Amid the war in Ukraine, Moscow continues to build bridges in the Middle East.
As more Russians flee to neighboring countries and more nationals of those countries go to fight in Ukraine, their governments will find it increasingly difficult to ignore these developments.
The longer the conflict rages and the more resources the Russian regime throws into the furnace of war, the more isolated Putin may become in his bid for nuclear escalation.
If the perpetrator was Russia, the signaling value toward the West—which would certainly know Russia is behind the explosions—may be a threat to the rest of the marine energy infrastructure.
Rapidly unfolding events in Russia are effectively transforming the conflict in Ukraine from a “special operation” on someone else’s territory into a war to defend supposedly Russian land.
Russia has proven that it knows how to be a master of distraction and how to take advantage of ethnic cleavages, bolster hardline nationalist politicians, and complicate the region’s lagging reform agendas.
More frequent military failures and defeats will exacerbate the split between the war’s supporters and increase the risks for Putin’s political leadership.
Given Ukraine’s successful counterattack, the fighting there isn’t going Russia’s way. Nor is the gas supply situation in Europe nearly as grim as Russian propaganda makes out. In these circumstances, Putin finds he does not have so many ways of putting pressure on the West at his disposal. Threatening to torpedo the grain deal is one of his few remaining options.
The war in Ukraine has enabled Kazakhstan’s Tokayev to reinvent himself as a truly independent figure, no longer reliant on either his predecessor Nazarbayev or Russia’s Putin. Now Tokayev hopes to cement this status by securing a popular mandate to rule.
It’s true that Ukraine’s oligarchs corrupted the Ukrainian state and undermined effective reform and development, preventing it from escaping from its post-Soviet stagnation. But they were also a key protective mechanism against anyone else usurping power.