APRIL 19 (The Conway Bulletin) — Less than a week after US-led missile strikes on Syria and six weeks after a suspected Russian nerve agent attack in Britain, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the General Staff, and Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, travelled to Baku to meet for the first time since 2013.
The meeting highlights Azerbaijan’s potential role as a neutral territory for meetings between the two rivals, especially during a period of heightened tension described by analysts as the worst since the end of the Cold War.
Relations between the top echelons of the Russian and NATO military command had been cut after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. These have been slowly repaired and, with the help of Azerbaijan, communication has now resumed.
In a statement, the Russian ministry of defence said of the Baku meeting: “The parties discussed issues of military activities of NATO and Russia in the European region as well as raising the level of confidence and prevention of incidents. They also exchanged their views on the situation in Syria stressing the necessity of cooperation in fighting against international terrorism.”
This is the second high-profile meeting in Baku between NATO and Russia in the past eight months. In September Gen. Gerasimov, met with Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee in Baku.
Azerbaijan’s foreign policy treads a careful line between Russia, its former Soviet-era overlord, and Europe which it is set to sell large quantities gas to over the next few years. Azerbaijan sees itself as an intermediary.
The US, France and Britain fired missiles at sites in Syria, a Russian ally, on April 14, which they suspect form the nucleus of Syria’s chemical weapons industry.
Russia is accused of a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain at the start of March.
>>This story was first published on April 27 2018 in The Conway Bulletin