Republic of Coca-Cola Azerbaijan
Recently, the state-run newspaper of Azerbaijan featured a prominent advertisement from Coca-Cola, the globally recognized beverage brand, celebrating "November 8, Victory Day" designated following the Karabakh War. This advertisement sheds light on Azerbaijan's national character and underscores the apparent indifference towards peace, human rights, and democracy. Last September witnessed the displacement of over a hundred thousand indigenous Armenians from Daglik (Mountainous) Karabagh (Artsakh in Armenian), a region with an ancient Armenian heritage, as they escaped the threat of ethnic cleansing. Despite these circumstances, Coca-Cola, which enthusiastically extended its congratulations to Azerbaijan, encouraged the Azerbaijani people to consume their product joyfully. Through this advertisement, Coca-Cola inadvertently broadcasts a message that Azerbaijan is not so much a sovereign nation but somewhat resembles a business enterprise operated by the Aliyev family.
The lack of global attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be attributed to the overshadowing effect of the Russia-Ukraine war, which represents the power struggle between the West and the East. This central conflict has inadvertently granted Turkey and Azerbaijan, as regional forces, a certain leeway in the international arena. The Western bloc, including the US and the EU, and the Eastern powers like Russia and China are vying for Turkey's alliance. Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has, over the last twenty years under Erdogan's rule, aligned more closely with the authoritarian Eastern bloc in terms of human rights and democratic values. As a mediator between these conflicting sides, Turkey appears to have been rewarded with non-interference in its nationalist and imperialistic ambitions. This has enabled Turkey to provide military and logistical backing to Azerbaijan, to conduct bombings in the Rojava region at will, and to occupy parts of Northern Syria in flagrant disregard of Syrian sovereignty, all facilitated by the current international dynamics.
In Turkey, there is widespread political consensus across various parties, spanning from the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party)-MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) coalition to the main opposition CHP (Republican People's Party)-IYI (Good) Party, along with numerous other allied groups, all backing Azerbaijan's stance with the notable exception of the libertarian socialist and democratic Kurdish factions. This support reflects the views of over eighty percent of the Turkish electorate. The established foreign policy stance of the Turkish state towards the matter is encapsulated in the motto "two states, one nation." The dominant political and media landscape in Turkey often overlooks the historical presence of Armenians within the region, disregarding the fact that Armenians are among the oldest inhabitants of the land that now constitutes Turkey. Despite the existence of around sixty thousand Armenian citizens within the Republic of Turkey and further estimated hundreds of thousands who, despite having altered their identities during the genocide period, still retain a connection to their Armenian roots, this aspect is frequently ignored. The prevailing undemocratic political culture in Turkey approaches the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict not through a lens of human rights, peace, and fraternity among peoples but rather through a narrow scope of monolithic Turkish nationalism akin to supporting a sports team.
During the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, there was a notable alignment between Turkey's ruling and opposition parties in their stance against Israel. While some of this opposition may stem from anti-Semitic and Islamist sentiments, it is understandable to criticize Israel's military actions in Gaza, where the current hardline Netanyahu administration has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians, in violation of international norms and treaties, with the conflict still ongoing. However, the Turkish political mainstream's omission of the fact that Israel is a primary provider of military technology to Azerbaijan—Turkey's ally—highlights a glaring inconsistency in Turkish foreign policy. Between 2016 and 2020, Israel supplied approximately seventy percent of the weaponry in Azerbaijan's arsenal, which was subsequently used in the renewed conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Moreover, Azerbaijan provides nearly forty percent of Israel's natural gas needs, underlining the strong bilateral relations between the two nations. Azerbaijan did not criticize Israel's actions in Gaza; it openly supported them. In contrast, the Turkish government and main opposition parties are vocal in their censure of Israel but fail to address Azerbaijan's supportive stance towards Israel, revealing a significant lapse in principles within Turkish policy.
Azerbaijan is often criticized for its lack of political freedoms, suppression of free speech and media, absence of an established rule of law, and for consistently ranking low on global indices for human rights and democratic standards. The nation's riches are monopolized mainly by President Ilham Aliyev, his family, and a tight-knit group of affluent associates. The country, already known for its significant corruption and dependence on oil revenues, might also be associated with the term "Republic of Coca-Cola." Turkey, which in recent years has seen a decline in its adherence to principles such as human rights, democracy, and equality, risks further degradation of these values by offering unwavering support to Azerbaijan. If Turkey continues to embrace an aggressive brand of nationalism that disregards these core values, it risks mirroring Azerbaijan's troubling trajectory.