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The Myths Playing and Colliding in the War in Ukraine

Photo: © UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson
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Myths do play in war. And legends in the history of war.  Temporal myths drive leaders and their armies to war. Legends venerate leaders and armies who not only win the fight but also brought peace and prosperity to their people. 

The Myths

Here are some of the myths I see that are playing and colliding with each other in the making and protraction of the war in Ukraine. 

  1. There is only one side of the story—Putin just wants to attack and conquer Ukraine

Russia is huge and has already what it takes to maintain itself and thrive. Ukraine does not.  Besides, Ukraine is large enough to conquer. For Putin, with significant intelligence background (more than Zelensky and Western leaders), conquering the whole of Ukraine does not make sense.

A more pragmatic view is that Putin is trying to protect Russia’s border from a perceived invasion by NATO via Ukraine, and secure contested areas mostly populated by Russians.  Biden’s lack of diplomacy allowed the conflict to escalate into war. And as the Pope pointed out the war was either provoked or not prevented. 

Portraying Russia as a threat to Europe is not sensible.  Russia is even having difficulty quickly winning the war in Ukraine, more so conquering the whole of Europe. The phobia of the Russian invasion of Europe is the residue of an imagined reality of the Cold War mentality. Unless, of course, there are deeply hidden agendas. One may speculate that the  Commonwealth of Independent States is a sort of revival of the Soviet Empire but Ukraine is also a part of it. And CIS is composed of independent states. It is no different from the British Commonwealth of Nations. CIS countries are more focused on their respective national economic well-being and political stability than war.

The pervading mindset against Putin is like the anti-Trump one, where the only truth is hatred against Trump and his visions of America. Yes, he was arrogant and rude.  Though I am not American or a supporter of Trump, candidly the vicious authoritarian anti-Trump hatred during his presidency was irrational. So is the anti-Putin spirit. And worse, we may strongly disagree with Putin, but propagating and praising Russophobia is pure racism.   

  1. Putin and Russia just want war, while Zelensky wants peace

On the contrary, Putin expressed a few times his willingness for diplomatic solutions while Zelensky is adamant about escalating the war.  Zelensky’s insistence may have been emboldened by Biden’s US and Stoltenberg’s NATO.  Did Biden just leisurely assent without deep cognition of the global implications of the war?  Is NATO anxious about its irrelevance in the absence of perceived and actual threats to European security?  

The worse scenario though for Zelensky’s refusal of diplomacy is having a delusion of the grandeur of defeating the powerful Putin and Russia. This is risky because the character played, if not judiciously redirected, may evolve into a Hussein complex, a supposedly loyal ally persona but eventually became obsessed with personal glory oblivious of the common regional peace and economic progress.   

  1. Russia is a rogue state that is always anti-peace and against global security

Browsing a historical overview on the US State Department website, I was surprised (pardon my lack of historical awareness) to discover that US and Russia did have significant constructive cooperation.  It included the unification of Germany (ironically Scholz now wanted to defeat Russia), global peace (including the Middle East), joint space programs, antiterrorism (both were victims), energy, and unexpectedly, even affordable housing for low-income families.  Bush Jr and Bill Clinton had diplomatic dealings with Putin, Obama had some, and probably had there been a chance, with Trump also. So, the assumption that Putin and Russia are always anti-global peace, anti-stability, and staunch enemy of the democratic world is erroneous.

Moreover, Russia is not a rouge backward country devoid of civility and decent culture. 

Contrary to the Cold War portrait of Russia that still lingers in our contemporary notion, Russia has rich and diverse fine cultures, advanced science, and technology, and civilized people. Russia is not a bare country merely populated by soldiers or mafias that just need to be irradicated. They have ballet, opera, diverse ethnic cultures that coexist with one another, space technology, religious tolerance, malls, and metro stations that are grander than many North American ones.  Ukraine also has a rich historical heritage that could just be wasted by the war that could have been resolved at the onset of the conflict. The demonizing of Russia is an irrational phobia based on the imagined ghost of the bygone Soviet Empire.  And, in some ways, the phobia is popularized by Hollywood and mass media still clinging to the stale Cold War mentality.

  1. Ukraine is and will be fine despite the ravages of war

Ukraine is not powerful enough and does not have enough economic resources to sustain a protracted war with Russia.  Its power is borrowed and not inherent.  Its country is devastated. Many of its people have left. It’s only winning in socio-psychological theatrics supported by some Western leaders (with their respective national detractors).   Even with more military empowerment, Ukraine cannot sustain the war without further death and destruction. Even if it defeats Russia in contested areas, its recovery to a bare minimum will still be a long way off.

