On September 2015, the EU adopted a resolution against Azerbaijan, regarding human rights violations. You can read about it at the following Euractiv article, titled “The EU should reward, not punish its loyal partner Azerbaijan”. Azerbaijan is a former member of the Soviet Union, and it is run by Ilham Aliyev, the son of the communist dictator Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev was a former KGB agent and the leader of the Azerbaijani Communist Party during the Soviet years. He was the President of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003 when he was succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev.
There are definitely human rights violations in Azerbaijan. The thing is that the timing of the EU resolution is a bit strange. There was of course the incident with the journalist that was killed in Azerbaijan in August 2015, but I am not sure that’s the only reason. Azerbaijan was the first former member of the Soviet Union which dared to challenge Russia, forming an alliance with Turkey, in order to send its natural gas and oil to Europe. The rich in oil Kazakhstan and rich in natural gas Turkmenistan have been a lot more cautious when challenging Russia’s energy policy. See map 1.
Map 1 Southern Energy Corridor
Azerbaijan and Russia are competitors in the oil and gas markets. However the two countries recently came closer due to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. At the following map from Stratfor you can see the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Map 2 Nagorno-Karabakh Dispute
Armenia defeated Azerbaijan in 1994, and the region of Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region. However, since 1994 Azerbaijan became much richer due to the sales of its gas and oil reserves and managed to build a much stronger army than the Armenian one. Regaining the Nagorno-Karabakh region is a top priority for Azerbaijan. Russia, which is Armenia’s patron, is the major obstacle for Azerbaijan. Russia managed to outweigh Turkey and become the major mediator between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as you can read at the following Stratfor article titled “Gaming Out Nagorno-Karabakh”, September 2015.
Therefore Russia became very valuable for Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan reconsidered its foreign policy, strengthening its ties with Russia, as you can read at the following Stratfor article, titled “Azerbaijan Reconsiders Its Foreign Ties”, May 2015. Besides Russia’s help in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, Azerbaijan would not have to worry about human rights violations if it became a Russian satellite, because Russia is a very authoritarian country too. In September 2015 Russia agreed to supply Azerbaijan with 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year, in order for Azerbaijan to meet its increasing domestic demand and exporting contracts, as you can read at the following article from the Russian state owned Tass, titled “Gazprom starts supplying gas to Azerbaijan”, October 2015.
At the same time Russia did not increase from 16 to 19 billion cubic meters the capacity of the Blue Stream pipeline which carries Russian natural gas to Turkey, as she has promised to do, as you can read at the following Platts article, titled “Gazprom mulls reduction in Blue Stream natural gas link capacity expansion”, October 2015.
Map 3 Blue Stream Pipeline
These 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas that Russia will export to Azerbaijan might end up to Turkey at a higher price. The 2 billion cubic meters is not a huge quantity when compared to the 45 billion consumed by Turkey each year, but it shows the problematic relations between Turkey and Russia. Also note that Russia and Azerbaijan are connected with the oil pipeline Baku-Novorossiysk, as you can see at the following map.
Map 4 Baku-Novorossiysk Oil Pipeline
Russia and Azerbaijan are also connected with the natural gas pipeline Mozdok–Makhachkala–Kazi Magomed. Both of these pipelines run through Dagestan in Russia. Muslims are a majority in Russia’s Dagestan region, and in September 2015 ISIS carried out its first attack in Dagestan. See “From Dagestan to Syria”.
Given that the Islamic State (ISIS) is heavily influenced by Turkey, the Dagestan attacks are probably related with the energy war between Russia and Turkey. For the energy war between Russia and Turkey see “Russia VS Turkey : The Geopolitics of the South and the Turk Stream Pipelines”.
Therefore I believe that the EU resolution against Azerbaijan is related to the energy war between Russia and Turkey. I am not saying that the EU is not sensitive on the issue of human rights violations. I am just saying that energy affects all aspects of political life.
“The EU should reward, not punish its loyal partner Azerbaijan”, September 2015
“Gaming Out Nagorno-Karabakh”, September 2015
“Azerbaijan Reconsiders Its Foreign Ties”, May 2015
“Gazprom mulls reduction in Blue Stream natural gas link capacity expansion”, October 2015
“Gazprom starts supplying gas to Azerbaijan”, October 2015
Mozdok–Makhachkala–Kazi Magomed pipeline