Russia’s Recent Moves in the Caucasus Are Part of Its Strategy to Keep Ukraine, the Middle East, and Other Areas in a State of Crisis

Earlier this month—just a year after the end the 2020 conflict—a short period of intense fighting broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Once again, Vladimir Putin, who has inclined toward the Armenians, stepped in to broker an “interim solution.” It’s worth noting that Baku has important security ties to Israel, while Yerevan retains warm relations with Iran. Amir Taheri examines what the latest flair-up says about Russia’s strategy in the region, and beyond:

[Putin’s] “interim solution” makes the regimes in both Baku and Yerevan dependent on Russian power for at least the next five years. It also keeps Turkey out, thus depriving Azerbaijan of a powerful regional ally. On the opposite side, Armenia is deprived of an opportunity to seek meaningful support from potentially sympathetic powers in Europe and North America. Moscow also benefits from its new military presence in the region by gaining control of borders with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Is the situation that has developed in Transcaucasia a model of Russian behavior in the international arena? Several examples could be cited in support of a “yes” answer.

By keeping [various] nations in a state of crisis with their neighbors, Putin achieves one of his two geostrategic goals: preventing NATO expansion to Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Because no country in conflict with its neighbors would be allowed to join the U.S.-led coalition, it is important for Russia to keep all those wounds open with its knife in them.

Russian activism in Syria and Libya, and its strange alliance with Egypt in the Libyan theater, are also calculated to exert pressure on the EU. . . . At another level, the openly pro-Russian path taken by the Khomeinist leadership in Tehran gives Putin another card to play with minimum, not to say zero, actual political and/or economic investment by Russia.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Middle East, Russia, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy