At first glance, Azerbaijan, a predominantly Shia Muslim state, seems an unlikely destination for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. But Pope Francis’ 10-hour visit to Baku on October 2 was not so much about religion as it was about PR payback.
The Carnegie Corporation is striving to catalyze a revival in the study of Russia, giving three grants worth $1 million each to three American universities. The gifts come at a time of rising US-Russian tension and a general decline in Russian and Eurasian studies in the United States.
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has finally acknowledged that the energy-export-dependent country is in the grips of a severe recession. But in a major policy speech, the Azerbaijani leader shifted blame for the fiscal woes from his administration to an economic theoretician who has been dead for over 225 years.
The renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said that “politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Such an outlook may have played a role in encouraging Turkey and Russia to set aside mutual animosity and try to get back to business.