Author: Tiberio Graziani & Fabrizio Vielmini – 07/11/2022
On 27-28 October, V&G attended the 15th edition of the Verona Eurasian Forum, this year organized from the first time away of its original seat in the capital of Azebaijian, Baku.
“Eurasian economic cooperation in the context of the new global reality”.
The organizers, the association “Conoscere Eurasia” and the Italian-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce, received, alongside their traditional Russian partners, a strong support from the host country (whose Ministry of Economy was co- manager).
The Forum’s ambition was to take advantage of the platform offered by Baku to intervene at such a critical moment in the redefinition of relations between Asia and Europe in sectors such as finance, technology, industry, transport and logistics.
Calling all the countries of “Greater Eurasia” to dialogue, particular attention was paid to the potential of India, whose energy minister also addressed the participants via video link, where he underlined the growing importance of the resources of India. Eurasian Economic Union (Russia and Kazakhstan) for the Indian economy. The wartime situation gave the Verona forum away an unprecedented component of public diplomacy and also of criticism of the influence of neoliberalism on international cooperation.
Peace and humanism were proposed as key words, highlighted in particular in the speech (via video link) by Romano Prodi, in his current capacity as president of the Foundation for world cooperation.
The second major feature of the event was the level of attendance from the Russian official side. Apart from the top management of the RF energy giant “Rosneft” (a constant supporter of the event where the head of the company, Igor Sechin is a regular participant in the event), the Russian government sent to Baku a very high-level delegation, featuring two deputy Prime Ministers, Alexei Overchuk and Andrey Belousov; the Minister of Economy Maxim Reshetnikov, deputy Foreign Minister A. Grushko, as well as the Ambassador to Rome Razov. Also President Putin sent his greetings to the forum.
In the words of Grushko, in Ukraine Russia is putting an end to five centuries of Western colonial hegemony, to give birth to a new international order, polycentric and respectful of the different development paths of peoples. According to Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk, Russia has ceased to position itself in Eastern Europe in order to conceive the logic of its own development as the north of Eurasia. Overchuk also noted the absence of spaces for dialogue between Russia and the West (and therefore the importance of the forum). This is the message to Europeans to free themselves from American protection, “overcome the obstacles” that divide them from the Russians and “understand the real reasons for the tragedy in progress”.
Secondly the massive Russian diplomatic presence points to the growing importance of Azerbaijan in defining the geopolitical balance at the crucial Caspian intersection of the Eurasian “Great Chessboard”.
Overall, thanks to its careful multi-vector diplomatic policy, Azerbaijan is reaping enormous benefits from the economic situation that arose from the war in Ukraine. In addition to energy, the country capitalizes on its position as a corridor for the flow of goods arriving by land from China along the “new silk road”, now blocked by the front line. In addition, Baku consolidated a strategic axis with Turkey, which allowed it to settle scores with Armenia for control of the Karabakh region. In this context, Russia itself must place itself with increased regard for its southern neighbor.
Notably, Moscow is interested in strengthening its cooperation with Baku for the sake of developing the western route of the North-South logistic corridor. This transit axis, connecting the Baltic with the Persian Gulf through the Caspian and Iran is becoming one of the most important ways of connectivity for Russia, allowing to organize import-export operations against the European sanctions’ pressure. Some representatives of the Russian government delegation came to Baku overland after a visit to the border checkpoints on the Russian-Azerbaijani border.