Azerbaijan Cancels U.S. Military Exercises Again
For the second year in a row, Azerbaijan has cancelled military exercises with the U.S. without explanation. There has been little official comment; the news agency APA quotes Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Eldar Sabiroglu as saying he doesn't know why it was cancelled:
Sabiroglu refused to comment, since he had no detailed information about the adjournment of the exercise.
To the question “Can this have any influence on Azerbaijan-US military cooperation?” spokesman said: “I do not believe it may happen. US-Azerbaijan military cooperation will continue,” he said.
APA also asked the U.S. embassy spokesman, who said he had no information on it:
Touching on the postponement of the US-Azerbaijan joint exercises, Terry Davidson said the exercises had been postponed by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry.
“You’d better ask them,” he said.
Last year, the reason for the cancellation was reportedly the U.S. support for the Armenia-Turkey protocols. But the protocols are more or less dead now, so there is presumably another reason. One alternative explanation for last year's cancellation was Russian pressure (the default explanation when something mysterious happens in this part of the world). But that theory was given some credence by a WikiLeaks-released cable that discussed controversy over the 2009 version of the exercise (the only year in which the Regional Response exercise has actually taken place):
The immediate reason for the Saturday morning meeting was to agree on a procedure for the quick negotiation of the Exercise Support Agreement (ESA) for the planned April-May bilateral exercise REGIONAL RESPONSE 09 (RR-09). While the MoD had been planning on postponing the exercise due to interagency differences in Baku - later shown to be political reservations held by the Foreign Minister personally about the international message sent by the exercise (Reftel), Abiyev was now determined to move forward after a lengthy after-hours meeting with Foreign Minister Mammadyarov after the latter's meeting with Ambassador and DATT. Abiyev offered his full support to the exercise and a visit from a USEUCOM negotiator to finalize the agreement; adding, however, that he was in full agreement with the Foreign Minister's desire to make the exercise appear as multilateral as possible to avoid raising the ire of Russia and Iran.
Is that what's going on this year?