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Thomas Goltz: Bad Blood in Baku

June 14, 2010

I received an email yesterday from Thomas Goltz — author, lecturer and noted Caucasus expert — letting me know about his article in Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s an excerpt. (There’s a link at the bottom so you can continue reading from FP’s website.)

Bad Blood in Baku
©  Thomas Goltz
Foreign Policy
June 11, 2010

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN — If I were still a journalist, I would have had juicy scoop last Saturday when I learned of the imminent but still unannounced arrival in Azerbaijan of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates had been tasked with hitting the reset button — there are a lot of those in the former Soviet Union these days — on Washington’s increasingly problematic relationship with Baku.

I learned of the emergency visit when an old friend of mine called to say he knew I was in the Azerbaijani capital, and that his former boss, a U.S. intelligence officer, wanted to buy me a few beers and chat about my nearly 20-year hobby of reading tea leaves and goat entrails in the Land of Az.

“The American chargé d’affaires told me not to talk to you, but he is State Department and I am not,” the official said — I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but closely — putting initial pleasantries out of the way. “I am here to set up the Gates visit tomorrow. We finally decided to give the Azerbaijanis something before this thing deteriorates any further.” Then he sort of smirked while saying the following: “We frankly don’t care about human rights or democracy-building, or Israel and Turkey, or peace in Karabakh or Georgia, or even Azerbaijani energy. There is only one thing we really care about right now, and that is Afghanistan.”

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