There's a big radar station in Qabala that Russia has a lease on, and uses to spy on the Middle East. They recently used it to track our air command AWACS movements in Iraq and pass that intelligence to Saddam Hussein and his defense ministers during our invasion (though Russia denies this). Putin suggests we use this base along with the Russians.
Qabala was in the neighboring region where I used to live.
At first, it sounds like Putin is compromising: Let's use this base, which is on a former Soviet state that's less politically charged than Poland or Czech Repub., and share the information together.
But, you know Putin isn't a compromiser. So, here's one analyst's reasons for Putin's decision that isn't being reported on the news:
"They're going to lose the base, the lease on the base is going to expire, and they've already been making plans to relocate the radar to Krasnodar [Krai, in Russia]. And so what they're trying to do here is legitimize their presence in Azerbaijan at the expense of the Azerbaijanis. And they will also permanently make the United States a target of the Iranians, and the Azeris, and it's designed to divide the United States and Azerbaijan. And it creates a Russian military presence there, if I understand the statement correctly."I don't see how it will make the US even more of a target of the Iranians. We'd be a target no matter where the missile is. But, I agree that they do want to keep their radar station, and they do want to keep or increase their military presence in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is the politically best/worst situated country in the world. Neighbors include Russia, Iran, NATO member Turkey, and enemy Armenia. The U.S. has staked oil claims there, Azerbaijan conducts military exercises with NATO, and there's been rumors of building a NATO base there. Azerbaijan has sent troops to Iraq to help the Coalition. Meanwhile, it tries to keep a cozy relationship with Russia.
I'm going to throw out an option that you're not going to hear on the evening news:
Russia wants the missile interceptor system in Azerbaijan so that it can easily take it over upon invasion.
Once you come to realize that Russia is becoming increasingly autocratic and that Putin never really got over losing all those countries that declared independence, you can come to understand that Russia may have other long-term motives.
Russia has been meddling in Georgia, keeps troops stationed there illegally. The Kremlin has also been conducting cyber attacks against Estonia for its lack of Soviet patriotism. Azerbaijan has lots of oil, and now has the pipeline that takes it westward, through Georgia, to Turkey.
The situation is similar to 1918. WWI had ended, the Russian government collapsed and was replaced by Lenin and the Communists. By 1920, Lenin ordered Azerbaijan to be invaded, in order to capture its oil stocks. The fledgling, newly-independent country crumbled quickly.
Azerbaijan's army is a weak, poorly armed, low-morale force of mandatory service filled with 18-19 year old boys just wanting to serve their 18 months and go home. I lived next to the main Azeri army base on the border with Russia. If Russia ever invaded, there wouldn't be much of a fight. At least 1/3 of Baku (the capital) is Russian-speaking and wish they lived in Moscow. Plenty of people would welcome the Russians, or at least not resist.
I'm not saying this will happen tomorrow. But, in my reading of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation, I think Russia plays a key part in the end times. If you're a fan of the Left Behind series, you'll remember that the books open with Russia attacking Israel. In order to do that by land, they would have to go through Azerbaijan first.
So, be wary President Bush. Putin now suggests putting the shield in Turkey, or on the sea. Not sure what his game is there. I think he wants to prove that it has nothing to do with shooting down Iranian missiles, but everything to do with shooting down Russian ones. The Poles and Czechs are obviously worried about that for a reason. They're heavily armed EU and NATO allies. How much worse off will Georgia and Azerbaijan be when Russia starts moving?