Islam and made Iran into a Shia country, that Azerbaijan converted to Shiism as well.
The Azeri people are bound to the Persians, Turks, and Caucasian peoples by blood, history, geography, and religion yet retain a culture and identity that is unique for them. They are not a power into themselves, but they share in the struggles of the powers around them and are a nation through which the Turks, Persians, and Russian have wages war against each other. Their importance as the metaphorical chessboard between these three powers becomes more important when one considers that Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian sea and has both possession of and access to tremendous oil and reserves (click here to read our analysis of Caspian Sea oil politics).
Since the days of the Armenian Genocide, Azerbaijan has been allied primarily to Turkey. Iran has historically been a regional power and does not seek to establish a global empire, but rather prefers to remain in the Middle East and her border regions. Turkey is a world power and has more than once attempted more than once to take over the world. The descendants of the once-Christian Byzantine Greek and Slavic peoples now mixed with Central Asian Turk and converted to Islam, their persistence and viciousness gave them the name of the “Turkish menace” for centuries. Russia has continually fought against Turkey, and because of the blood and religious ties of the Azeri people to the Turkish people, the Azeris tended to ally with the Turks.
The history of Azerbaijan in modern times begins in 1847 when the first mechanical oil wells were successfully dug in Azerbaijan. Oil was always known about in the region for millenia, but this event marks the transition from harvesting natural deposits or small, hand-dug wells in the area to industrialization. Azerbaijan had already been occupied by the Russians for centuries as a part of their Caucasus front, and the scientific discoveries being made at the time that furthered the creation of modern industry immediately drew the attention of both the Russians and Germans.
Because she was a territory of the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan remained in Russian control up to the end of World War I and the fall of the Russian Empire to Lenin and his Socialist movement, which as it is documented Lenin was a German agent directly supported by Germany in order to cause internal chaos to assist her during the First World War. There were a series of revolutionaries in the region, such as Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh, who backed the communist movement because he and others viewed it as an attempt to establish Transcaucasia, or a nation from the modern nations of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. However, this was problematic because Rasulzadeh centered his ideas of a nation around the concept of pan-Turkism, which the Armenians and the Georgians rejected. Since this happened at the time that the majority of the violence of the Armenian Genocide was committed, neither the Armenians nor the Georgians trusted the Azeri’s pro-Ottoman ideas. The Communists entered into the debate and sided with the Armenians and Georgians not because of the Christian identity held by both nations as opposed to the Muslim Azeris, but as an excuse to bring Azerbaijan back into her sphere of influence and to justify war against the German-allied Turks.
Prior to the First World War, conditions in the transcaucasian region were stressed because of tensions between the Russian Orthodox and the Muslim rulers. As we have noted before, the Orthodox is synonymous with Russian ethnicity and nationalism, and it was the issue of nationalism that was central to the split of 1054 while noting theological points of emphasis as the justification. Islam is also synonymous with Turkish nationalism for many Turks and Turkic peoples with the same internal problems. It is said that the Muslims believed they were underrepresented in the region and that tensions between the peoples exploded over a fight between a Christian and a Muslim that resulted in the death of a Tatar Muslim schoolboy in the area. While certain historical details are not fully known that would help further elucidate a clearer picture of the matter, it is clear that the incident was used as a justification by the Muslims to declare jihad against the Armenians and Georgians, and which the Armenians and Georgians responded by fighting back in what was the Armenian-Tatar massacres of 1905. While the details are lost to history at the time, the fact that this took place in February 1905, just one month after Lenin’s comrade Lev Bronshtein began his failed attempt to establish a communist Russia in the Revolution of 1905, such a conflict may have been instigated to further the cause of the revolution.
The Russians and Ottomans signed the Armistice of Erzincan on December 18, 1917, three days after they signed Brest-Litovsk Armistice that put a temporary stop to hostilities. However, the peace that it brought was but a temporary cessation of hostilities. After claiming that negotiations were having troubles on February 10, 1918, Ottoman Turkey accused Armenia of attacking Azeris and used it to invade Transcaucasia on February 12th. Germany, who signed the Brest-Litovsk armistice, used this as an excuse to claim Russian aggression and on February 18th with the assistance of Austria-Hungary attacked Ukraine as a part of Operation Faustschlag. Now Communist Russia, having been weakened by the revolution and her army in chaos, Germany seized all of Ukraine, the Baltic nations as part of the Brest-Litovsk agreement. She was working up towards Finland with the intention of making the entire area into a German-controlled satellite region. However, Germany was defeated in the war and her plan collapsed, and she was divided up and stripped of her army and her territories.
