Saturday, October 17, 2020

Caucasus Fighting Highlights Growing Gap between Moscow’s Beliefs and Abilities in Post-Soviet Space, Krasheninnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 15 – Many in Moscow and the West still think Moscow can achieve anything it wants in the post-Soviet space if it puts its mind to it, but the new fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan highlights a new reality, Fyodor Krasheninnikov says. Moscow’s ability to achieve its ends is far smaller than its oft-expressed aspirations are.

            Since Vladimir Putin came to power, the Russian analyst says, Moscow has insisted that its sphere of influence includes “not only the space of the former USSR but even Central Europe” and that it can control the situation there (

            That is ever less true, Krasheninnikov says. Moscow’s Yalta-style approach to the world has broken down as Moscow has become ever more isolated from the West and the countries in what it views as its sphere of influence increasingly rely on other countries to allow themselves to play more independent roles.

            Moscow continues to assert the same geopolitical matrix in its propaganda, but as the events in the South Caucasus show, it has ever less ability to act in ways that give real content to its claims. What makes the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict especially painful is that if it is to demonstrate that it is still a super power, it must act and not just make proclamations.

            Putin did manage to get the two sides to sign a ceasefire on October 8, but despite that document, the two sides continue to fight. Happily for Moscow, Armenia hasn’t sought to invoke its membership in the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty to ask for help; and Turkey has not assumed a more active role in support of Azerbaijan.

            But the fundamental problem is this: Moscow lacks the leverage to overcome the zero-sum nature of the conflict because as things stand now, Azerbaijan either has to give up territory it believes belongs to it, or Armenia has to do the same. Given that, the problem is not susceptible to a solution beyond a ceasefire – and Moscow can’t achieve even that.

            “The resolution of the Karabakh conflict was and remains a most complicated task of world politics, the solution of which is possible only by involving in this process a broad circle of countries and international organizations which do not have particular obligations to one or the other side,” Krasheninnikov says.

But that is exactly what Moscow does not want because it would call attention to the fact that its claims about a Russian sphere of influence are increasingly hollow. Moreover, the analyst concludes, the longer this war goes on, “the more obvious will be the decline in Russia’s influence in this region.”

            Both immediate participants and others further away have already taken notice of that. 

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