Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 328 - (28/04/08)
The Azeri ‘miracle’
Azerbaijan is at the crossroads. It is doing incredibly well economically. Its
GDP growth, according to official statistics, is of the order of 25-35% per
annum, unheard of in history.
It is all premised on oil. Not only does it possess vast reserves, 31 bn barrels
at a conservative estimate, it is the natural conduit for the entire oil and gas
output of the Caspian Sea and export thereof to the West.
Its monetary reserves are given out officially as $9bn. They are almost
certainly far higher than that - and held in private accounts of the ruling
Aliyev clan in Switzerland and elsewhere.
The oil curse
There is such a thing as 'the oil curse.' Countries with resplendent oil riches
do not necessarily do well by the mass of the population - look at Saudi Arabia.
The 9:11 suicide bombers came from there.
The Azeri masses are still mired in poverty. There is large scale unemployment
and very many poor refugees displaced from the Armenian occupied region of
Azerbaijan. Meanwhile the elite lives it up in the high spots of the West -
Corfu, Capri, California, parties, private jets etc; here I come.
This predicament cannot last. A pre-revolutionary situation prevails, as Lenin
would have put it. The Rose Revolution happened in Georgia next door in 2004. A
ricochet of a revolution nearby may be nigh.
The Armenian option
An even more important neighbour for Azerbaijan is Armenia. It is in possession
of 20% of Azeri territory, involving one and a half million refugees. A new war
to seize back the lost terrain would be eminently popular. Why not use the
massive oil wealth to build up an invincible army, wrest the lost lands back and
bask in a victorious euphoria?
The reason is the Russians, with even more abundant oil wealth of their own, who
back the Armenians to the hilt. They have just won one Caucasus war in Chechnya.
There is nothing the Russian military - and high-ups in the Kremlin - would like
better than another scrap in the Caucasus, and against the likes of Azerbaijan
in particular. They could then encircle Georgia.
Armenia is due presidential elections soon. But this is not likely to alter its
intransigent stance on Nagorno-Karabakh
and related matters. The successor to President Robert Kocharian, hand-picked
for the job, is every bit as much a hawk on the issue as he is. They know that
they can rely on Moscow - and its military.
Go for peace and retrenchment
The wisest course for the elite in power in Baku would be to use their huge oil
revenues to renovate their country. Their US mentors encourage them to have fair
elections and to spread the wealth about a bit. But do they listen? Should they
succeed however, Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounds could fall into their lap in
due course as supplicants.
Economics should be allowed to prevail over lumpen local politics. Jaw-jaw is
better than war-war.