Elaboration of Azerbaijan’s energy security policy in the context of structural powerAccording to the neorealism – one of the mainstream theories of international relations – power is divided into two parts – relational and structural. Relational power is the agregate potential of any state and its ability to dictate in international arena. The physical indicators of states – territory, population, national resources, military power, infrastructure, economy – in general GDP and the size of national market is part of relational power. Structural power, on the other hand, constitutes the ability of any state to influence interstate relations, international agenda and decision-making process in international relations. We may consider issues such as the status of states, their influence on the international arena and their importance for the world's leading geopolitical actors as the determinant of structural power. The unit of measurement for relational power is quantity, and for structural power quality. Structural power, which reflects the behavior of states in accordance with their national interests in international arena, is divided into two dimensions: general structural power (showing the position of states in the international arena), specific structural power (showing the position of the states in relation to any issue). According to neorealists, the structural power emerges during the constant use of relational power and, in itself, is the basis for the development of the relational power. The importance and significance of structural power is continuously increasing in the modern international relations system, where multilateral cooperations are gaining momentum. It should be noted that the existence of structural power is of vital importance to smaller states. Thus, the boundaries of development of relational power for small states are limited, and even if the magnitude of the relational power increases dramatically, it is skeptical that these changes in the international context will seriously affect the position of the small states.

The main purpose of the article is to analyze the structural power of Azerbaijan within the framework of the energy security policy and to draw attention to the extent to which the recent changes in the region do not coincide with the geopolitical strategy and state interests of Azerbaijan. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the re-independence of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia in the South Caucasus, as well as the emergence of tensions on ethnicity and ethnic-territorial conflicts. The separatist regimes such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which emerged as a result of foreign support and separatism, threaten internationally recognized and accepted territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia, make the region suitable for illegal activities such as terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling (Laszlo Sebo, Klara Sipos Kecskemethy). The geopolitical environment of the South Caucasus region, that plays the role of a bridge between East and West, is shaped by the foreign policies pursued by the regional states and the influence of foreign actors on the region.

As the favorable geographical position and rich natural resources increase the geostrategic significance of the South Caucasus region, we can conclude that the region is also a sensitive area at the same time, given the continuing influence of unresolved conflicts and external actors on the region and the geopolitical competition between them.

The countries whose interests are reflected in the region are:

1. USA and European Union;

2. Russia, Turkey and Iran;

3. Black Sea region states.

(Levent Demiroglu)

Today, the South Caucasus countries, in particular, play a role of a bridge in transporting hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian basin to Europe. It is not a coincidence that the prominent international political expert Zbigniew Brzezinski called Azerbaijan the geopolitical center of the South Caucasus (Laura Kirvelyte).

Certainly, the struggle between the USA and the Soviet Union in the Cold War era over the energy-rich countries and in general, over the world energy market, the division of resources, and the energy carriers continues in the 21st century. In particular, for a country possessing plenty of energy resources as Russia being able to meet the energy needs of the EU countries on a regular basis and to maintain and influence their energy security has vital importance. As the main supplier of natural gas to the European Union countries, Russia enjoys its monopoly over the market and, in fact, makes it depentent on its resources.

Not suprisingly, Russia has repeatedly used the energy card for political purposes. The existence of this fact, of course, should be regarded as a threat to the national interests of the European Union and the United States, which is the ally of the powerful state like the United States. That's why the principle of diversification of energy supply routes is one of the priorities for the European Union, which is an ally of the energy producer and consumer, to ensure a stable and secure supply of energy needs. Looking at this issue, due to its favorable geographical position and non-politisized enery policy, Azerbaijan is able to supply the energy to Turkey, the East and South East European countries, and to become an important part of the Euro-Atlantic space of energy security (Gulmira Rzayeva). 

One of the main objectives of the "Contract of the Century" of September 20, 1994, was to achieve structural power over the time. It should be noted that although natural resources are part of relational power, energy policy should be applied to the structural power of states, considering energy policy determines not only the behavior of states but also affects their position in international arena. The successful operation of the pipeline projects – Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which was inaugurated in 2005 and which transports 50 million tons of oil annually, and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline that began operating in 2006 and transports 20 billion cubic meters of gas – reduced the dependence on Russia as a regional dominant actor in the region and contributed to implementation of independent foreign policy of Azerbaijan and to Azerbaijan`s significant share in European energy security. Consequently, Azerbaijan will gain the structural power over the time that will strengthen its position in the international arena regarding the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result of the successful energy strategy implemented over the past years, Azerbaijan has become an attractive country for foreign investors, while ensuring its strategic interests. 

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is portrayed solely as a geographical region of Upper Karabakh to the international community by some forces, and keeping behind the occupation of the 7 regions by Armenia which are adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and have nothing to do with the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh and have no physical or moral obligations on the Armenian state and its population, is a good example for the double standards in the world we live in, which also requires the necessity of structural power for a country like Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's response to the USA and European Union's call for diversification of energy supplies bypassing Russia and Iran, its serious attempts to take an important place in the international energy security system, bringing Caspian oil and gas to the world market, its favorable geostrategic position, its will for the energy project targeting Western market, as well as the non-politicization of the energy sector of Azerbaijan, in other words, the neutral position in the energy policy, strengthened the country’s position as a reliable partner for the West and has given it serious economic and political dividends.

