In an article by Şerban Mihăilă published by the prominent media outlet Jurnalul in Romania, RSC Director Richard Giragosian offered his analysis of the Russian position in the South Caucasus in the wake of Russia’s failed invasion of Ukraine. The article, entitled “Former Soviet allies are turning their guns on Russia,” noted that “Russia's war in Ukraine has backfired on Moscow in several ways.”
Since the start of the conflict, Ukraine has received unprecedented military aid from a US-led coalition, Finland and Sweden have applied to join NATO, and the West has shown unexpected unity in imposing sanctions on Russia as well as renouncing the use of Russian energy. In addition, from Yerevan to Chisinau and from Tbilisi to Astana, the invasion of Ukraine has amplified fears of Russian aggression in some countries and forced others, considered allies, to reassess what confidence they can still have in their partnership with Moscow.”
Initiative lost in Armenia and Azerbaijan
In 2020, President Vladimir Putin was negotiating a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The deal gave Moscow the chance to build a military presence in the area - with 2,000 troops deployed in a peacekeeping force - and Putin cast himself as a skilled negotiator.
Now, at a time when Moscow's attention is focused solely on Ukraine, tensions are rising again in the vacuum left behind, and Azerbaijan appears emboldened by Russia's inaction.
Since December, Azerbaijan has blocked the only land corridor to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, leading to food and electricity shortages across the region. However, the Russian peacekeeping contingent, marginalized and most likely under-equipped, did not intervene.
“Not only is Russia distracted, it is simply overwhelmed by its failed invasion of Ukraine,” said Richard Giragosian, head of the Center for Regional Studies in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. “Russia has lost the diplomatic initiative regarding Armenia-Azerbaijan, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.
However, Armenia has remained dependent on Russia for security, energy and trade, which has nearly doubled in the past year. Directly challenging Russian influence in this country would be “suicidal,” Giragosian says. “Rather, the strategy is to challenge and change the unequal terms of the relationship.”
At the same time, however, the relationship became much more unpredictable. “For Armenia, Russia has become a much more serious challenge. The challenge lies in the fact that Russia has become a so-called ‘unreliable partner,’ and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, led by Russia, has become meaningless,” says the Armenian analyst.