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Azerbaijan next to join NATO?

A NATO source tells Eurasianet that Azerbaijan is now more likely to join NATO than Ukraine or Georgia: "Earlier, the perception in both Brussels [North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] headquarters] and Baku was that Georgia should integrate into NATO first and Azerbaijan should follow," the source said. "However, the situation has changed and it might ...

A NATO source tells Eurasianet that Azerbaijan is now more likely to join NATO than Ukraine or Georgia:

"Earlier, the perception in both Brussels [North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] headquarters] and Baku was that Georgia should integrate into NATO first and Azerbaijan should follow," the source said. "However, the situation has changed and it might be that in the year to come Azerbaijan will become the frontrunner. Baku may enter NATO earlier than Ukraine and Georgia."

After Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia, "[m]any NATO member-states believe that . . . it is simply impossible to provide membership to Georgia," the source continued.

Ukraine’s domestic divisions over NATO and political turmoil have reduced its membership chances, he said. "It is unclear who will represent the Ukrainian government in six months or a year and what its position on NATO membership will be."

By comparison, Azerbaijan appears a bastion of stability. Among its other "strong advantages" are the country’s "strong cultural links" with NATO member Turkey and its strategic importance for the planned Nabucco and TGI (Turkey-Greece-Italy) gas pipelines, projects which "will deepen Western support [for] Azerbaijan in the coming years," according to the source.

Interestingly, a large part of the reason Azerbaijan is now in a better spot for NATO membership is that its government never lobbied particularly hard to join. Ukraine and Georgia, where this has been a long-standing priority, invited both Russia and internal critics to try to prevent them from joining.

For a number of reasons explained in the article, Azerbaijan still has a long way to go before it can join, but it does seem as if the best way for ex-Soviet countries to join Nato might be to act like they don’t actually want to. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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