The Caucasus trap for Russia
Kremlin’s attempts to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict through mediation have failed. Following the Second Karabakh War in 2020, Russia began rapidly losing its regional authority. Moscow has violated its security guarantees given to Yerevan during the transition of Azerbaijani troops to the immediate borders of Armenia (including Jemruk). It significantly limited Russian military and political ambitions and provided tactical advantages to Ankara and Baku. Ilham Aliyev's influence on politics in the Caucasus has been massively expanded by establishing control over the Zangezur Corridor (2020) and the Lachin Corridor (2022). Moreover, it compelled Russian military formations to abstain from carrying out so-called peacekeeping missions. Today, the Kremlin's mediation function between Azerbaijan and Armenia has boiled down to forcing Pashinyan to accept almost all of Aliyev's demands.
The intensification of the decolonization process in Russia forces Putin’s regime to restrain its own territories in the North Caucasus. Since the international potential of Russia has significantly declined in all geopolitical directions, the Putin’s administration is trying to reduce axifugal trends on its southern borders. Moscow is increasing financial injections into unstable regions of Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, and Ingushetia, following the Chechnya's example. Kremlin mainly finances the construction projects for young people, various social programs, and so-called cultural and educational activities. Meanwhile, the local population increasingly expresses anti-Russian positions due to the intensification of mobilization in the region. The peoples of the North Caucasus realize that this is a deliberate Kremlin’s policy, aimed to destroy the national-patriotic layers. They realize that such an increase in monetary injections is situational and temporary. This position throughout international arena is voiced by representatives of the peoples of the Caucasus who aim to de-imperialize and decolonize modern Russia.
The Caucasian knot of regional problems cannot be solved with the presence of Russian occupying forces on the territories of Georgia. The destructive policies of the Georgian government in the region only delay, but do not cancel, the dismantlement of Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. While Kremlin is rapidly losing its geopolitical value, the Abkhazian and Ossetian proxy regimes are increasingly outspoken about the need for full integration into the Russian Federation, following the example of ORDLO. At the same time, all influential global and regional players are taking a wait-and-see position regarding Russian presence and preparing for a power reboot in Tbilisi in 2024. There are enough reasons to believe that the political elites of the Caucasian states will make maximum efforts in the medium term to secure the region from Russian "special operations" and other subversive activities.