The German attempt to divide and conquer Russia through communism almost succeeded. While the Communists did take power and overall weaken the nation, a series of peoples throughout Russia, mostly of Turkic or German concentration, rebelled and attempted to start their own nations. Areas included but were not limited to Chechnya and Dagestan as the Emirate of the North Caucasus, a Bashkir-Chuvash-Tartar ethnostate centered in the city of Kazan called the Idel-Ural state, Crimean Tartars in the Ukraine with the Crimean People’s Republic, and Finnish people (who are of Turkic stock) with the Republic of North Ingria There were also anti-communist states that appeared made mostly of Cossacks who rejected Soviet rule, such as the Kuban People’s Republic and the Don Republic. Azerbaijan was one of the republics who rebelled. While she already had Ottoman sympathies, the events of March 1918 in which Armenians and Georgians massacred 12000 Azeris in revenge for the Ottoman Genocide of the Christians only further solidified the already existing Azeri-Ottoman Alliance. The Armenians and Georgians allied with the Russians and with UK backing so began to fight.
A united Azeri-Ottoman force was victorious over the Russians at Baku in September 1918. However, the Armenians pressed east towards Azerbaijan with the Turks failing to maintain their territories. In response to the Turkish territorial losses the commander of the Turkish Army of Islam of the Caucasus, the infamous Ottoman butcher Enver Pasha, ordered the complete depopulation by deportation or slaughter of Armenians in Azeri regions. Two of the major regions affected were Nakhchivan in 1919 in which about 12,000 Armenians were slaughtered and later in the March 1920 Shusha massacre in Nagorno-Karabakh were Turkish, Azeri, and Tatar Muslim terrorist ethnically cleansed 30,000 Armenians from the region and destroyed homes and churches. But the Turkish policy of mass murder failed, and the Soviets closed in on Azerbaijan. By November 1920 Soviet troops fully occupied and had seized control over Azerbaijan and integrated her into the nascent Soviet Union. Armenia and Georgia were also brought into the Soviet Union as independent satellite states, and the October 1921 Treaty of Kars designated the boundaries for the nations of Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan became an important Soviet military strategic region because of her oil resources. In preparation for the Second World War, Germany stocked up oil imports from around the world. During the war, she captured oil resources from around Europe and in particular Romania, which remained her largest consistent source. They also produced synthetic oil and focused on creating fuel alternatives for the population in order to keep oil resources directed toward military ends. However, the demand for petroleum still was not enough and lead to the miltary campaign of Germany to Georgia and Azerbaijan to seize the oil fields by the Caspian Sea in Operation Edelweiss. Initially, the Allied powers had planned Operation Pike to bomb the Azeri oil fields because Russia was selling oil to Germany from 1939 to 1940, but failed to achieve its objective.
Germany was able to march as far as to Georgia, and Germany began building a railway from Orsk, Russia on the border of Kazakhstan to Baku, Azerbaijan as well as a shipping port across the Caspian sea from Turkmenistan to Russia at Turkmenbasy. The final push for the German army to seize the oil fields in Azerbaijan was Operation Blue in 1942. However, with the German loss at the Battle of Stalingrad they withdrew from the Caucasus region, an event marking the beginnings of the downfall of the Reich.
The German loss in the Second World War or the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 in no way diminished the importance of the Azeri oil fields and Azerbaijan as a strategic point. Her closeness to Turkey, whose army was rebuild into the 8th most powerful military on earth by the US and Germany following the Second World War as a part of Operation Gladio to create a “hedge” against the Soviet Union through the support of ultranationalism with the goal of eventually surrounding and breaking Russia up into a series of warring states, directly affected Azerbaijan’s military and importance in the region (click here to read our article about the Decline of Russia project and here to read about Operation Gladio). Just as times change but patterns of behavior do not, Germany still views herself as an imperial power who wants to re-assert herself on the continent and will likely do what she has done in the past, one of which is to attempt to seize the Azeri oil fields for her use.
