Baku's newly opened Fairmont Hotel occupies one of three flame-shaped skyscrapers whose curved facades, come nightfall, transform into giant video screens depicting blazing fires. From the 27th floor, there’s a lovely view of the Azerbaijani capital and its crescent-shaped bay in the Caspian Sea. One evening, an employee joins me at a window near the elevator and directs my gaze to a 162-meter pole topped witha national flag the size of two tennis courts. With evident pride, she tells me it’s the tallest flagpole in the world. In 2010, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev marked its unveiling with an elaborate ceremony featuring scores of goose-stepping soldiers.