Biden’s rhetorical support for the region will make it easier for Central Asian and South Caucasus governments to bring their issues to Washington's attention. But a Biden administration may not have the bandwidth to take on many new problems.
With no end in sight to the renewed fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, this episode of the Carnegie Moscow Center English-language podcast focuses on the roles of Russia and Turkey in the conflict.
Russia may have reasons to help its ally Armenia, but it has no reason at all to punish Azerbaijan, which has been an example of model behavior among the former Soviet states, as far as Russia is concerned.
The Europeans and Americans may groan about this faraway conflict in the hills of the Caucasus, but they will ultimately have to engage with it more seriously—and in partnership with Russia, whatever their differences on other issues.
The most likely scenario amid renewed clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a battle for small and not particularly important pockets of land, allowing for the symbolic declaration of a victory. But raising the bar in a conflict makes it very difficult to stop as planned.
It’s in neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan’s interests for Russia to pick a side in their conflict: Nagorno-Karabakh would go from being a unique place where Russia and the West cooperate to yet another theater for their rivalry, with all the ensuing risks and dangers.
The rich history of law enforcement in the family of Ingushetia’s new head, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, contains some hints as to the Kremlin’s new political logic on the North Caucasus. What’s important is that the heightened influence of the Chechen leadership in other parts of the North Caucasus does not figure in the interests of the security services, though when the previous head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov resigned, there was much talk of that growing influence: specifically, that relations between Yevkurov and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had been strained.
The beleaguered former presidents of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are both typical clan leaders with notable numbers of supporters. Both cases illustrate clearly how complex and risky the process of handing over power remains in the post-Soviet arena.
The recent events have both damaged the Georgian government’s domestic legitimacy and spelled an end to its thaw with Russia.
In post-revolutionary Armenia, the old ruling elite has had to come to terms with new realities. Chief among these is the power of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose electoral bloc and allies now control parliament. Those who deny or challenge Pashinyan’s dominance risk having their companies audited and their homes searched, and even being arrested; not even former presidents are safe. Hence the decision of many Republican Party figures to acquiesce to or join Pashinyan, whose measured approach has so far allowed him to avoid conflict with either the public or the old ruling elite.