Even as Russia is again engaged in a confrontation with the West, it is confronted by very real threats coming from the south.
The armed seizure of a police station in Yerevan conceals wider problems in Armenia. The country is used to public protests, and the Armenian authorities are used to overcoming them. But a younger generation is both more radical and more hostile to Russia than its predecessors.
The main debate in Abkhazia today isn’t about whether partnering with Russia is good or bad; it’s about the quality of independence (albeit, only partially recognized). Abkhazia has escaped Georgia’s political sphere of influence, but it hasn’t resolved the stalemate between the quest for statehood and factual dependence on Russia in the financial, defense, and security sectors.
A referendum on South Ossetia’s incorporation into the Russian Federation has been postponed until after the presidential election in the region due in early 2017. This means that there is still a large question mark over the optimum relationship between Russia and South Ossetia.
The warring parties in the Karabakh conflict, especially the Azerbaijani side, have decided to shake the status quo in the Caucasus. Violence could recur at any time and the latest fighting clearly demonstrates that the combined goodwill and cooperation of Moscow and Washington is no longer sufficient.
The twenty-one-year ceasefire in and around Nagorny Karabakh had been looking very precarious. A tragic outbreak of fighting there could be dangerous for the whole region.
Putin has little choice but to ask Ramzan Kadyrov to remain as head of the Chechen Republic. But doing so will reveal how indispensable Kadyrov is to the Kremlin and betray Putin’s weaknesses in Chechnya.
With parliamentary elections slated for the fall, Georgia’s ruling party is hoping that low energy prices will ensure victory at the polls. Once relatively independent of Gazprom, the government in Tbilisi is weighing importing natural gas from the Russian energy giant
The North Caucasus Islamists’ wish to join ISIS makes some sense. By joining, they would cast themselves not just as regional players but worldwide jihadists. The relations between ISIS and the Caucasus Emirate, however, have been fraught with difficulties.
Ramzan Kadyrov is setting himself up to be an alternative to Putin, an improved version of the original. But the original rarely forgives the man who dares to copy him.