The United States’ relationship with Azerbaijan has become more important than ever. As a country that sits on the borders of Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan has always sought good relations with the Western world, and it offers its rich natural gas resources and wheat industry as a solution to Europe’s energy crisis and the developing global food crisis. This is not the first time Azerbaijan has aided the West. For example, not too long ago, it sent assistance to help NATO forces in Afghanistan. In a region of the world dominated by terrorism and extremism, it is of vital importance for America to have a friend like Azerbaijan.
Terrorism and religious radicalism are threats to Western civilization. Today, the theocratic Iranian regime is arming Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and Shia militias in Iraq. In recent days, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched a large-scale military drill along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border in an attempt to sabotage the fragile peace between the two countries. They are doing so because, for quite some time, Azerbaijan has helped the U.S. and Israel thwart regional terrorism—including terrorism sponsored by Iran—which threatens the entire Middle East. As a result, Iran has been using the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia to weaken Azerbaijan’s position in the West.
Anyone who cares about the future of Western civilization should not let that happen. According to a World Bank report, “The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major setback in global poverty reduction. Now, rising food and energy prices fueled by climate shocks and conflict have halted the recovery. Average wheat, maize and rice prices in October 2022 are 18%, 27% and 10% higher, respectively, than in October 2021. Meanwhile, wheat and maize prices are 38% and 4% higher, respectively, and rice prices 21% lower than in January 2021.”
Azerbaijan may be the key to solving this problem. Israel has already vowed to provide Azerbaijan with the technical assistance it needs to engage in mass cultivation of wheat. It also held a three-day conference designed to showcase technology that can address problems of food security, which was attended by Azerbaijan’s deputy minister of agriculture.
According to the Heritage Foundation’s annual index of economic freedom, “Azerbaijan has been on a notably upward trend in economic freedom since the country was first included in the index in 1996, with its overall score consistently above the world average over the past decade. Azerbaijan has made meaningful progress in liberalizing its economy. In 1996, the first year that the Heritage Foundation included the country in its index, Azerbaijan had a repressed economy. Since then, however, Azerbaijan has measurably advanced its economic freedom. Its overall rating improvement has become one of the highest.”
Aside from the high level of economic freedom in Azerbaijan, religious tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism are official state policy in the country, allowing minorities such as Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahais to benefit from a positive atmosphere that is admirable in Western eyes. In Azerbaijan, it is commonplace for the entire country to celebrate religious holidays in unison, regardless of personal religious faith. In Baku, Red Village and other places throughout the country, churches, synagogues and other minority places of worship are well preserved and in good condition. In fact, the atmosphere is so positive for Jews that synagogues are left unlocked at night and there are zero instances of anti-Semitic vandalism.
At the 77th U.N. General Assembly, President of the European Council Charles Michel underlined the importance of multiculturalism for building trust between the European Union and potential strategic partners.
“The European leadership is about building solutions together with you,” he said. “It is not for us to give lectures. … That is why and it is with this spirit that we are reaching out with strategic partnerships.”
Azerbaijan recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the E.U. that will supply the Europeans with at least 20 billion cubic meters of gas by 2027 via a future Southern Gas Corridor. In the wake of the war in Ukraine, the E.U. needs reliable energy partners and it believes that Azerbaijan is such a partner, especially because the country’s economic freedom, pro-Western orientation and positive atmosphere for religious minorities are very much in accordance with American and European values.
For all these reasons, as a former Israeli minister, I ask people to stand beside Azerbaijan and support them at every possible opportunity.
Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s Minister of Communications under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.