The Georgia-Russia war last August has rendered Azerbaijan more wary of Russia and less likely to start a military conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a government-affiliated analyst. The Russian military’s performance in Georgia has also prompted a shift in public attitudes in Azerbaijan about the benefits of NATO cooperation, the expert added.Baku was thrust into a difficult situation by the August war because public opinion and government policy were at odds, said Anar Valiyev, an analyst with the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Public opinion in Azerbaijan was strongly on the side of the Georgians, because people felt that Georgia’s struggle to recover its lost territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is similar to Azerbaijan’s attempt to regain Karabakh, Valiyev said. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].However, the government in Baku was disinclined to publicly support Georgia in the conflict because of a fear of angering Russia, Valiyev said. "If it was up to the government, the government wouldn’t do anything. But the pressure from the people, from the public forced the government to say something concerning the Georgia crisis, that they support territorial integrity," he said.Valiyev spoke April 6 at a conference in Washington, DC, in a panel called "Internal Political Shifts in Azerbaijan and Ukraine in the Wake of the War."The war’s outcome -- which left Russian troops on Georgian soil and prompted Moscow to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- affected how the public sees Azerbaijan’s geopolitical orientation. "The war significantly changed perceptions in Azerbaijan of Russia and the United States," Valiyev said. In particular, support for NATO has dropped.
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