The question becomes, how does Germany get the fields without starting a direct war with Russia?
The answer to that question is through economic development.
Economic power always precedes political power, for it is the golden rule, that he who has the gold is the one who rules and makes the rules. Germany’s power comes from her economic manufacture-and-export model which she has consistently relied on and which Turkey admits that she is directly mimicking to facilitate her own rise. Germany established economic ties with Azerbaijan in 1992 and ties have grown since.
The “refugee crisis” began in November 2015 under Chancellor Merkel. Two years prior in 2013, Germany opened up the first German-Azeri Investment Forum through the German-Azeri Chamber of Commerce (AHK), and by the end of 2016, a full year into the “crisis,” the AHK began reporting on regular German-Azeri economic activity.
Germany only does between 1 and 2 billion USD in trade, yet 98% of Azerbaijan’s wealth comes from oil and oil-derivative products. Azerbaijan also admits they are actively seeking out German foreign investment, and Germany has continued to invest in the nation.
As with the last two major wars, “oil politics” will play a major role. Just as he who has the gold makes the rules in an economic setting, so it will be that he who has control over the oil fields will be able to build the best machinery of war and will most likely win. Germany knows from learned experience that if she is to realize her goals of empire, she must get control over as much oil as she can.
There are three ways to transport oil in mass- by tanker, by pipeline, and by railway. There are already oil holding off the coast of Norway and around the Black Sea, which she is close to and could seize, but as her experience was in World War II, it will not be enough. She needs another source that is nearby- such as Azerbaijan. However, she also does not want to have to go through another Battle of Stalingrad scenario because it would be costly, destructive, and if she loses she will lose AGAIN. In her mind, the way to success would be to seize the oil before the war starts and to have such a presence that would enable her to grab the fields with ease.
As mentioned earlier, Germany is responding to this with the help of her Turkish and American allies to build a massive railway and pipeline system to circumvent Russia by going through Turkey, as those are the only two ways of getting oil from the Caspian Sea to Germany. You can read our analyses of the railway system here, here, and here. This pipeline and oil system, which goes into Central Asia and the far east, also provides an economic union between Germany and Turkey to the Central Asian states, who while under the umbrella of the Soviet union are also known for pan-Turkic and Turanian sentiments and have been known to rebel against Russia, which is a historical problem that the USA is trying to exploit.
This is also why NATO sponsored a revolution in Ukraine and both the USA and Germany have been supporting neo-Nazi paramiltary troops, as it is a proxy war with Russia in preparation for a larger war. Germany has twice seized Ukraine, and in the last world war marched across Ukraine to Georgia, seizing most of the sea ports along the Black and Caspian Seas in the process. It is also why there is such a conflict over Crimea and why Russia seized and annexed the territory, because it is a historical base of military operations in wars between Russia and Germany or Turkey. This time instead of directly seizing the coastlines, however, Germany is attempting to tie them to her through the use of a railway system, something which the NATO-allied Caucasus nations have embraced but Russia has not, and is threatening a “transportation war” with Ukraine:
Ukraine and Russia cut off direct flights back in October 2015. Ukraine then said that the only condition under which flights could resume would be the cessation of Russian flights to Crimea. Russia responded by forbidding Ukrainian planes from using Russian airspace.
Currently, to get from Ukraine to Russia by plane, you have to take a connecting flight from another country. However, train and bus connections are still active between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine believes that the ‘transport war’ is escalating due to Russia’s actions in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea: Russian border guards have actively begun detaining ships going to Ukrainian ports, which has caused losses for the latter. The Ukrainian media says that in the last few months, Russia has introduced dozens of military boats into the Sea of Azov.
Aleksandr Omelyan came up with the idea of introducing similar actions and of initiating international sanctions against Russia for its actions against Ukrainian ships.
