Azerbaijan’s Secret: Sneaky Friends in High Places

Published: 19 June 2015


One of the enduring mysteries in Azerbaijan’s crackdown on human rights has been why countries like the US have been so slow to condemn it.

In today’s instalment, The Khadija Project publishes the first of two articles examining how the government in Azerbaijan, and the State-Owned Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) in particular, secretly uses public money to win support in the US Congress and from policymakers.

Azerbaijan is taking a sneaky new tack in seeking to influence public opinion, writes Till Bruckner. It’s subtle, and it is effective. Bruckner calls it “idea laundering,” or filtering propaganda through apparently legitimate organizations and spokespeople so it seems to be reliable, independent information.

“There’s a noticeable change in Azerbaijan’s lobbying,” comments Gerald Robbins, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who specializes in Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. “A new generation, educated in Western marketing methodology has taken the reins [in Baku]. They understand that academia and think tanks are important contact points for conveying ideas.”

The second instalment, to run Monday, reveals how SOCAR secretly built itself an undercover lobbyist from the ground up.