As Russia flounders on its Western Front in the invasion of Ukraine, a new front has opened up, this time as a potential proxy conflict.
Russian ally, Armenia, in which 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are stationed, has found its conflict with Azerbaijan, which has a security agreement with Turkey, a NATO ally, rekindled as more than a hundred Armenians and more than fifty Azeris lost their lives.
Russia may find itself strained to support the weaker Armenia, which faced significant losses of both territory and lives during the last boil up of the conflict, demonstrating both Russia’s limited commitment to its security partners and unwillingness to directly intervene, and the effectiveness of Azerbaijan when provisioned with a large fleet of Turkish drones, pitted against aging Russian arms, and advanced defense systems designed to be used against fighter jets not low-flying smaller craft.
Modern Russia, of which more than two thirds has been under the administration of the expansionist Putin, has had a bloody relationship with its neighbors. There are half a dozen active border conflicts along its Eastern Front, and while its military’s current primary concern regards the troubled invasion in which many of its soldiers are tied up replenishing lost battalions, weakness around its external borders could prove tempting for neighboring states or separatist areas who are interested in seizing the opportunity to restart their own conflicts. Such actors may reason that while Russia is busy with Ukraine, their chances of success greatly increase.
Chechnya, Georgia, and Transnistria all represent major weaknesses that could be exploited, not to mention their disputes with Japan over the Kuril Islands and their expansive Arctic claims, represent massive vulnerabilities that could be exploited.
Should the West wish to destabilize Russia’s operations in Ukraine and erode its positions in the Caucasus, it could offer assistance to separatist forces and create diversionary conflicts that further strain Russian military resources, threatening Russia’s ability to effectively prosecute any its of its military aims.