The ‘transportation war’ has created enormous problems for residents of both countries. There are a number of mixed Ukrainian-Russian families in both countries, and there are a number of Ukrainian citizens who still live and work in Russia.
Companies that provide rail and bus transportation services between Ukraine and Russia have so far not commented on the minister’s promises to introduce new restrictions. The first VP of the Ukrainian Transport Union, Vladimir Balin, says that everyone is waiting for an official document that will clarify the situation.
Minister Omelyan believes that Ukrainian shippers and transporters will not suffer serious losses as a result of the ban.
Omelyan also says that trains that go to Russia can be used to transport shipments around Ukraine or to Europe.
“They will generate the same amount of income or even more from shipments to the EU,” the minister says.
However, the former Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Aleksandr Kava, does not agree.
“Trains that go to Russia cannot go to Europe because of a difference in the width of the rails,” Kava told Hromadske.
Experts say that a complete ban on transport to Russia will have several consequences.
First off: the number of illegal carriers will grow.
Expert Vladimir Balin predicts that there will be many more illegal minibuses making the journey between Ukraine and Russia.
Kava also believes that couriers will be forced into operating in a legal grey zone, and that transport to Russia will have to remain in some form because there is such a large demand for it.
As for train transportation, Kava believes there are two options.
If rail transit remains, that is, trains to Moldova and Azerbaijan via Moscow and Kiev, then there will be great profitability for these countries. (source)
Russia has been carefully watching Germany’s presence in the Caucasus regarding oil and gas with Azerbaijan. The Valdai Club, which is a Russian variant of the American Aspen Institute, noted recently that:
Azerbaijan is Germany’s biggest partner in the region (having about 70% of trade there). Baku hosted the only business forum during the regional tour. During the visit, an agreement between the German concern Uniper and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) was signed: according to it, the companies are working together on future energy efficiency projects in oil and gas production in Azerbaijan. The cooperation between the two companies covers numerous spheres. In 2015, they created a joint venture to manufacture turbine-generator sets.
At the same time, for the EU, the Southern Gas Corridor, which implies gas transit from Azerbaijan to Europe, is strategically important. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev expressed his opinion on transit capabilities of the pipeline: “Regarding Azerbaijan’s transit capabilities and our relations, each country wants more cargo to pass through its territory. Now, we deliver oil from Turkmenistan via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to the global markets and export dry Central Asia cargoes through Azerbaijan via the recently commissioned Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. However, the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline should be of primary interest for gas owners, transit countries should not show initiative here”.
On the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, several statements were made to support the process of negotiations. Germany is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, whose goal is to resolve the conflict according to international legal documents, namely the fourth resolution of the UN Security Council. The German Chancellor emphasized that “the fact that a new government was formed in Armenia may possibly improve the situation and promote the negotiations”. Azerbaijan also wants the substantive dialogue to be continued. (source)
The Ukraine war is a proxy war between Germany and Russia, and given the history, the current conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a continuation of a proxy war between Russia and Turkey. Russia supports the Armenians as Turkey supports the Azeris, but both nations are also supported by their “enemies” as Azerbaijan is a former Soviet territory and Armenia has a permanent mission with NATO. The conflict is less about Muslim vs. Christian or the other way around, and one of a territory struggle that has endured for centuries but is at a serious point now because of the economic significance of the region and the desire of Germany and Turkey to make use of that region in a war against the Russians.
If Azerbaijan did not have oil, it would look like and be treated no differently than North Korea by the regional powers. She would still be a conduit through which to conduct proxy wars, but her significance would be limited to that. The presence of oil in the region is what makes her sought after by her neighbors with such violent passion. Wherever Azerbaijan goes, based on blood, religious, historical, and geographic ties, so will there be Turkey, and as Germany and Turkey are inseparable, so will the three go together as one unit.
Ignore the current “conflict” between Germany and Turkey. This is a show to distract the masses from the reality, which is that Germany and Turkey are always friends, always have been, and always will be, and as Azerbaijan is a relatively obscure nation that is a common ally to both, she is the conduit through which they can conduct business with each other while still appearing to be enemies in public.
Watch Azerbaijan, because as her economy moves with Turkey and Germany will indicate among other points the relative proximity Europe is to return to war.