The Russian Defense Ministry has expressed frustration about Azerbaijan’s unfounded demands to drastically increase the annual rent for Russia’s using the Gabala Radar Station. Experts say that Baku’s inability to arrive at a consensus on the topic may prompt Moscow to intensify efforts on the construction of its own radar stations which could compensate for the possible loss of the Gabala radar.
The 10-year treaty on the Gabala radar’s lease expires in 2012. Earlier this month, Azerbaijan demanded that Russia pay 300 million dollars as opposed to the previously agreed 7 million dollars for the lease which Moscow is seeking to extend. This doesn’t go well with Baku which “has been in successful talks with Moscow on the extension of lease terms,” according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov. The annual rent for the Gabala radar as proposed by Azerbaijan is equivalent to the cost of constructing two new radar stations on Russian territory, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that the Gabala radar badly needs modernization. Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Yevseyev says that Russia is interested in using the Gabala radar in the years to come.
"300 million dollars are too much, of course," Yevseyev says, slamming the Azeri side’s stance on the matter. "Baku seems to believe that the Gabala radar is of paramount importance to Russia which is currently completing the construction of the Voronezh-class long-range missile warning radar in Armavir," Yevseyev concludes.
The Russian Defense Ministry plans to replace all the long-range missile warning radars with the Voronezh-class radars by 2020. Additionally, several sophisticated radars will soon be put into operation in the Russian Armed Forces.
Some experts attribute Baku’s unconstructive approach to Washington’s ever-increasing clout in Azerbaijan. Right now, the US is deploying its warship in the Mediterranean to allegedly tackle a hypothetical missile threat from Iran. In this regard, the Gabala radar remains a major irritant for Washington which earlier signaled its desire to jointly use the radar as an alternative to the European missile defense system, a proposal that was made by Russia. Theoretically, the US may unilaterally use the Gabala radar if Russia decides not to pay the station’s annual rent.
With a final decision yet to be taken, Azeri politicians continue to assert that Russia’s possible withdrawal from the Gabala Radar Station will fail to damage bilateral relations based on principles of partnership and good neighborliness.