Geopolitical stakes are high as turmoil potentially threatens route of Russia-China Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline
by M.K. Bhadrakumar December 15, 2022
„Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a TV interview in Moscow on Sunday, when asked about where the relationship between Russia and the West is moving, “Well, we are not moving. We have already arrived at a station named ‘Confrontation,’ and we have to be reserved, strong, to have underlying strength because we will have to live in the environment of this confrontation.”
There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the conflict in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin said recently that Moscow’s near-total loss of trust in the West would make an eventual settlement over Ukraine much harder to reach, and warned of a protracted war.
In such an apocalyptic scenario, Russia’s immediate neighborhood is turning into severely contested zones of superpower confrontation, as the US and the European Union try to encircle Russia with a ring of unfriendly states.
Such confrontation can take different forms. In the Transcaucasian region, Western efforts aim to replace Russia as the arbiter between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU has presented itself as an alternative to Russian mediation and peacekeeping.
Moscow viewed such attempts rather complacently initially but has lately begun worrying that the ground beneath its feet is shifting in Transcaucasia.
The Western ploy is incrementally to elbow out the Russian peacekeeping force deployed to the region after the renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan last year over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Moscow plays both sides in the conflict and, quite obviously, the trapeze act is very delicate and taxing. Thus, in the period since Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine began on February 24, the EU has succeeded in establishing a “monitoring mission” in Armenia and is advancing its plan to establish an OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission to the region, which will challenge Russia’s monopoly in peacekeeping on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
Another active theater of contestation is Kazakhstan, where the West is constantly working to erode that country’s close relations with Russia.
Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy aimed at attracting Western investment has created pro-Western interest groups among the country’s elites. Kazakhstan’s nationality question also creates sensitivity in its relations with Russia. Kazakhstan is a high-stakes game for the West, as it borders China, too.
In comparison, the covert Western role in fueling the recent clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as in encouraging Dushanbe to provide a “transit corridor” for the anti-Taliban rebels in the Panjshir Valley poses a direct challenge to Russia in the security sphere.
But much to the disappointment of the US, as tensions between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan flared last September and soldiers from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan exchanged gunfire along several points of the countries’ undemarcated border, Moscow and Beijing chose to remain on the sidelines.“ (…)
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