April 9, 2007:
The U.S. Navy has an ongoing relationship with the Azeri Navy. But it's
all ashore. Seabees, specialized instructors, etc. American personnel are
apparently supposed to avoid going out into the Caspian Sea, in order to avoid
irking the Russians.
Azerbaijan has no access to the sea, only to the
Caspian sea. This land locked body of water is also bordered by Russia , Iran,
Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. All but Iran used to be part of the Soviet Union,
and the Russians still consider the Caspian their sea.
The U.S. Navy has agreed to help Azerbaijan to
refurbish existing warships, and purchase new ones. Technically, this is part
of a NATO program to build good will. But the Russians hate NATO, and don't
like the Americans operating in their backyard. The Azeris, however, see the
Americans as a good counterweight to Russia, which still feels that former
parts of the Soviet Union, like Azerbaijan, should look to Russia for guidance
on all things military.