The high level of receiving the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during his visit to the United States, formally to participate in the Fourth Summit on nuclear safety, but in fact to carry out consultations with the White House about the future of the country and the regime in Baku, surprised even the most optimistic observers and hard-core pessimists.
Summaries of individual talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, the Minister of Commerce Penny Pritzker, a souvenir photo with President Barack Obama showed that after years of resistance to democratic reform in the country Aliyev’s administration has capitulated under the pressure of the economic crisis and the threat of Congress sanctions.
As it turned out after talks with senior US officials, although the agenda included the issues of regional security, energy, transport corridor, the Karabakh conflict, but, nevertheless, the main issue of consultations can be considered a change of political course of Aliyev providing Azerbaijan’s transaction from authoritarianism to democracy.
The international press, foreign and domestic political prisoners before and during the visit urged the White House to pressure on Aliyev, thus making it clear to all who monitor the developments in Azerbaijan, that the problem of reforming the country is the most painful and urgent issue on the agenda of the US-Azerbaijani relations.
visit to advance future economic reforms and freeing 10% of political prisoners, made it clear the receiving side that he has caught the wind of changes, and is ready to follow the course set by Washington.
But it would be naive to assume that Aliyev and his anachronistic team will follow the set course in a strict order and sequence. Aliyev gesture at meetings and events in Washington changed from an indescribable satisfaction to deep concern. President of Azerbaijan, apparently, is pleased that the Obama administration has laid just on him the work of dismantling the authoritarian system established by himself, but on the other hand, it suggests a further activity under the onslaught of the Azerbaijani society that is trying to release from the shackles of authoritarianism.
The regime that used to rule the country by suppressing politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, journalists, NGO activists, almost all layers of society, is not ready for democratic dialogue and consensus, which is the most complex and dramatic problem of the transition period.
In any case, after return to the native land Aliyev will have to solve the dilemma of authoritarianism and democracy. According to formal logic, the world can become a witness of any choice, but both choices lead to the same result - a change of system, either through revolution, or, through an evolutionary way of development. Personality has nothing to do with it.