And even before the war Ukraine was already tagged as the poorest country in Europe because of high corruption. Even amidst the war, its government is still corrupt. Corruption cannot be erased in a superficial one-day show. It is an embedded culture that takes generations to expunge, if not a radical revolution.  The expectation of more aid will even encourage more corruption.

With its massive destruction and greater risk to its grain export, prolonging the war can result in irreparable damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure, historical heritage, and economy. Ukrainians should learn lessons from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.  The only winners in those wars were the select few who benefited from them.  The horrible losers were their people and their countries. 

  1. Ukrainians just want to die as martyrs than make concessions for peace

The fact that many Ukrainians left their country indicates that like any other people in the world, ordinary Ukrainians just want to live in peace, raise their families, have a decent living, and work for their bright future.  Despite what Zelensky like to portray Ukrainians as doggedly committed to war, they don’t regard themselves as radicals (heroes in life or death with no negotiation with infidels), who are committed to staying, coming home to fight and would rather die as martyrs to free their country. Besides, it’s not their whole country that is invaded. And Biden’s US, Stoltenberg’s NATO, and von der Leyen’s European Commission should not be senseless enough to cheer up escalation to turn it into a more deadly global war.

Although as usual, political leaders are engrossed with their self-interests, or obsessed with their fantasy world, the masses are just concerned about living a normal life that offers them well-being and socio-economic mobility.  Ironically, the present supposedly “compassionate” Christian Western leaders seem to enjoy the show of the game of death instead of diplomatic resolution.   

Years back, as a fundamentalist Christian and then a fundamentalist clergy, I was deeply convinced that the only truth (in religion, science, culture, or even politics and food) in the universe is Christian. And by that, I meant not the whole of Christianity, but my particular sect. In college, my friends and I were even discussing our commitment to rather die of hunger than eat forbidden food like pork chop or lobster. My psyche only saw my self-absorbed notion as the only object of devotion and wanted to doggedly pursue it no matter what.  I see the similarity in Zelensky’s and the new Western leaders’ psyche on the dogged insistence on no concession for peace. 

  1. Ukrainians always hate Russians and vice versa

Interestingly, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine have a historical fraternity, and they all claim a common Kievan Rus cultural ancestry. Kievan Rus was a vast empire known as the “Lands of the Rus of Kiev.” Under the USSR, though their relationship was not always perfect, they did live as kinsfolk.  However, in contemporary times, Ukrainians, despite their original desire to be neutral, have their loyalty polarized by Russia and the West. This creates tension that results in detrimental conflicts. Had they remained neutral and not allowed themselves to be played by superpowers, their country could have been more peaceful. 

Candidly, Ukraine has become the European arena of Western versus Russian politics and religion. It is this polarity that sparks a deadly blow to Ukrainians.  Like Russians, most Ukrainians (except those in power) abhor war.  If most of them love war, they could have stayed and become martyrs of someone’s else ideological god as in ISIS.  But they don’t. They love peace and life more than dying for an ideological myth.

  1. Ukraine’s Territory is historically fixed and well-defined

Ukraine’s territory has evolved many times in history—ruled, divided, and re-ruled by her fellow Europeans. In fact, during the Cold War Era, Crimea was originally Russian but was gifted by The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet to Ukraine. Then lately Russia claimed it back.   While Ukraine and the West tagged Russia’s takeover of Crimea and related areas as mere aggression and unwarranted invasion, Russia claims that these are the lands and territories of their people. 

It’s unfortunate, that Ukraine’s story, even in its early history, is highlighted by the many dominations of its European kin. In the 20th century alone, it was dominated by Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and the USSR.  So, for Zelensky to ardently envision a free Ukraine is indeed a noble dream. But such freedom cannot be realized if Ukraine is devastated and remain entangled in Biden’s Western war against Putin’s Russia.  The best option is for Ukraine to work for mutual peace, establish its deeper political independence and neutrality, develop and utilize its resources (being the second largest country in Europe next to Russia), clean its government, and advance its socio-economic state. It’s in this latter field that it has the potential to compete with Russia. When this scenario becomes a reality, then this war will be legendary for Ukrainians.   

  1. Economic pressure on Russia will end the war without negative global consequences.

First, the economic pressure on Russia does not work. It creates more animosity and encourages others to join the conflict. Second, it encourages economic realignment and strengthens new alliances that could also hurt Western economic interests.  Third, we are in a global economy that is not detached from one another.

