Despite the consensus to demilitarize the Caspian Region, the littoral countries increased their naval potential. In this process, Turkmenistan could be way more outstanding among those countries thanks to the support from Turkiye. However, Kazakhstan and Iran do not lag behind Turkmenistan, whose military navies were limited before.
As for Azerbaijan, it owns the biggest military fleet in the Caspian basin after the Russian Federation. After the dissolution of the USSR, the Caspian Flotilla was divided between Azerbaijan and Russia. Today, Azerbaijan has over 40 warships and it intends to increase the capability of its navy in parallel with its land forces. In this direction, Azerbaijan tries to cooperate with different countries. Several years ago, news circulated in media that Azerbaijan intended to purchase different warships, including submarines from South Korea. Besides, Azerbaijan jointly produced Shaldag ships with Israel. Also, Turkish companies are interested in the production and modernization of warships in Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, the meeting of the Commander of the Azerbaijan Naval Forces Vice Admiral Subhan Bakirov with the Chief of the Italian Navy Admiral Enrico Credendino, and discussing the development of cooperation between the two countries’ naval forces were of great significance. Especially, given that Italy is considered one of the important countries in the production of military warships and equipment, the prospects of the meeting between the two parties comes importance.
Speaking to Azernews on the issue, military expert Ramil Mammadli noted that despite owning the second biggest military force after Russia among littoral countries, Azerbaijan’s navy is not considered strong in terms of capability and modernity.
“For 20 years, all countries in the Caspian Sea body of water have been engaged in developing the potential of their naval forces. Despite having the strongest fleet in the Caspian, Russia increased the number of warships and their kind. Some of these Russian ships are missile artillery ships, which we know from the Ukrainian War. As is known, some of the missiles that hit Ukraine are being fired from the Caspian Sea. In this regard, the main power in the Caspian Sea belongs to the potential Russian naval forces. Other littoral countries, such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, have also implemented a number of projects to strengthen the capabilities of their naval forces. Turkmenistan has built about 20 ships with the help of Turkish companies. Kazakhstan also built ships at the expense of its domestic capabilities by attracting specialists from Russia and other countries,” Mammadli said.
The military expert noted that the construction of new warships was not on Azerbaijan's agenda, and Azerbaijan did not implement large projects but some modernization projects such as new weapons and equipment for the naval forces. He pointed out that Azerbaijan had objective and subjective reasons for that.
“The objective reason is that the main priority of Azerbaijan during these years has been the Garabagh issue. Due to the Garabagh conflict, the strengthening of technical capabilities of air defense systems, air forces, ground forces, and rocket artillery systems, and increasing the number of personnel have been one of the main directions. Issues such as the construction or purchase of new warships have not been implemented. However, this does not mean that the capabilities of the naval forces lag behind others. Not at all. Some modernization projects were carried out on the ships of the naval forces of Azerbaijan, major repairs were carried out, and during this period, work was carried out in the direction of the protection of the coastal waters of Azerbaijan and the organization of the protection of energy resources,” R.Mammadli noted.
He also added that the Garabagh issue has already been concluded, the problems that had arisen on land forces have been resolved, and the potential of the Azerbaijan Army is capable of preventing any danger. He thinks that from now on, attention will be paid to the modernization of the Navy. As for Azerbaijani-Italian cooperation, the Pundit emphasized that the visit of the Azerbaijani Vice-Admiral to Italy can lay the foundation for the steps to be taken in strengthening the potential of the Azerbaijani naval forces.
“In terms of the construction of warships, Italian ranks at first places in the world. I believe that the relations that will be formed between the Italian and Azerbaijani naval forces will develop further Azerbaijan's capabilities in the Caspian Sea, and create an opportunity for its more modern formation. Today, it is known that many companies manufacturing warships purchase parts, drawings, and so on from Italy. In this case, I think that it would be better to cooperate with Italy than to cooperate with such companies to develop the military fleet,” he added.
Touching on the importance of the meeting, R.Mammadli said that he has big expectations from the meeting. Because this meeting is not just a regular trip. The meeting was held on the sideline with the maritime defense exhibition. Well-known companies of the world participate and offer their products in the exhibition.
“I think that Azerbaijan conducted successful negotiations in this direction at the exhibition. Even in these negotiations, there may be the renewal of large ships of the military forces of Azerbaijan,” he concluded.