Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic with a mostly secular Muslim population, oil and gas reserves, and a notoriously corrupt government. Bordering Russia, Turkey and Iran, it is poised at the doorstep of the Middle East, and is of strategic interest to the United States. How to craft and pursue a policy that balances U.S. strategic interests with Azerbaijan’s steadily worsening record on human rights and democracy has challenged policymakers and diplomats for the twenty-five years of Azerbaijan’s post-Soviet independence. The time has come, despite global trends to the contrary, for the United States to give greater weight to human rights and democratization in its policy toward Azerbaijan.
U.S. policy debates on Azerbaijan are a microcosm of the struggles and trade-offs of American foreign policy. The United States does partner with repressive regimes, a frequently uncomfortable choice that is readily justified