27 November 2016

The Latest on Cold War II in the Balkans and Caucasus

The series of proxy battles and posturing continues. One thing is clear the lines are becoming more distinct and increasingly turning to battle lines.

Moscow scored diplomatic and geopolitical victories in Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) and Bulgaria by the pro-Russia candidates winning elections. The Moldovan situation is complicated by the pro-Russian separatist enclave of Transnistria sandwiched between Moldova proper and Ukraine. It's long been a hotbed of intrigue and a pro-Russian government in Chisinau will perhaps allow the situation to calm a bit... or it could inflame it. If the Dodon government allows Transnistria to join the Russian Federation it could lead to backlash. Or a disturbance (possibly stoked by Ukraine) could lead to an excuse for a NATO intervention. At this point no one knows, but clearly the victory of Igor Dodon in Moldova will be chalked up as an occasion to celebrate in Moscow. It's a situation that demands attention.

In addition Russia scored a diplomatic victory with regard to Armenia. While already an ally of the Kremlin and a host of Russian military bases, the Sargsyan government has decided to cement and formalise the relationship. This process began in 2013 with Armenia's joining of the Russian dominated Eurasian Customs Union (EAEU) much to the chagrin of both Washington and Brussels. In addition Armenian weapons sales to Iran have angered Washington and furthered the rift.

These actions taken by Yerevan are opposed by various frustrated factions within Armenia. Veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh War as well as expatriates being used by West are being encouraged and employed to stir dissent and it has occasioned some violence.

The RT link will be unacceptable to some and I don't endorse the views and opinions of Paul Craig Roberts. Nevertheless I do believe Western NGO's are at the very least aiding the protest movements and doing all they can to support political dissent. If they're not, that would be news.

Though the ties are hard to establish, there are also suggestions that figures like Raffi Hovannisian of Armenia's Heritage Party are a vehicle for US influence. An internet search will suggest Hovannisian has formed some sort of alliance with some of the anti-Sargsyan elements. While not out of the realm of possibility, the reports (at this time) are not yet credible or substantiated. Hovannisian's family has firm ties with the United States and he represents a textbook example of the type of proxy so often utilised by Washington. His 2013 presidential defeat would suggest that Washington isn't supporting him, but that's not necessarily the case. His role as opposition leader and rallying point can prove just as important for US objectives.

Some of the anger in Armenia is directed against Russia, due to the fact that Russia is also playing a double game and trying to woo Azerbaijan through weapons sales. But it's clear the United States and the West have won over Baku. While the Aliyev government has to tread a careful course and continues to purchase arms from Moscow it has become reliant upon Israeli military technology and its own forces are trained and supported by US special operations.

Both the EU and NATO have created alternate mechanisms to facilitate nations like Azerbaijan, Ukraine and non-NATO Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Sweden.

The Ukraine agreement allows for quasi-EU integration while at the same time allowing Brussels to avoid Ukraine's economic problems and the insurmountable barriers of a very different sociological order. With regard to the latter despite much of Ukraine's pro-Western orientation, traditionalism and conservative values still reign and varieties of Right-wing Fascism (utilised by the West) are still popular. The open borders will facilitate further Western influence as well as provide a blank check to black ops in terms of smuggling everything from money, drugs, weapons and personnel.

The West will continue through various mechanisms to focus on Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan and the Balkans. Russia will continue to focus on Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, and the Balkans. It is the latter that is becoming the real battleground and just like a century ago is in danger of becoming a powder keg.

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