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Azerbaijan flagAzerbaijan

Overview Last updated: June, 2014

No weapons of mass destruction or related delivery systems were located on the territory of Azerbaijan when it regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.[1] While Azerbaijan has been building stronger military capabilities due to a long-standing conflict with neighboring Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, it has not sought to develop WMD capabilities.[2]

Azerbaijan is a party to a number of international accords, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). Azerbaijan has cooperated with the United States on WMD nonproliferation and defense activities, and signed corresponding agreements on 28 September 1999 (U.S.-Azerbaijan CTR Umbrella Agreement) and 26 August 2005 (WMD-PPI Implementing Agreement). [3]

Nuclear

There are no known nuclear reactors, research facilities, or uranium mines on the territory of Azerbaijan. However, there is a large quantity of radioactive waste stored at the Izotop Industrial Complex and in other locations, a legacy of Soviet military activities. [4] Azerbaijan is a party to the Minsk Accord, the NPT, and the CTBT, and has an Additional Protocol in force with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In 1980, construction began on a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant in southern Azerbaijan, but the Chernobyl accident and Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline killed the project. [5] In 2007, apparently at the behest of the government, the Institute of Radiation Problems of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences submitted a proposal for a 1,500 MWe nuclear power reactor, to be built at the site of the abandoned plant. [6] Russia offered to participate in the plant's construction in 2009, but no formal proposal has been made for its construction. [7] To train nuclear specialists and produce medical isotopes, Azerbaijan’s Institute of Radiation Problems had planned to build a 10-15 MWe, research reactor, estimated to cost $119-million. [8] The IAEA gave preliminary approval to the project in June 2008, and construction was scheduled to begin in 2012. [9] According to Adil Garibov, Director of the Institute of Radiation Problems of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), feasibility studies for the reactor were supposed to be completed in 2011. However, after a two year extension, these studies were suspended in November 2013. Azerbaijan is still conducting feasibility studies for this reactor. [10] Azerbaijan is a participant in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Committee on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy. The CIS Council of the Heads of Government recently adopted the Committee's long-term program for inter-state cooperation. [11]

The United States has provided Azerbaijan with funds, equipment, and training to improve the country's export control system and border security. [12] The United States has spent tens of millions of dollars under the Caspian Guard Initiative, which aims to strengthen the air, ground, and maritime border defenses of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan by addressing proliferation, terrorism, and trafficking threats around the Caspian Sea. [13] Azerbaijan has also received U.S. assistance in drafting export control legislation. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Caucasus region has experienced numerous instances of trafficking of radiological materials. [14]

Biological

There is no evidence to suggest that Baku possesses or is pursuing biological weapons capabilities.  [15] Azerbaijan acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in February 2004. On 6 June 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a cooperation agreement in the prevention of technological, pathogen or expertise development that could lead to biological weapons proliferation. [16] Under this agreement, Baku and Washington have worked together to improve security and safety at the Azerbaijan Central Pathogen Health Laboratory and at the Republican Anti-Plague Station in Baku.

In September 2005, 124 samples of 62 unique strains of causative agents of plagueanthrax, cholera, and other dangerous diseases were transported from Baku to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC, where the strains will be studied jointly by DOD and Azerbaijan medical researchers. [17] The strains had been collected over many years from environmental, human, and animal sources in Azerbaijan, and will be used to identify pathogens in possible future outbreaks. Under the Biological Threat Reduction Program, the DOD continues to renovate training space and enhance site security at the Anti-Plague Station, and has completed the renovation of the interim diagnostic laboratory at the Republican Veterinary Laboratory in Baku. [18]

Chemical

Azerbaijan is a founding member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. There is no evidence to suggest that Baku is pursuing a chemical weapons capability. [19]

Missile

From 1985 to 2012 the Russian Daryal-type radar station in Gabala, (also known as Lyaki), operated as an early warning system to detect missiles launched towards the former USSR from the south. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the station was leased and operated by Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces, providing Russia with a residual strategic foothold in Azerbaijan. [20] Russia's lease of the site expired in December 2012, and was not renewed, due to attempts by Baku to increase the price of the station's lease agreement from $7 million to $300 million dollars. [21] Russia has transferred control of the facility to the government of Azerbaijan.

Sources:

[1] "Azerbaijan, Key Nuclear Facts," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 10 September 2010.
[2] "Azerbaijan, Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 16 September 2010.
[3] Cooperative Threat Reduction Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2008: Information Cutoff Date: December 31, 2006, U.S. Department of Defense, p. 34, www.dtra.mil.
[4] "Azerbaijan, Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 16 September 2010; "Azerbaijan: Nuclear Waste Control, Handling Criticized," Zerkalo, 17 February 1996, p. 13.
[5] Alexei Breus, "Azerbaijan laying groundwork for construction of nuclear unit," Nucleonics Week, 12 April 2007, p. 5.
[6] Alexei Breus, "Azerbaijan laying groundwork for construction of nuclear unit," Nucleonics Week, 12 April 2007, p. 5.
[7] "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, November 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[8] Mina Muradova, "Azerbaijan gets ready to go nuclear," EurasiaNet.org (New York), 27 July 2008, www.eurasianet.org; "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, June 2011, www.world-nuclear.org; Dr. Gabulov Ibrahim, "Research Reactor Utilization Issues in the Republic of Azerbaijan," presentation at IAEA Technical Meeting, Vienna, 19-22 February 2008, www.iaea.org.
[9] "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, June 2011, www.world-nuclear.org.
[10] Nigar Orujova, "Nuclear research reactor project suspended in Azerbaijan,"  Azernews, 8 November 2013, www.azernews.az.  
[11] "CIS Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Meets in Moscow," Oreanda-News, 13 March 2009; "Belarus suggests more effective cooperation between CIS countries," Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, 19 May 2011, www.government.by/en.
[12] "US, Azerbaijan Sign Counterproliferation Pact," The Post-Soviet States & Eastern Europe Monitor, 11 October 1999, p. 14; NIS Export Control Observer, March 2005, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, http://cns.miis.edu.
[13] Simon Ostrovsky, "U.S. Working to Boost Sea Forces in Oil-Rich Caspian: Envoy," Agence France-Presse, 21 September 2005; Russ Rizzo, "Pentagon Aims to Bolster Security in Caspian Sea Region," Stars and Stripes [European Edition], 10 August 2005, www.estripes.com.
[14] Alexander Kupatadze, "Organized Crime and the Trafficking of Radiological Material," The Nonproliferation Review, July 2010, pp. 219-234.
[15] "Azerbaijan, Key Biological Facts," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 23 September 2010.
[16] Cooperative Threat Reduction Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2008: Information Cutoff Date: December 31, 2006, U.S. Department of Defense, pp. 24-26, 31, www.dtra.mil.
[17] "Azerbaijan, Biological Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 23 September 2010.
[18] Cooperative Threat Reduction Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2008: Information Cutoff Date: December 31, 2006, U.S. Department of Defense, www.dtra.mil; "Republican Veterinary Laboratory Reconstructed," Trend News Agency (Baku), 13 June 2010, en.trend.az.
[19] "Azerbaijan, Chemical Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 15 October 2009.
[20] Azeem Ibrahim, "President Putin's Cold War Thinking With Azerbaijan," The Huffington Post, 14 March 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com.
[21] Alina Lobzina, "Russia and Azerbaijan in tough talks over radar base," The Moscow News, 29 February 2012; David Herszenhorn, "Russia to Close Radar Station in Azerbaijan," The New York Times, 11 December 2012, www.nytimes.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Azerbaijan

  • Received U.S. financial assistance under the Caspian Guard Initiative for combating nuclear proliferation and trafficking
  • Working with the U.S. to improve security and safety at the Azerbaijan Central Pathogen Health Laboratory and the Republican Anti-Plague Station in Baku
  • Hosts a Russian Daryal-type Radar Station in Gabala, which can detect missiles launched towards the former USSR from the south.