One of the common political terms you learn while studying political science or international relations is that of “carrots and sticks.” Little did I know as a student of International Relations that I will be using this term often myself once I start working on Azerbaijan. I often hear this term in the context of Azerbaijan and its “complicated” relationship with the West.
In Azerbaijan, we have seen it all: the rise from the ashes of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fall of the country’s democratically elected president, and the coming to power of a family who would end up ruling the country for over two decades now.
We saw war, its bloody consequences as well as political implications. We witnessed protests, the highest GDP growth, the economic boom, and its benefits that only went into the pockets of the few (and continue to do so).
We learned the terminology of rigged elections: fraud, ballot stuffing, carousel voting and so on.
We witnessed a crackdown on human rights, which started as relatively moderate but quickly escalated to unprecedented – another term that has entered the vocabulary of many Azerbaijanis over the recent years.
We saw arrests of people we knew, befriended, loved, and cared about.
We witnessed legal changes, which made it extremely challenging, if not impossible, for our country’s once vibrant civil society to operate.
We have seen directors of non-governmental organizations, who once sat at the same table with Western leaders, decision- and policy-makers discussing ideas and plans for making Azerbaijan a better place, locked up behind bars.
Now two currency devaluations later, we are seeing how this situation is taking a toll on the Azerbaijani people. Protests and suicides are on the rise. And yet nothing is changing thanks to the government’s skills at bluffing, especially when it comes to its international partners.
Abroad its skilled lobbyists are advocating on behalf of the government. They claim it is a democratic, free and independent state.
The government boasts about its economic and regional strengths. Yet, nothing supports these empty words.
Amid all of this, the West continues to treat the government of Azerbaijan as some spoiled child in need of constant attention, and spared punishment for its unacceptable behavior. The West buys into Azerbaijan’s “innocent child” behavior.
But here is the deal. The West needs to wake up. The Azerbaijani government is manipulating Western decision-makers. All this big talk is nothing but a bluff.
Azerbaijan has been and will remain Russia’s puppet. It will never stand up against Russian President Vladimir Putin just as it will never stand anywhere close with Iran.
Azerbaijan has been using its on-going conflict with Armenia as an excuse every time it is criticized and needs more attention.
Last but not least, by failing to recognize that any of the partnerships you sign with Azerbaijan and celebrate by shaking hands and posing for pictures, are taking place at the expense of innocent men and women who fight for the very same ideals and values that make your very own governments.
It is not too late to stop this charade before you realize that those partnerships sealed with handshakes are taking place on the graveyard of freedom, democracy and justice that you are helping to bury.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Meydan TV’s editorial policy.