By Paul Goble
The failure of the Yerevan summit of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OCST) to reach an agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit may not mean that Russia has “lost the Caucasus,” as some Russian commentators are suggesting.
But it is difficult not to share the conclusions of three others that the OCST is on its way to becoming yet another failed Putin effort at re-integrating the post-Soviet space, simultaneously showing both how much Moscow has lost influence over its neighbors since February and how all of its neighbors are seeking to go their own way.
Aleksey Roshchin of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies says that the failure of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to sign the final communique of the OCST summit in Yerevan not only means that the OCST “is losing Armenia” but that “the Russian Federation is losing the Transcaucasus (publizist.ru/blogs/113970/44514/-).
Moscow couldn’t insist on anything from Armenia because of the power of Turkey in the region, the analyst says, just as it couldn’t achieve the goals of the OCST intervention in Kazakhstan a year ago because of the power of China in Central Asia. And in both places, he continues, it is now every country for itself.
That’s especially unfortunate for Armenia, Roshchin suggests; but it is also an indication of how ineffective and weak the OCST now is.
Moscow political commentator Fyodor Krasheninnikov is even blunter. He argues that “the OCST now is an absolutely dead organization” which exists for only one purpose: so that Putin “will have something to tell voters about.” But even that use of the organization is becoming increasingly impossible (ehorussia.com/new/node/27376).
Moscow likes to announce that it is holding meetings, but they don’t really give Russia anything, the commentator adds. But at the same time, no one really seems likely to take the more dramatic step of actually leaving the grouping. Instead, they will continue to attend such sessions but these meetings will have less and less meaning for anyone.
And Ufa political analyst Dmitry Mikhaylichenko argues that what is happening with the OCST highlights a bigger trend: “Now,” he says, “is not the time for imperial ambitions” because Moscow lacks the resources to carry it out, especially because ever more of its neighbors reject and are prepared to resist any such moves (rosbalt.ru/posts/2022/11/24/1979519.html).
“The OCST was important for the support of imperial ambitions but now is clearly not the time for them,” he says. But the increasingly negative reactions of Moscow’s partners to its behavior, is generating resentment in Moscow – and that resentment may play a big role in defining what Putin will do next.