One of the fundamental principles of Azerbaijan's energy security policy is the safety of international pipelines, such as BTC and BTE. Thus, the safety of these pipelines and their import markets will ensure that Central Asian energy-producing countries continue to reach the European markets through these networks. On August 5, 2008, a strong explosion occurred in the Turkish part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, in the area called Refah; as a result, the operation was halted for at least three weeks. According to the Western media investigative group, the blast occurred as a result of cyber-attacks by Russian intelligence agencies. (Tamara Pataraia). Three days after Russia's military intervention in Georgia, Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri stated that Russian planes bombed the BTC pipeline and that some of the bombs fell several hundred meters from the pipeline and but, fortunately, the pipeline was restored quickly.

Additionally, the aggressive foreign policy of Armenia against Azerbaijan has led to the former`s economic blockade and isolation from transnational energy projects. This country is the only one in the South Caucasus that is so heavily dependent on Russia from the economic and military aspects that it is also labelled as Russia's regional vassal. The proclamation of 2006 as the “Year of Russia” in Armenia and the extension of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri for the next 49 years show that Armenia is seriously dependent on Russia and is deprived of the opportunity to maneuver in foreign affairs as an independent state. Interestingly, unlike Azerbaijan and Georgia, the presence of foreign military troops in the territory is accepted as a guarantee of security instead of threat in Armenia.

The elimination of economic sanctions imposed by the West against the Islamic Republic of Iran, has also opened new perspectives for the energy security of the EU, as well as to the future of the Eastern Neighborhood Policy (ENP). Iran’s ample energy resources give the European Union an additional opportunity to get rid of Russia's gas monopoly. Undoubtedly, Iran's involvement into the international energy market can seriously disturb petro-states such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, as well as may cause to the emergence of new tensions in the South Caucasus and change geopolitical situation of the region, particularly on energy issues. In order to avoid possible pessimistic scenarios, Turkey and Azerbaijan would prefer Iran to export its natural gas to the European market through the Southern Gas Corridor. According to Executive Director of the Iranian National Gas Export Company, Georgia has imported more than 24 million cubic meters of Iranian gas through Armenia since the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in 2016. As the Georgian and Iranian governments have no gas export contract, the Georgian International Energy Corporation has been involved in the gas imports (Hamed Kazemzadeh). Even though Iranian government announced the possibility of gas export to Georgia via Armenia, this proposal was offered only for Georgia's gas needs.

Given Georgia's interest for diversification of energy supply, if such a project is successfully implemented, the construction of a new gas pipeline route through Armenia and the Black Sea basin to the European market may be on the agenda, which is against the strategic interests of Azerbaijan. Such a project will give a serious impetus to the elimination of Armenia's economic blockade, as well as contribute to Armenia's participation in energy projects in the Caucasus. It should be noted that the probability of successful implementation of this project is minimum. First of all, Russian would not tolerate the emergence of any new player in the European energy market, for it considers such an initiative as a threat to its national interests. Secondly, Russia may reckon the existence of any oil and gas pipeline bypassing its territory in the region as a challenge for its geopolitical interests. Thirdly, being currently in the economic blockade, Armenia imports gas from Russia through Georgia, from Iran via the gas pipeline with the volume of 1.1 billion cubic meters owned by Gazprom's Armenia branch. With the expansion of the pipeline, Armenia's demand for 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas per annum can be repaid. However, the presence of any gas pipeline from Iran through Armenia and Georgia to the European market serves to weakening Armenia's economic dependence from Russia, which contradicts with the interests of Moscow. Fifthly, Russia would prefer this project to pass through Russia via Abkhazian territory, which Georgia does not seem to be pleased. Sixth, there is no financial and political will required for the construction of such a pipeline in these countries. Seventh, Iran can become Europe's key energy exporter by joining the Southern Gas Corridor, the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, which is economically viable.

Finally, I would like to conclude that Azerbaijan's structural power source is not limited to energy security policies. It is noteworthy to mention that Azerbaijan has supported the U.S. on counteracting terrorism and violent extremism, based on international norms and values in 2001, and supported the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Baku in 2002, as well as participation of Azerbaijani peacekeepers in operations in Iraq in 2003 should be regarded as steps leading to the achievement and strengthening of Azerbaijan's structural power. Consequently, implementing a proper foreign policy course, as well as practical support for internationally-recognized decisions is the key to gaining structural power (Inessa Baban & Zaur Shiriyev).




1. Laszlo Sebo, Klara Sipos Kecskemethy (2009)  “Energy security and the Caucasus region

2. Laura Kirvelyte (2012) The Dilemma of Azerbaijan’s Security Strategy: Energy Policy or Territorial Integrity?

3. Levent Demiroglu (2015) Geopolitics of Oil and Gas in South Caucasus

4. Gulmira Rzayeva (2013) Azerbaijan And Energy Security Of Europe: Balancing National Priorities And International Commitments

5. Tamara Pataraia (2015) "Energy Transit and Security: The Road Between Russia And The European Union"

6. Hamed Kazemzadeh (2017) "Iran and Energy Cooperation in the South Caucasus: Prospects for the Post-Sanctions Era"

7. Inessa Baban & Zaur Shiriyev (2010) “The U.S South Caucasus Strategy and Azerbaijan”