On Oct. 9, 2012, the American subsidiary of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) purchased a five-story, 23,232-square-foot mansion in the heart of Washington, D.C., for the purposes of “expand[ing] its operations in the United States,” as the Washington Business Journal put it. Oil is the one thing Azerbaijan has plenty of, and it’s the one thing the United States is most interested in, so SOCAR’s “operations” are bound to be extensive.
Given the money at stake, the mansion’s sale price was a pittance: $12 million. The exact address is 1319 18th St. NW, which ought to be familiar to many an old Cold War hand as the former office of Jeane Kirkpatrick, a onetime U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the most influential officials in Ronald Reagan’s administration. This mansion is where Demokratizatsiya, the journal of post-Soviet democratization, founded in 1992, used to be published. And, for a time, its most famous lessee was Freedom House, the respected human rights monitor, which today counts Azerbaijan among the “not free” countries.