US military interest in Azerbaijan usually begins and ends with it being on the border with Iran, but today NATO’s interest in the tiny republic centers on its being along a border with Russia.
You can’t have a border with Russia these days, or in Armenia and Moldova’s case be just kind of close to Russia, without NATO looking to throw military assets at you these days to “counter” an imagined Russian threat.
Moldova, which at least sort of borders Ukraine (tiny autonomous Transnistria notwithstanding), is getting a NATO “liaison office,” according to the reports, while Armenia is getting full-fledged military exercises, and Azerbaijan is getting a defense rehaul aimed at protecting its offshore oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea.
While NATO has imagined a looming problem in Moldova over the status of Transnistria, Russia has extremely cozy relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the only hint of any military tension for either Armenia or Azerbaijan in the region are with one another, not with Russia.
Rather, NATO seems to be looking to use the fiction of an “expansionist” Russia to engage in some military expansion of its own, insinuating itself ever-deeper into Asia for no apparent reason beyond just sticking it to Russia.