I have a new piece in the New York Times (international edition) on Azerbaijan and its relations with the U.S.:
The payoff for Baku of putting up with Washington’s hectoring on democracy and human rights shrinks as the West loses influence worldwide. It’s a measure of the Azerbaijani government’s disdain of Washington that the raid on RFE/RL was conducted just days after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with President Ilham Aliyev on the phone.
In an interview in December, Ali Hasanov, a top presidential adviser, was asked why the government began to so sharply criticize the United States but not Iran or Russia. “Because they don’t criticize us, that’s why,” he said. “Russia, Iran, and China, too, deal with us on the basis of noninterference in our internal affairs.”
Washington, meanwhile, increasingly judges partner nations according to their opposition to Russia. At her confirmation hearing in September, the new United States ambassador to Uzbekistan — one of the most repressive governments on the planet — praised the country as “an increasingly important partner,” thanks to “its deliberate, reliable resistance to Russian pressure.” Azerbaijan’s mimicry of Russian rhetoric and rapprochement with Moscow is an implicit threat to Washington: Give us what we want, or we’ll go over to Russia.
Read the whole thing here.