Azerbaijan is a staunch ally of Israel, a secular counterweight to Iran and an increasingly critical exporter of oil and natural gas, and its importance to U.S. national security seems clear -- at least, for every president until now.
Recent unrest in the Middle East highlights the importance of our strategic relationships in the region. A steadfast ally of the United States is Azerbaijan, and the United States must redouble its efforts to promote peace in this critical but unstable South Caucasus region.
Whatever US government engagement in Azerbaijan on human rights and democracy has been so far it has had zero structural impact. Behind-the-scenes advocacy simply does not work -- it is merely appeasement of authoritarianism.
As this year's host of Eurovision, Azerbaijan may well impress visitors with its beautiful, entertaining capital city of Baku and friendly, considerate people, but not with how its government treats the people.
It is hard to imagine where modest investments from the West that reaffirm Azerbaijan's inclination and predispositions might pay a larger dividend, nor where failure to do so could have more extended consequences. It's about a lot more than energy.