Staunton, January 6 – The most important outcome of the Qarabagh war was not the defeat of Armenia, the victory of Azerbaijan, the expansion of Turkish influence in the Caucasus or the demonstration of the role of drones in all future wars, Arkady Dubnov says. Rather it was that it has opened the way for Vladimir Putin to create “a post-Soviet space 2.0.”
That space, the Moscow commentator says, will include the unrecognized republics around the Russian periphery and some but not all the former Soviet republics. The remainder would be cut loose, “burdens” the Kremlin is not interested in assuming at least for the present (ej.ru/?a=note&id=35741).
“The results of the second Qarabagh war thus may be eve of a process of restoring a sufficiently structured space” that will go much of the way to reversing the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, a “geopolitical tragedy” in Putin’s mind whose reversal he has made the central plank of his remaining time in power.
According to Dubnov, “Russian interference in the war after many weeks of bloodletting, in which an enormous number of Armenians condemned Moscow, accusing it in the betrayal of an ally, suddenly reordered the chessboard of geopolitics in the South Caucasus.” As a result, Russia “returned not as a loser in the region but as the beneficiary.”
Moscow’s “military presence” in the region, as the result of the agreement to allow for Russian peacekeepers in Qarabagh and along the transit corridors has increased “to 11,000” if one counts its forces already in military bases in Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And it could easily increase further because there is no one to oppose it.
“Neither the US, nor the EU, nor even NATO has responded to this development with any significant demarches,” Dubnov points out, because “the West isn’t burning with a desire to get involved one way or another in a way which would not bring them either laurels or dividends.”
Dubnov suggests that “the Kremlin has been ready to use this” as much as it can. Last week, media reported that Moscow had begun to distribute Russian citizenship to Armenians in Qarabagh; and earlier, only two days after the November 10 declaration, Putin received Aslan Bzhaniya, head of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia.
The Abkhaz leader had been seeking this meeting for eight months, but suddenly, Putin was ready to meet; and the two men signed an agreement which further integrates Abkhazia into the Russian Federation by eliminating restrictions on Russian ownership of industry and infrastructure there.
Many Abkhaz, just like many in South Ossetia, already have Russian passports; and now in the wake of the Qarabagh accord, there is the prospect that Moscow will organize “a certain post-Soviet space 2.0,” including both of them, Qarabagh and potentially the unrecognized regimes in the Donbass and Transdniestria.
Kyrgyzstan might be another candidate if the elections there bring to power someone Moscow can count on. But if Bishkek continues to vacillate, Dubnov suggests, Moscow will refrain from trying to absorb it lest it acquire a burden it doesn’t want at least under present circumstances.
What this means is that “the post-Soviet space 2.0” Putin is now working to build will not be about entire former Soviet republics but rather involve parts of them, something that raises the possibility that Moscow will try to promote more separatist movements possibly in Kazakhstan and elsewhere as well.