A surprise proposal of a joint US-Russian radar base in Azerbaijan seems to have diffused tensions and caught Washington off guard. The bilateral talks between Vladimir Putin and George W Bush conducted on the sidelines of the G8 summit certainly appeared to go better then expected. Both presidents had gone into the meeting on a wave of cold war rhetoric but emerged talking about co-operation and common interests. Vladimir Putin explained that the radar system was rented by the Russian military and was in Azerbaijan and known as “Gabala.”
The base would remove the need for a US radar system in the Czech Republic – one of Moscow’s objections to the US planned defense shield. The installation covers precisely the areas of the world where the threat from rogue states is most acute- the Middle east and Indian Ocean basin. Back in the 1990s the Gabala station was once offered by Azerbaijan to NATO for use as a possible base. President Bush’s comment after the talks was that the idea was “interesting”.