Biden Administration Set to Challenge Russia Across the Southern Caucasus, Sitnikov Says

File Photo of Tbilisi, Georgia and Environs, adapted from image at state.gov

(Paul Goble – Window On Eurasia – Staunton, Jan. 19, 2021)

The incoming Biden Administration in the United States, judging from the statements Joe Biden has made and the people he has appointed to key foreign policy positions, is set to challenge Russia’s status as the dominant foreign power in all three countries of the South Caucasus, according to Aleksandr Sitnikov.

Biden, Russians will remember, pushed hard for the US to back Georgia in 2008 and has always shown more interest in the South Caucasus than any other senior American official. Thus, it is no surprise that he is surrounding himself with like-minded people now and can be counted on to act on his impulses, the Moscow analyst says (svpressa.ru/politic/article/287533/).

During last year’s presidential campaign, Biden called Trump’s policies in the Trans-Caucasus those of “a bull in a china shop,” devoting particular criticism to the notion advanced by Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton that Armenia should cede Qarabagh to Baku, close its borders with Iran, and turn away from Russia, without getting anything in return.

Bolton’s remarks prompted Azerbaijan to prepare for war, recognizing that “with Trump’s departure, the situation would change significantly” and therefore Ilham Aliyev had to launch and conclude his war before Trump left office and Biden took over. During the war, Biden was critical of Baku but warned Yerevan it would have to end its occupation eventually.

According to Sitnikov, the US can no longer play the role in the South Caucasus that it had and that informed Trump’s approach. Moscow has stolen a march on it with its peace-making moves. He quotes Farid Shafiyev, a Baku expert, as saying that everyone there knows that the Democratic Party Biden heads is too indebted to the Armenian diaspora to work against Yerevan for long.

That means, the Moscow analyst says, that “Biden doesn’t have that many options” when it comes to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Presumably, he would need to try to force Baku to make some concessions of control and offer yet another “road map” of the Minsk Group kind. “It is clear that Baku will not voluntarily go in that direction.”

“Therefore,” Sitnikov concludes, “Biden will begin with Georgia. “He has always been interested in that country,” and he and his aides have been sending signals that they support its moves toward democracy and are prepared to consider Tbilisi’s desire to join NATO – or at least put it on the path to doing so eventually.

If Georgia becomes a member of NATO, Armenia, under the influence of Soros forces, Sitnikov says, will likely follow; and this will “have for Russia enormous political and military costs which will instantly increase the impact of sanctions.” Because that is so, the Moscow analyst says, Biden “’the peacemaker’” will create more problems for Moscow than Trump ever did.