Saturday, July 3, 2021

Azerbaijani Naval Exercises Highlight Baku’s Growing Role on the Caspian

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 –Russia’s Caspian Flotilla has been a dominant presence on that inland sea that few focused on the naval capacities of the other littoral states. But with the partial delimitation of the sea and the importance of oil and gas fields there, the role of these other navies is growing (

            Perhaps the most important of these not only in terms of its complement of ships but also the willingness of its government to use its navy to defend its interests on the Caspian is Azerbaijan. Its navy was formed by the division of the Soviet flotilla but has grown since then (

            The Azerbaijani government has made clear that it views the navy as central to its mission of protecting not only its own oil and gas fields from diversionary attacks but also trans-Caspian pipelines linking Central Asia to Turkey and the West ( and

            Moscow has been sufficiently concerned by this rising force to have put aside earlier plans to sell shore rockets to Baku lest they be used in the future against Russia ( and

            And both Turkmenistan and Iran have become more cooperative with Azerbaijan regarding disputed areas in the Caspian, at least in part because of the growing power of the Azerbaijani navy ( and

            To highlight its growing power on the sea, Baku organized naval exercises last week to show how it can now defend effectively against any efforts to destroy its oil and gas field or pipelines and help its own merchant marine ships and those of other countries (

            To make sure this was not lost on Azerbaijanis or on the governments of other littoral states, Azerbaijani state media played up the exercise, even putting out a video showing the operation of its ships. The display was sufficiently impressive that even neighboring countries that might have reacted have remained silent (

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