Monday, February 1, 2021

Moscow has Lost Its Geopolitical Monopoly in South Caucasus and More, Samarsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 – In a follow on to his analysis of the negative consequences for  Moscow in Azerbaijan and Armenia of the Qarabagh settlement it has brokered and supported (, Ukrainian diplomat Aleksandr Samarsky turns his attention to another aspect of its geopolitical defeat there.

            The former Ukrainian representative to the Minsk Group and ambassador to Tehran says that Russia has lost its former “monopoly” on geopolitics in the region and that this may have serious “unwelcome” consequences (

            According to Samarsky, Moscow hasn’t been able to “defend its interests not only in its bilateral relations with the sides of the conflict but in a broader geopolitical context.” It has had to yield to Turkey’s expanded presence and the outcome of the war has negative consequences for it “in other regions of the CIS and even in the EU.”

            That is because, the Ukrainian diplomat argues, “Azerbaijan’s victory is the beginning of the collapse of the sadly well-known Russian strategy of promoting ‘a zone of instability’ around itself consisting of ‘frozen’ conflicts on the territory of neighboring newly independent states.”  Now, all can see that military force can play a role in ending such Moscow policies.

            “Russia has always viewed the CIS countries as the sphere of its exclusive influence, but as a result of the war, it already is ceasing to be the monopoly force player in that region.” And Russia has been “forced to accept not only Turkish influence but also [that country’s] military presence” – perhaps Russia’s “greatest geopolitical defeat” since 1991.

            “The only good news for Moscow and not only it,” Samarsky says, is perhaps that it will finally recognize the inadequacy of Russia’s potential for opposing powerful regional players like Turkey and begin to conduct itself in a responsible fashion,” the Ukrainian diplomat concludes.

            Moscow’s positioning of peacekeepers in Qarabagh has led some to proclaim Moscow the victor in the Qarabagh conflict and its diplomatic activity masterful, but what it has in fact done, Samarsky points out, is “in practice indistinguishable from capitulation,” the acceptance of something it never wanted and that will echo against it more broadly.

            Not only the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia can see this and are already adjusting their policies, he continues, but so too is the EU, which is interested in getting oil and gas from both regions along routes that bypass Russia. Moscow’s “masterful” diplomacy has now expanded its opportunities to do so.

            By agreeing to a land corridor between Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan, Moscow has handed not just Baku but Ankara a powerful lever, one that will allow both of those countries to send oil and gas westward in ways that will limit Moscow’s veto and that will give Europe yet another reason to give more support to these players.

            No one in Moscow concerned about Russia’s geopolitical situation can honestly say that all this constitutes a victory for the Russian side, however much Russian propaganda outlets and their followers insist otherwise, Samarsky says.   

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