Russia plans modernization of Soviet-era missile defense base in Azerbaijan
Russia has prepared proposals to Azerbaijan’s leadership on the modernization of the Gabala radar station, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has said. On Monday, he discussed in Baku the extension of Russia’s lease of the station – officially the property of Azerbaijan – with President Ilham Aliyev and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev.
Russia has “certain plans for modernization” of this Soviet-era missile defense base, Serdyukov said. The details of the rent of the Daryal information and analytical center, as the station is officially called, will be determined by the defense ministers of the two countries by the end of the summer.
Baku had set a number of conditions, which include a higher lease rate and a minimization of the radar’s impact on the environment, which implies modernization. Azeri authorities are also trying to get “compensation for the environmental damage” caused to the local residents, as well as an increase in the number of Azeri personnel employed at the base.
The Gabala radar station was first put into service in 1985. With the agreement ratified in 2002, Russia leased the base for ten years at an annual rate of $7 million. Gabala remains an important element of the Russian missile defense, serving as an early-warning facility that controls possible missile launches in the southern aerospace sector.
Moscow proposed the joint use of the Gabala station with the US in 2007 as an alternative to the deployment of Washington’s elements of missile defense in the Czech Republic and Poland. Russia believes the facility could be used for the European missile defense program. But while US experts visited the station, no agreement was concluded to that effect.
At the same time, the US does not rule out future dialog with Azerbaijan on the Gabala radar station, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said during a visit to Baku in June.