The geopolitics of energy supply are tricky. The EU’s limited gas stock is continuing to drop, leaving it to contend with moral trade-offs for the sake of security.
In some ways, this is nothing new. The EU has paused pro-nobility interests in the past, to collaborate with its less-favoured regimes like that of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But a new interest—to renounce ties with Russia—has made a strenuous situation much more difficult.
Azerbaijan has committed itself to supplying more gas to the EU, a decision praised by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. There are, of course, some political issues to consider: Azerbaijan ranks 128th of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index; and President Ilham Aliyev sits on $900 billion, a number of financial scandals, and powers assumed through his father’s coup. The country holds an infamous human rights reputation, worsened by an ongoing persecution of the neighbouring Armenia. Today, Azerbaijan and Armenia is still embroiled in a territorial conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
If a matter of Realpolitik, the answer would be simple: the EU would prioritise its own interests and survival and go for the gas. The crux of the matter, though, is further complicated when bringing Russia into the picture. Russia has had a large hand in mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and war, though mostly towards the interests of Azerbaijan. The conflict, which was somewhat-quelled up until last week, was reignited after Russian peacekeeping soldiers moved through the Lachin Corridor, which links Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh. The route is a geopolitically vital one; not only does it sit on a gas pipeline, but it connects the territory to Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and the rest of Europe. Usually, the EU does not involve signalling in its decisions around oil. But to move away from Russia as a part of its Realpolitik, it might make some concessions.