It may look like just a 27-year-old radar station in a remote stretch of northern Azerbaijan. But, in reality, Gabala is all about Baku’s desire to assert its own weight as a regional power – even against its onetime patron, Russia.
With less than five months to go before the December 24 expiration of Russia’s lease on Gabala, capable of monitoring missile launches throughout the Middle East, Iran and Southeast Asia, Azerbaijan shows no sign of eagerness to have the Russian military stick around for another 10 years.
Talks about a new lease started last June, and Baku’s asking price has increased steadily ever since -- first, from $7 million to $15 million per year; then, in early 2012, to $150 million and, most recently, to $300 million per year.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku.