Fact Sheet

Azerbaijan Overview

Azerbaijan Overview

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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 the major nonproliferation treaties and regimes, 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] Azerbaijan participated in negotiations surrounding the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It voted in support of the treaty on 7 July 2017. [4]

Nuclear

There are no nuclear reactors or uranium mines on the territory of Azerbaijan. A large quantity of radioactive waste is stored at several locations, including Azerbaijan’s central radioactive waste management facility, the Baku Radioactive Waste Site “Izotop”. [5]

In 1980, construction began on a 1,000 MWe nuclear power plant in southern Azerbaijan, but the Chernobyl accident and Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline halted the project. [6] 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. [7] Russia offered to participate in the plant's construction in 2009, but no formal proposal has been made for its construction. [8] To train nuclear specialists and produce medical isotopes, Azerbaijan’s Institute of Radiation Problems planned to build a 10-15 MWe research reactor, estimated to cost $119-million. [9] The IAEA gave preliminary approval to the project in June 2008, and construction was scheduled to begin in 2012. [10] The project stalled until 2015, when the IAEA approved Azerbaijan's new strategic plan for the research reactor. [11] Azerbaijan designed and submitted this plan with the help of the French company Areva. [12]

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 adopted a long-term program for inter-state cooperation in 2009. [13] In 2014, President Ilham Aliyev established the National Nuclear Research Center (NNRC) to spearhead Azerbaijan’s growing interest in peaceful nuclear development. [14] In 2015, the NNRC carried out expeditions in the Shemakha and Khizi regions in the hopes of finding uranium ore. [15] The NNRC has declared interest in developing a nuclear power reactor if these regions prove to be rich in nuclear material. [16] 

The United States has provided Azerbaijan with funds, equipment, and training to improve the country's export control system and border security. [17] 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. [18] 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 radioactive materials. [19]

In July 2020, amid renewed fighting on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the spokesperson for the Azerbaijan defense ministry threatened a missile strike against Armenia’s Metsamor NPP. [20] Armenia condemned the Azerbaijani defense ministry’s statement as a crime and said that Armenia had undertaken a number of measures to raise awareness about Azerbaijan’s threat. [21]

Biological

There is no evidence to suggest that Baku possesses or is pursuing biological weapons capabilities. [22] 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 an agreement, “Concerning Cooperation in the Area of Prevention of Proliferation of Technology, Pathogens, and Expertise that Could Be Used in the Development of Biological Weapons. [23] This agreement, which is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, facilitated the 2005 transfer of 124 samples of 62 unique strains (including the causative agents of plague, anthrax, cholera, and other dangerous diseases) from Azerbaijan to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC. [24]

Under the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program, the DOD continues to train health and veterinary professionals, as well as to renovate and secure medical, research, and veterinary facilities in Azerbaijan, including the Baku Anti-Plague Station, and the veterinary laboratories in Gakh, Goygol, Guba, Sabirabad, and Barda. [25] 

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. [26]

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. [27] 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. [28] Russia has transferred control of the facility to the government of Azerbaijan, which transferred the facility out of its Armed Forces inventory to the State Committee on Property Issues. [29]

Although Russia is the main source of arms imports for Azerbaijan, Baku has also been increasingly procuring weapons from other countries. In December 2016, Azerbaijan finalized a deal to purchase the Iron Dome missile defense system from Israel. [30] This decision was likely a response to Russia’s sale of 9K720 Iskander Short-Range Ballistic Missile Systems (SRBMS) to Armenia. [31] 

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] UN General Assembly, “7 July 2017 – Voting results on L.3/Rev.1,” Item 9, A/CONF.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1 – Draft Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 7 July, 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com.
[5] A. Huseynov, O. Batyukhnova, M. Ojovan and J. Rowat, “Upgrading the Radioactive Waste Management Infrastructure in Azerbaijan” (paper presented at the 2007 Waste Management Symposium, Tucson, AZ, 25 February – 1 March 2007); "Azerbaijan, Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, September 16, 2010; "Azerbaijan: Nuclear Waste Control, Handling Criticized," Zerkalo,17 February 1996, p. 13.
[6] Alexei Breus, "Azerbaijan laying groundwork for construction of nuclear unit," Nucleonics Week, 12 April 2007, p. 5.
[7] Alexei Breus, "Azerbaijan laying groundwork for construction of nuclear unit," Nucleonics Week, 12 April 2007, p. 5.
[8] "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, November 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[9] 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.
[10] "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, June 2011, www.world-nuclear.org.
[11] “Azerbaijan Wants to Extract Uranium Ore in Shemakha and Khizi," Abc.az. N.p., 26 October 2015.
[12] "Azerbaijan plans to build first reactor," Vestnik Kavkaza, 23 April 2015, www.vestnikkavkaza.net.
[13] "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.
[14] "A New Wave." The Business Year. May 2014, www.thebusinessyear.com; "Azerbaijan Establishes National Nuclear Research Centre JSC," Ministry of Communications and High Technologies, 8 May 2015, www.mincom.gov.az.
[15] “Azerbaijan Wants to Extract Uranium Ore in Shemakha and Khizi," Abc.az. N.p., 26 October 2015.
[16] "Azerbaijan Wants to Produce Nuclear Fuel," Abc.az, 13 July 2015.
[17] "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, nonproliferation.org.
[18] 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.
[19] Alexander Kupatadze, "Organized Crime and the Trafficking of Radiological Material," The Nonproliferation Review, July 2010, pp. 219-234.
[20] "Modern missile systems of Azerbaijan enable us to blast Metsamor NPP," 16 July 2020, www.defence.az.
[21] “Baku, Yerevan exchange statements on possibility of striking critical infrastructure,” 16 July 2020, www. tass.com.
[22] "Azerbaijan, Key Biological Facts," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 23 September 2010.
[23] 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.
[24] Jeff Zeleny, “U.S. gets pathogens from ex-Soviet republic,” Chicago Tribune, 3 September 2005, http://articles.chicagotribune.com.
[25] Saida Aliyeva, Peter Flanagan, April Johnson and Lisa Strelow, “Toward the Development of a Sustainable Scientific Research Culture in Azerbaijan (2011–2015),” Frontiers in Public Medicine 4.144 (July, 2016).
[26] "Azerbaijan, Chemical Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, 15 October 2009.
[27] Azeem Ibrahim, "President Putin's Cold War Thinking With Azerbaijan," The Huffington Post, 14 March 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com.
[28] 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.
[29] "Gabala Radar Station Being Abolished," News.AZ, 7 April 2014, news.az.
[30] Gili Cohen, “Azerbaijan Reportedly Signs Deal to Purchase Israel's Iron Dome,” Haaretz, 18 December 2016, www.haaretz.com.
[31] Eduard Abrahamyan, “Armenia's New Ballistic Missiles Will Shake Up the Neighborhood,” The National Interest, 12 October 2016, www.nationalinterest.org.

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Glossary

WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Radioactive waste
Radioactive waste: Materials which are radioactive and for which there is no further use.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Radioisotope
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) Program
A U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) program established in 1992 by the U.S. Congress, through legislation sponsored primarily by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. It is the largest and most diverse U.S. program addressing former Soviet Union weapons of mass destruction threats. The program has focused primarily on: (1) destroying vehicles for delivering nuclear weapons (e.g., missiles and aircraft), their launchers (such as silos and submarines), and their related facilities; (2) securing former Soviet nuclear weapons and their components; and (3) destroying Russian chemical weapons. The term is often used generically to refer to all U.S. nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union—and sometimes beyond— including those implemented by the U.S. Departments of Energy, Commerce, and State. The program’s scope has expanded to include threat reduction efforts in geographical areas outside the Former Soviet Union.
Plague
Plague: The disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. There are three forms of plague: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague. Bubonic plague refers to infection of the lymph nodes by Y. pestis, causing black sores or “buboes,” pneumonic plague refers to infection of the lungs, and septicemic plague refers to infection of the bloodstream. Although no longer a serious public health hazard in the developed world, the bacterium can spread from person-to-person in aerosolized form, and has been investigated as a biological weapon by Japan and the Soviet Union.
Anthrax
The common name of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, as well as the name of the disease it produces.  A predominantly animal disease, anthrax can also infect humans and cause death within days.  B. anthracis bacteria can form hardy spores, making them relatively easy to disseminate.  Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR/Russia have all investigated anthrax as a biological weapon, as did the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo.  Anthrax-laced letters were also used to attack the U.S. Senate and numerous news agencies in September 2001.  There is no vaccine available to the general public, and treatment requires aggressive administration of antibiotics.
Cholera
Cholera: A disease of the digestive tract caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. A water-borne disease, cholera infections usually occur via contaminated water or foods. Cholera causes severe diarrhea followed by severe dehydration, and can result in death within hours or days. Sanitation in the developed world has greatly lessened cholera’s public health impact. Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army used cholera against the Chinese military and civilian populations during World War II.
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The OPCW: Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). All countries ratifying the CWC become state parties to the CWC, and make up the membership of the OPCW. The OPCW meets annually, and in special sessions when necessary. For additional information, see the OPCW.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.

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