News.Az interviews Alexander Cooley, Chair and Tow Professor, Department of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University.
What can you say about Russia's refusal to operate Gabala radar?
Russia was not prepared to agree to Azerbaijan's demands for a much increased rent for continuing to use the facility. Baku's request for $300million was substantially more than the $7million Russia had been paying. The most rent that Russia currently pays elsewhere for a strategic asset or base is the $115million it offers annually to Kazakhstan for the Baikonur cosmodrome.
Do you think that it is the final decision of Russia?
We can never be certain of anything when it comes to regional relations in this part of the world! But I would be very surprised if Russia reconsidered its position at this point, especially after it publicly announced that it was walking away from the negotiations and sent an official note announcing its decision to suspend its use of the station.
Does Russia have a real alternative for this radar, like Moscow says, mentioned the new type station in the South Caucasus?
Russia insists that its site at Armavir in Krasnodar, together with other proposed locations within the Russian Federation, will offer a sufficient replacement for Russian early warning needs and will also use newer, more effective technologies.
May this decision damage the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia?
For now, both sides officially maintain that they will continue cooperation in a number of existing areas according to their mutual interests. Azerbaijan and Russia cooperate in a variety of security-related issues. But the loss of Gabala may be symbolically important, as it removes the last official Russian facility from Azerbaijani territory, leaving Russian bases within Armenia and the breakaway territories in Georgia. More broadly, the loss of Gabala is important, as it signals Russian retrenchment from the arrangements that it struck with the independent states in the immediate post-Soviet era. It also signals to other host countries that they too can hold out for higher rent and bargain hard with Russia.
May the radar in Gabala be attractive for any other state-United States, Israel, Turkey or someone else?
Well, the station was offered by President Putin as part of his proposal for a joint US-Russia missile defense. But the equipment within the station belongs to Russia and will now have to be removed or returned. So it’s unlikely that a new external power will move into the same facility any time soon.