On January 15, Foreign Affairs released an intriguing essay on Azerbaijan's relations with Iran and Israel (here). Not only did I learn a lot about Azerbaijani foreign policy, but it also got me thinking that Azerbaijan might be another example of a small state implementing what I called "small power" in a previous post, albeit in a way very different from Mongolia.
Alex Vatanta presents compelling evidence that tensions between the U.S./Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran are evidenced in the newly developing ties that Azerbaijan enjoys with Israel and its tense relationship with Iran. Azerbaijan has had a remarkably fraught relationship with its southern neighbor. These tensions are the result of several historical and contemporary issues. The most important for our purposes being the following:
1) More ethnic Azeris live in the Northern Iran than in Azerbaijan, the declared homeland of the Azeri people.
2) Occasional remarks from Iranian politicians suggest that they still see the South Caucasus as part of their historical domain/rightful sphere of influence.
3) Iran supported Armenia over Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, fearing that Azerbaijan might be trying to unite the "greater Azeri nation".
In response, Azerbaijan as sought closer ties not only with the Russian Federation, but also with the United States. More surprising to me, however, was that Azerbaijan and Israel are showing ties of increased cooperation. Both countries have an expressed interest in seeing Iran contained, monitored, and ultimately subdued as a regional threat. In response, Iran has attempted to improve relations with Azerbaijan, with overtures including the release of Azerbaijan citizens accused of spying in Iran and other diplomatic motions.
I suggest that Azerbaijan has taken steps that look an awful lot like "small power". It seems to me that Azerbaijan is developing a policy of subtle balancing behavior, whereby it can best achieve its foreign policy and security goals. By maintaining ties with Russia, but also bringing the "West" and Israel into the mix, Azerbaijan can ensure two things: one, it is not dependent on any one larger country; two, Iran is now in a position to take Azerbaijan seriously. Iran's previous heavy-handedness pushed Azerbaijan to take measures to ensure that Iran did not become a threat. Now, Iran will have to court this small Caucasian nation, to ensure that Azerbaijan does not become a larger concern than its small size and population might have suggested in the early 90s. The alternative, that Iran take actions against Azerbaijan, seems unlikely since Azerbaijan has not taken any definitive action against Iran and a pre-emptive strike would only worsen Iran's geo-political climate. Azerbaijan has played its hand well, and it seems to be working.
Anyone familiar with Mongolia, has likely noted important parallels between the three points of contention in Iran-Azerbaijan relations, laid out by Alex Vatanta, and the historically complex relationship between Mongolia and China. More ethnic Mongolians live in Inner Mongolia than the Mongolian state; there are occasional statements of Mongolia's natural place within the Chinese nation (like Tibet and Xinjiang/East Turkestan), and China has expressed concerns about pan-Mongolianism affecting the security and stability of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Mongolia's response has been remarkably similar to Azerbaijan's, in that the country has sought to deepen relations with countries besides its two neighbors - the "third neighbor policy". The differences are numerous (ex. Mongolian-Chinese official relations are quite good at this time and the U.S.-Chinese relationship is hugely better than U.S.-Iranian relations), but the similarities are also important and point to my larger argument that internationally engaged small states will take similar foreign policy directions with regard to their strategic environment. Azerbaijan, like Mongolia, can leverage certain things (location, ties with the West, love-less relationship with Iran) to increase its "small power" and ultimately further its foreign policy and security objectives.
Part 3 of the summary posts of my M.A. thesis will detail how and why the United States and Europe support international democratization. This post is integral to understanding the final post, which will detail what this means for small states using Mongolia as a detailed case study.
The European Union and the United States of America have been the leading forces in global democratization. The United States’ primary goal has been to increase global security through democratization support. The E.U., on the other hand, has been largely focused on fostering democratization in Eastern Europe as a step towards EU integration, and has only recently displayed real interest in extra-regional democratization efforts.
THE UNITED STATES
While U.S. foreign policy has favored democracies since the country’s independence, it was in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that the promotion of democracy became a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and tied directly to the nation’s security. Democracy was viewed as essential for long-term stability and fighting terrorism around the globe. In the post-9/11 world, democratization became a U.S. strategic priority, being tied to two important concepts in democratization literature: democratic peace theory and the instability of authoritarian regimes. The Democratic Peace Theory maintains that democracies do not go to war with each other, meaning that with more democracies the world would be “safer” and more prosperous, thus furthering U.S. global and regional interests. A key caveat, however, is that the democratic peace theory seems to only apply to mature/established democracies, whereas transitional governments have proven far less stable. Democracy is supposed to facilitate long-term economic growth by allowing for the freedom of expression and innovation as well as promoting rule of law, which can foster predictability for investors and control corruption.
In terms of actually policy making, the U.S. has several key programs, including USAID and NED. USAID reported $1.5 billion dollars of expenditures directly related to the promotion of democracy in 2004; the National Endowment for Democracy provides funding for the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for their non-governmental assistance to developing democracies. Through these programs the United States is able to reward democratizing regimes and further its own international interests.
EUROPE/ EUROPEAN UNION
The E.U. is the largest regional promoter of democracy; but the fact that it is comprised of sovereign member states, limits the extent to which one can identify a common foreign policy theme. However, the E.U. does possess several important mechanisms to further its democratization agenda, including membership privileges and a developing reputation as a moral international actor. The 2012 announcement that the E.U. would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, underscores the E.U.’s achievements as a force for democratization and, by extension, global stability and human rights.
In order to begin the process of obtaining E.U. membership, states must demonstrate a commitment to democracy and human rights. E.U. membership, by extension, not only carries a number of important economic advantages, but also provides some level of security as well. Organizations such as the E.U. constrain the larger powers’ options and work to level the playing field between large and small states by awarding each country an equal vote. The “leverage”, provided by economic and security incentives, is integral to understanding the democratization of Eastern Europe.
While the U.S. can rely on the federal government as a direct source of democratization funding and support, the E.U. is more fragmented and as such democratization efforts are largely on a country-by-country basis. The largest democracy-promoters in the E.U. include the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, Britain’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and Germany’s Stiftungen. While the E.U.’s foreign policy is largely handled by each of its member states individually, the promotion of democracy is probably the most accessible means to further its security interests. Democracy is both a goal and an instrument of European foreign policy, meaning that not only does the E.U. foster democratization for the stability and peace that are assumed to arise from this form of governance, but it also recognizes that simply by appearing to support democratization, the E.U. is looked upon more favorably. While the E.U. was devoted to the democratization of Eastern Europe immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, today Europe is looking to promote democracy in various strategic areas, such as Central/Inner Asia and the Caucasus.
The European Parliament, through such initiatives as the European Foundation for Democracy through Partnership (EPD), the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, and the Democracy Caucus at the European Parliament, takes an active role in pan-E.U. foreign policy.
 Lagon, Mark P. Promoting Democracy : The Whys and Hows for the United States and the International Community. New York City, 2011. p. 3
 Dalacoura, Katerina. “US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion in the Middle East : Theoretical Perspectives and Policy Recommendations.” Ortadogu Etutleri 2, no. 3 (2010). p. 60
 Epstein, Democracy Promotion, p. 8
 Lagon, Promoting Democracy, p. 2
 Burnell, From Assistance to Appraising, p. 416
 Wivel, Small E.U. Member States, p. 395
 Ibid. p. 423
 Wivel, Small E.U. Member States, p. 416
 Olsen, Democracy as a Foreign Policy Instrument, p. 143
 Ibid., p. 144
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.