II Litoral States’ Perceptions and Policies
The Importance of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan: Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the new states that emerged on the world map, is Azerbaijan. Despite that Azerbaijan is relatively small in its territorial size, geographical position that it takes, makes this country strategically very important. Azerbaijan locates on the juncture of Europe and Asia, at the same time representing a natural bridge between these two parts of the world. Simultaneously, in the north and in the south this state is adjacent to significant regional states such as Russia and Iran. At the same time, with these states, Azerbaijan has not only land border, but also maritime borders via the Caspian Sea, which washes the country’s eastern border. Despite the fact that the Caspian Sea is a closed body of water without access to the open seas, the importance of this water reservoir for Azerbaijan, as well as for other countries in the region, is very outstanding. Besides Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are also littoral states on the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian Sea plays both connecting and dividing roles. Being a frontier water reservoir for these five countries, the Caspian Sea also plays a role as a place of contacting points of their different interests. At the same time these interests do not always coincide with each other, and sometimes can become a cause of serious contention. As the experience of the relationship of these littoral states in the last twenty years, there have been observed attempts to create strong cooperation as well as serious disagreements. That is why none of the coastal states can ignore the challenges that come directly from the fact that they are located on the shore of the Caspian Sea. In this case, the Caspian Sea is of great geostrategic importance for these countries, including Azerbaijan. Caspian Sea as geostrategic zone significantly affects the formation of perception of the external world from Azerbaijan and vice versa. In this context, very useful to determine the degree of importance of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and the impact of this factor on the formation of its domestic and external policies.