Russia, U.S. top military officers scrutinize positions in Baku

16 February 2017 18:16 (UTC+04:00)

By Amina Nazarli

Azerbaijan’s capital has become a venue for discussions on prospects for the U.S.-Russia military cooperation, as the nations’ top military officers met in Baku on February 16.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov mulled the current state and prospects of defense collaboration in Baku.

The meeting assumed huge interest in terms of political and geopolitical point of view, as the U.S. and Russian generals were said to explore ways to prevent military incidents and review the security situation in various conflict zones around the world.

The discussions were also said to center on the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crisis.  

The meeting which came the first face-to-face meeting between military chiefs from Washington and Moscow since 2014, was estimated as a step forward to reopen a military dialogue between the two countries.

Why Baku?

Kremlin and the White House could agree to hold the meeting at any other place in the world, but why the choice fell on Azerbaijan?           

Experts claim that organization of such an important meeting in the capital of Azerbaijan can be considered as a positive fact and an event of great military significance.

The fact that the military chiefs of the two world largest countries chose Baku as a venue for the talks is not surprising, as Azerbaijan is considered to be one of the most important geopolitical centers of the region. Baku has repeatedly become a venue for major international events discussing the major challenges of our time, as well as transport initiatives and major energy issues.

Organizing a meeting of top military officials in Baku testifies for the trust of both countries in Azerbaijan and recognition of Baku by the two countries as the most successful platform for important negotiations.

Previously Russia suggested to hold the meeting in Moscow or Minsk, according to the official reports by Moscow and Washington. But, the U.S. Defense Ministry rejected these options in return offering Western Europe, more precisely, Brussels.

However, the option was not accepted because after the processes in Ukraine, the European Union included the name of Russian Chief of General Staff into its blacklist. After long negotiations the choice was made in favor of Baku.

Baku, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, was chosen as a “neutral venue” for the meeting and is well fit for such discussions.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza believes that Azerbaijan is not included in the Eurasian economic community and is not a NATO member. He added that Baku has good relations with both Russia and the U.S.

In turn, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the meeting of the heads of the U.S. and Russia military officers is important, Day.Az reported.

The secretary general welcomed the attempts of NATO allies on a bilateral basis to develop lines of communications and develop the dialogue with Russia.

He noted that at the last two meetings of the Russia-NATO Council, General Valery Gerasimov and the chairman of the NATO Military Committee Petr Pavel had no direct contact.

The meetings centered on military transparency between NATO and Russia, military transparency and risk reduction.

Prior to the historic meeting, President Ilham Aliyev received a delegation led by Dunford, where the sides praised the successful development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the U.S. in the military, political, economic, energy security, defense and security fields.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman appraised Azerbaijan's role in the international peacekeeping operations and the country`s significant contribution to cargo transportation to Afghanistan.

They expressed confidence that the visit of Dunford will contribute to strengthening defense cooperation.

the same day, Dunford met with Azerbaijan’s counterpart Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov, where they discussed military cooperation between the two parties.

Then, Hasanov received Gerasimov, who said that “Russia is an important partner of Azerbaijan”.

Talks about the choice of standing between the Kremlin and the White House clearly showed that choosing Baku for such important negotiations the parties took into account Azerbaijan's active role in reducing tensions in the region and balanced policy on geopolitical matters.

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Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli

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