By Alec Soltes
First damaged in an article from the Astana Occasions, Azerbaijani and Kazakh leaders gathered within the formers’ nation for high-level talks on June 22, 2023. These talks had been geared toward boosting the general worth of commerce between the 2 nations to a focused aim of $1 billion yearly.
It’s hardly a shock then that these nations are engaged on growing nearer ties. Each Azeris and Kazakhs converse comparable Turkic languages, share Turkic ethnic roots, and are members of many widespread regional groupings just like the Group of Turkic States. Each economies are closely depending on hydrocarbon reserves. Politically, each have lengthy sought to chart an impartial course from the powers that encompass them, predominantly Russia, regardless of incessantly having a pro-Moscow streak within the current previous. Lastly, each nations had been a part of the Soviet Union till its collapse in 1991.
Kazakhstan has been essentially the most economically profitable of the 2. The UN’s Growth Program classifies Kazakhstan as a really extremely developed nation with a nominal revenue per capita of about $11,000 yearly. Extra of its economic system is dedicated to the service sector than Azerbaijan. And in response to the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States index, Kazakhstan fares considerably higher. Its considerably bigger inhabitants and economic system than Azerbaijan additionally makes it extra influential on this regard.
Shifting geopolitical realities have accelerated cooperation between the 2 nations. In response to the Astana Occasions article, bilateral commerce between the 2 elevated by about 40%, as much as $460 million USD, in 2022. Following the imposition of Western sanctions and pariah standing on a considerably much less dependable associate in Russia, Kazakhstan was caught in a troublesome scenario. Bodily sandwiched between Russia, China, and the much less prosperous states to its south, the nation nonetheless nonetheless has been courting Western capital and political goodwill with the aim of balancing out the main regional gamers round it.
Azerbaijan is Kazakhstan’s subsequent greatest geographic selection for accessing profitable markets within the EU. Though Azerbaijan benefited from Russia’s refusal to assist Armenia in its most up-to-date offensive, the West thought of it to be sufficiently impartial from Moscow’s pursuits to be invited into the primary European Political Neighborhood summit in October 2022. That is probably because of Azerbaijan’s historic balancing of each the West and Russia in addition to its geography with Turkey, a NATO member, and Iran, which hosts a big Azeri inhabitants alongside south of the border.
Each nations endure from vulnerabilities within the face of Russian army energy, which in flip shapes their geopolitical targets regarding their far bigger neighbor. The northern a part of Kazakhstan, particularly the land alongside the Irtysh and Irtysh rivers which movement into Western Siberia, encompasses the identical flatland steppes that comprise a lot of the nation’s geography. Kazakhstan’s capital lies on this area and from there to its most populous metropolis, Almaty, is an enormous expanse of steppe that will be troublesome to defend within the occasion of a battle.
Azerbaijan’s safety vulnerabilities in the meantime may be contained to the coastal plain within the nation’s slim, northeastern flatland. On the one hand, it creates a bottleneck for Azerbaijan; most of its border with Russia is comprised of the excessive northern Caucasus mountains. On the opposite, if Russian forces had been to interrupt by way of this bottleneck it might be a brief journey to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku and the nation’s populous core area within the east of the nation.
The expansion in bilateral commerce indicators a response to the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s historic diplomatic low level with the West. To the extent that these two ex-Soviet states are going by way of such lengths, even when not notably onerous or troublesome, to attempt to bypass Russia regardless of considered one of them being formally within the Eurasian Financial Union might be excellent news for the West. This information nevertheless, might be marginal within the grand scheme of US technique. Regardless of the speedy disaster in Ukraine, Washington considers Beijing to be extra of a strategic menace than Russia. Within the case that Western coverage curiosity towards Russia escalates past what it hitherto has been, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan would probably be among the many first nations that Washington would flip to that aren’t already in its camp.
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