On Aug. 13, Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Baku in seven years, marking only his third trip to Azerbaijan as president of Russia—a gap reflecting the complex and sometimes strained relationship between Moscow and Baku. The two have grown apart due to Russia’s closer ties with Armenia as well as Azerbaijan’s westward-oriented energy focus.
Azerbaijan’s leaders have been trying to leverage their country’s pivotal location, energy resources and other assets to help manage their volatile neighborhood. Meanwhile, they are pursuing their own regional objectives, which focus on recovering territories occupied by Armenia, averting a war with Iran while countering Iranian subversion, minimizing foreign leverage over Azerbaijan’s domestic policies and establishing Baku, the national capital and a major port city, as a center for regional commerce. A key element of this effort is Azerbaijan’s pursuit of a balanced foreign policy toward other countries. ...
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