We cannot isolate economic pressure on Russia without global consequences. We already see the consequences of oil, natural gas, and grain supply shortages, and supply chain disruptions.  We live in a global ecosystem where a problem in one part either immediately or eventually affects the whole.  We are no longer living in a fragmented and separated ancient world. An unresolved issue can infect and spread throughout our entire global life system.

Post Script

Our global society needs to rationally and sensible address and resolve the conflict in Ukraine. We also need to seriously decipher the implications of the polarization of loyalties in the war. The European and Asian cases are wired and could explode at any moment.  Though some leaders may enjoy playing with their political hobby horses inside the luxury of their ivory towers, when this volatile matter burst into a global war, it will wreak havoc on our civilization more than Covid-19 does.  While science, technology, and medicine advance to make human life better, our politics need to be like these fields and offer humanity a better life and future. 

Alan Delotavo, Ph.D. (University of Pretoria), is a freelance writer and researcher from Canada. He was an assistant professor in social science and a former clergyman before becoming secular. He has a background in interdisciplinary anthropological studies, religion, and ethics and has presented scholarly papers at international conferences. Alan is presently focusing on alternative socio-political analysis and societal rebranding.

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Eastern Europe

Education: Armenia’s Path to Stronger Economic Growth

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Better education and a stronger innovation drive are crucial for achieving higher rates of economic growth and prosperity in any country. Countries that prioritize improvements in education – from the pre-primary to the university level – and innovation are better positioned to adapt to economic change and help raise the living standards for their people.

Education equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to the economy, with the ability to learn – and unlearn – continuously. Innovation involves the creation of new products, processes, and services that expand the capacity of enterprises and economies. In fact, the most innovative countries tend to be the most successful economically.

Take the case of Estonia. In 1993, Estonia’s GDP per capita was a modest about $6,480. In comparison, Japan’s was $24,000. Fast forward 30 years. Estonia’s GDP per capita was equal to that of Japan in 2022, at nearly $43,000. Estonia now boasts the highest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores in math, science and reading in Europe. A similar ‘miracle’ happened in Korea, a country that moved from developing country status to an advanced economy in just one generation. How can countries replicate Estonia’s or Korea’s success and achieve faster economic growth and standards of living that are like to those of high-income countries?

Through education and innovation.

Here in Armenia, education has been a priority since the country’s independence in 1991. The government has made efforts to increase the number of schools, provide free education for primary and secondary schools, and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. As a result, Armenia has a high literacy rate of over 99% and over 60% of adults have completed at least secondary education.

Yet, the education system is not producing the needed outcomes. Children born in Armenia today will be only 58% as productive during their lives as they could have been if they had received quality health and education services available. Armenian children are expected to complete 11.3 years of schooling. This decreases to 8 years if the quality of education is factored in. Pre-primary school and secondary school enrollment is low compared to peer countries in Europe and Central Asia (ECA). It is the quality of education that is the most pressing concern. Armenia’s TIMSS mathematics score – a standardized test for children in grade 4 – is one of the lowest in the region. The quality of tertiary education is below the ECA average: it is nearly 30% lower than Georgia, and half as low as the new EU member states. These outcomes are not surprising, given that public spending on education is just under 2.7% of GDP in Armenia, which is half that of the EU.

The World Bank is helping Armenia improve its education system, including through the Education Improvement Project, which is enhancing the conditions for learning across educational levels by extending preschool coverage, providing laboratory equipment, informing curriculum revisions, and improving the relevance and quality of higher education institutions. The many outcomes of the project include new preschools in rural communities, training of preschool teachers, and grants to higher education institutions through the Competitive Innovation Fund. Under the EU4Innovation Trust Fund, the World Bank is also helping improve the quality of STEM education. By September this year, Armenia will have a fully revised STEM curriculum for middle and high schools (grades 5 to 12), improved learning materials, school-based STEM laboratories and as well as enhanced student-centered instructional methodologies/teaching methods.

Education is essential but alone is not sufficient to drive economic growth. How knowledge is applied by firms, researchers and workers through innovation is critical. In Armenia, there is a disconnect between education, research, and the link to entrepreneurs and markets. For example, academic research in Armenia is dominated by the National Academy of Sciences which comprises more than 30 separate research institutes. None of these institutes are formally integrated with any teaching university in the country. There is also a proliferation of universities in Armenia, with 26 public (state) and 33 private universities; many of the latter, in name only. In Denmark, a country with almost twice the population, there are only eight state-recognized and funded universities offering research-based education.

Consolidating the universities in Armenia, merging them with the research institutes, and focusing government attention on accreditation could help address some of these challenges. It is also essential to reform the university admission process to incentivize talented high schoolers to apply. The government could also support the commercialization of research. In many advanced economies, universities are prodigious producers of knowledge and basic research output, and the private sector, the user of this research, is very vibrant. Without practical application, research may have little impact on the country’s growth potential.

Extensive work by the World Bank shows that human capital is at the core of efforts to strengthen innovation and technology adoption. In Armenia, as in many other countries, human capital is one of the main binding constraints to growth.

While the government has taken significant steps and has initiated important reforms to promote both education and innovation, more is needed to realize their potential. By making a greater investment in education and innovation, Armenia can build a knowledge-based economy that can help the country deliver a development miracle and elevate standards of living to those of high-income countries. The dialogue at the recent panel discussion on “Growth, Education, and Innovation” could help policymakers in their efforts to transform education and innovation in Armenia.

This op-ed was originally published in via World Bank

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Eastern Europe

The dilemma of China’s role as Mediator in the case of Ukraine

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Photo credit: Ju Peng/Xinhua

Since the full-scale Russo-Ukrainian war unfolding after 24 February 2022, China has maintained so-called neutral stance on the conflict, passively calling for a peaceful resolution. But on the anniversary of Russian invasion, Beijing popped up with concrete suggestions on how to end the war: China claimed its readiness to participate in peaceful adjustment.

Beijing’s peacemaking attitude and Xi Jinping’s legitimacy as Mediator were acknowledged by Putin during Xi’s visit to Moscow and the rumors about the following soon phone call between Xi and Zelensky spread, however, it is arguable whether Kyiv is truly ready to welcome China as the broker. The US, in turn, treated Beijing’s position skeptically.   

This piece elaborates on how China became Global Mediator of the 21st century and why now Ukraine is reluctant to accept Beijing’s brokering.

For starters, China is a realist actor across the domain of international relations. Kissinger states that Chinese leaders are making profound foreign policy decisions only when they do not lack the means to achieve the goals [Kissinger, 2010], hereby Xi knew that Beijing’s possible mediation between Moscow and Kyiv during first months of the war would not be realizable. The sides were not sincerely ready for a truce, neither Russia, occupied territories and continued advancements in Donbas, nor preparing counteroffensive Ukraine, backed by vast Western support.

Moreover, from realism perspective, peace achievement lies in accepting and adapting to the irresistible existence of powers involved in security competition [Mearsheimer, 2001] and peacemaking is most likely when there is no hegemon [Morgenthau, 1946].

China adhered tenaciously to aforementioned realist position by declaring that “the security of the country should not be pursued at the expense of others”, obviously referring to NATO’s strengthening and Russian lament about bloc’s eastward expansion. But such Xi’s mediation ceasefire proposition in the heat of the war would be found senseless by Ukraine and the USA, which were publicly committed to peace restoration by beating Russia on the battlefield and reestablishing liberal world order led by predominant power – the U.S.

Beijing had to prepare before ascending as Mediator between Kyiv and Moscow.

Firstly, China gained legitimacy as a global security provider. Ukraine fights for its land, but Washington made a geostrategic mistake by being directly involved in a confrontation with Russia: by imposing enormous economic sanctions on Moscow, tolerating Nord Stream pipeline sabotage and trying to end the Russo-Ukrainian war only by military means, not diplomacy.

While China proposes negotiations, the U.S. is only committed to the war continuation.

As a result, the USA lost worldwide recognized status as the sole provider of economic prosperity and global security; the unipolar liberal world order ideology became an American tool for maintaining the U.S. leadership and Western dominance at any price, despite the economic losses of others.

Therefore, some states, especially from the Global South, did not support American efforts to isolate Russia, perceiving Washington’s strategy as destabilizing. Instead, they opted for cooperation with China as an alternative planetary center within the uprising multipolar world order model; Beijing met the demand by launching Global Security Initiative, posing itself as a stabilizing Mediator.

Secondly, Beijing successfully proved its new status. China became broker between Iran and Saudi Arabia, helping two longstanding Middle East rivals to achieve reconciliation as well as détente, giving them solid security guarantees. Tehran and Riyadh restored relations without Washington’s participation and pleasingly deepened economic interaction with China.

