Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan Hold Military Drills without Russia: Khazri-2023
Author: Meray Ozat
Oct 17, 2023
Despite Russia’s recent efforts to retain its influence in the Eurasian heartland, some Caspian states are finding a way to bolster their military strength without the involvement of Moscow. In the wake of Russia's reported further military expansion into Georgia’s Abkhazia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan orchestrated a joint military exercise, "Khazri-2023," in Baku October 2 - 8. Serving as a platform for mutual military intelligence exchange, this joint military exercise marked a milestone in the military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, while also contributing to the broader security dynamics within the Caspian region.
On October 6, Commander of the Azerbaijan Naval Forces, Vice Admiral Subhan Bakirov, met with the delegation of the Kazakh Ministry of Defense led by Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan Rear Admiral Bekzhanov Saken. During the meeting, both sides emphasized military cooperation between the two countries. Their meeting also emphasized the significance of military collaboration between the two countries, particularly underscoring the positive impact of the Khazri-2023 Joint Tactical Exercises on their military professionalism and the broader security landscape within the Caspian region. This collaboration not only signifies tangible progress in regional cooperation but also reflects a shared commitment to developing collective security.
These joint military exercises occurred against the backdrop of Russia's military developments in the Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia. On October 5, the de facto President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania announced the agreement between Russia and Abkhazia on a permanent naval base in the Ochamchira district, heightening concerns not only in the Black Sea region but also in the Caspian Sea about potential Russian military threats. Even though Russian influence in the region appears to be weakened since the Ukraine War, the threats and ambitions of Russia remain a concern that cannot be underestimated.
The longstanding military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan has historically been associated with Russian involvement, given their shared Soviet pasts. Their first joint military exercise dates back to 2015, involving the participation of Caspian Sea coastal countries. In this line, the Khazri-2023 marked an independent operation between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, conducted without the involvement of Russia, signifying a resolute commitment to solidify their autonomy and bolster their own capabilities.
The exclusion of Russia from recent developments in the Caspian region can be primarily attributed to the Ukrainian War and growing geopolitical concerns. After Russian military advancement in the Black Sea, the Caspian coastal countries might strengthen such exchanges and contacts. As a result, the countries traditionally under Russian influence will start to distance themselves from Russia more actively.
The Khazri-2023 tactical military training exercise, uniting Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, marks a significant milestone in their military partnership, notably as the first such operation conducted independently of Russian involvement. With these promising developments and growing solidarity, it is anticipated that such exchanges will continue to expand. While these cooperative efforts represent a promising trend in further strengthening the military capabilities of the Caspian coastal nations, it's imperative for them to exercise caution in their activities to avert potential tensions with Russia and the attendant security concerns that could arise.