Thirdly, concerning the Russo-Ukrainian war, Xi Jinping can become Mediator and repeat the historical brokering successes of pacification Russia achieved by such famous statesmen like Otto Bismarck and Theodore Roosevelt.

German “iron” chancellor, apologist of realpolitik, frequently played role of mediator among leading European nations in the 19th century, balancing their interests within spheres of influence. Balkans became one of such great states’ competition arenas, where Austria and Russia struggled to gain control over newborn Bulgaria and influence in the region. The war between them was prevented because Bismarck sagaciously established “League of Three Emperors”, through which mediated disputes between two empires, therefore he was known as “honest broker”.

American president contributed to halting the war between Russia and Japan in 1905. His wise brokering helped states to sign the Treaty of Portsmouth. Serving as mediator for combatants, Roosevelt induced two countries to make concessions on the most intense issues regarding reparations and territorial disputes, thereby sides reached peace.   

But while Putin acknowledges Xi as broker, Zelensky probably does not, due to Ukrainian survival dilemma – if Kyiv accepts China as a Mediator, it loses Western vital support.

Thus, there are three reasons why Ukraine is not enthusiastic about Beijing’s brokering, at least publicly.  

First, Zelensky has his own, approved by the West, peace plan. He wants Xi to take part in Kyiv’s “peace formula.” It assumes restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Russian troops withdrawal from occupied territories. Chinese “peace position”, on the contrary, suggests the immediate ceasefire and peace talks launch: frozen conflict, not total Ukrainian victory. Moreover, it does not stipulate the matter of Ukraine’s territorial restoration.  

Secondly, Ukraine is diplomatically, politically, militarily and economically dependent on the West, i.e. the USA. China, successfully mediating between Moscow and Kyiv, is the worst-case scenario for America, because intensifies Beijing’s global influence at the expanse of the U.S., which has different from Chinese stance on Russo-Ukraine war ending issue. The USA wants to preserve its worldwide leadership. Consequently, Washington will reduce its vital aid to Ukraine if China is chosen as broker. Kyiv needs to consider the stabilization puzzle, given the significantly suffered from the war economy.

Thirdly, Ukrainian ruling elite, opinion leaders and society are ideologically inclined as well as biased to accept West as only one party, which can help Ukraine to stop the war. NATO is seen as the sole security guarantees provider. Besides, there are many West-funded organizations and media outlets in Kyiv, influencing public narratives within Ukrainian society. So, even if Zelensky accepts mediation, economic support and post-war restoration plan from China, elites in Kyiv and Ukrainian society will oppose him, challenging his legitimacy. Zelensky risks repeating former president Yanukovych fate.

To sum up, it should be stated that China’s role as global security provider is inevitable, Beijing will continue to use its economic leverage to reconcile many conflicting rivals in the world. Thus, Beijing mediation option may be considered by Ukraine in the near future, but not today.

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Eastern Europe

Erosion of Russia’s Hegemonic Stability in the South Caucasus and Transition to Risky Instability



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In early nineteenth century, following the wars with Persian and Ottoman empires, Russia completed the invasion of the South Caucasus. The region that hosts present day Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia remained under the control of Moscow until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though the three countries were independent for a brief period after the World War I. Suppressing the independence movements in these countries along with the other parts of Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Moscow also acted as security provider in the region. In this role, Russia subdued conflicts between the subjects of the empire and also countered the intervention of external powers into “its” territories. This created a stability in the South Caucasus, as in other parts of the empire, dubbed by the theories of international relations as “hegemonic stability”.

In early 1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed and, subsequently, most of the newly independent states in the territories of the former empire ushered into inter- and intra-state conflicts. In the South Caucasus, Russia sought to manipulate and ultimately benefit from these flashpoints in order to preserve its influence over the region. Moscow’s support to Abkhaz separatists in Georgia and Armenia’s occupation of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in early 1990s helped the Kremlin recover its control over three countries of the South Caucasus. This translated into resurgence of Russia-dominated security order in the region in the post-soviet period but with more assertive independent states that sought to boost their sovereignty while minimizing Russia’s hegemony.

Armenia joined the Russia-led security and economic integration with a full membership at the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Azerbaijan, on the other hand, managed to build neutral and multilateral foreign policy and succeeded to resist Russia’s pressure thanks to economic independence of the country. The only country of the region, Georgia, that sought to escape Russian orbit and join the Eura-Atlantic political and military structures faced insurmountable obstacles on this path and remained in-between. Russia’s occupation of two regions of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) in 2008 has served for the Kremlin as the Sword of Damocles over Tbilisi’s foreign policy.

The post-Soviet hegemonic stability in the South Caucasus has been, therefore, more volatile compared to earlier periods. The occasional military escalations between Baku and Yerevan along with the war in Georgia (2008) manifested such sporadic disruptions of the regional security order.  However, in both cases, Russia succeeded to act as hegemon by recovering ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan and putting a de-fact veto on Georgia’s foreign policy.

Even during the full-scale military operations between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, known as the Second Karabakh War, Russia appeared as the only mediator with enough authority to bring the sides to ceasefire. Deploying its troops to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under the name of peacekeepers, Russia managed to complete its mission of deploying its troops on the soil of each of the three countries of the region.

Hence, in the post-Soviet period, Moscow managed mostly to preserve the security order in the region under hegemony of Russia. The Kremlin, however, has had to swallow growing security ties between Azerbaijan and Turkiye, but reacted more calmly to these ties as Baku demonstrated deference to Russia’s core national interests and concerns in the region.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow’s dominance established over the South Caucasus in early nineteenth century came under jeopardy for the third time after the post-WWI and early years of the post-Soviet periods. Facing an unexpected military debacle in Ukraine and massive economic troubles at home, Russia encounters challenges against its dominance in the South Caucasus, the region that has overarching geopolitical significance for Moscow.

This time the challenge to Russian power originates in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as Georgia avoids provoking Moscow and seemingly drifts away from its pro-Western aspirations. On the one hand, Azerbaijan criticizes Russia’s support to the separatist regime in the Karabakh region, tries to end the mission of the peacekeeping contingent, deepens its strategic alliance with Turkiye, increases its contributions to the energy security of Europe, and relies more on the EU’s mediation in the peace process with Armenia. On the other hand, Armenia defies Russia’s authority by distancing itself from Russia’s military bloc, builds closer relations with the European countries and the United States and invited a mission of the EU to monitor the security situation along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. The Kremlin reacted rather furiously to these developments and blamed the West on attempts to squeeze Russia out of the South Caucasus.

To the disappointment of Moscow, this signifies a decline in Russia’s dominance over the region, although it is now premature to say how this process will go on and whether this will end up with Russia’s withdrawal from the South Caucasus. The decline of Russian influence over the region creates a period which can be seen through the lens of the power-transition theory of international relations. According to this conceptual framework, the decline of the dominant power might lead to a conflict or war with the rising power as the latter becomes more assertive seeking to challenge the dominance of the declining power. This can be observed also as the emergence of a power vacuum in the respective region which other powerful state(s) might try to fill in which again leads to a conflict or war between the dominant power and rising power(s).

The present situation in the South Caucasus, thus, resembles the period described by the power transition theory. Other external powers, including Iran, Turkiye, the EU and United States try to benefit from Russia’s diminishing influence over the region and increases their power. Particularly, for Iran, the “encroachment” of the external players into the South Caucasus is inadmissible. The Russia-Ukraine war complicated the regional geopolitics for Iran as the European Union (EU) and United States have increased their influence in the South Caucasus by boosting their mediating role in the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, effectively sidelining Russia therein and deploying a monitoring mission to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in the aftermath of Prague summit (October 6). Against this background, increasingly closer relations between Israel and Azerbaijan and the emerging possibility of the formation of Israel-Turkiye-Azerbaijan trilateral cooperation platform further enrage the Iranian authorities.

Tehran is determined to use military and other instruments to fill in the power vacuum emerges in the region in the wake of Russia’s decline. In this endeavor Iran effectively enjoys the support of Armenia whose leaders try to use the Iranian card against their common enemies of Azerbaijan and Turkiye. The recently growing ties between Armenia and Iran have provided Tehran a useful chance to get into the South Caucasus more assertively and form a de-facto alliance against the two Turkic states. Towards this end, Yerevan and Tehran are clearly building up their cooperation in various spheres, including military and economy. Apart from aiming to boost bilateral trade turnover from $700 million to $3 billion, Iran is also discussing supplying combat drones to Armenia.

That said, the hegemony Russia acquired over the South Caucasus in early nineteenth century is fading and with it the security order it built in the region is rapidly eroding. This process might be accompanied by violent conflicts and wars amongst different regional and external actors. For now, the major security threat to the regional stability is Iran and the alliance it builds with Armenia.

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