Revived by the economic recovery it has witnessed in recent years, and not necessarily weakened by the global financial crisis, Russia is demonstrating itself to be an increasingly assertive political and economic force in the wider Black and Caspian Seas (BCS) basin. Exerting influence in the BCS region is a crucial element in Russia’s geopolitical strategy, given the region’s importance as an energy producer, and its vitality as a primary corridor for the transit of oil and gas to international markets. While seeking to control the region’s energy supply routes and opening up its domestic markets to commercial opportunities for major Russian corporations is Moscow’s overarching objective; the region is Russia’s “soft underbelly” from a security perspective. Russia remains highly sensitive to any efforts by the BCS regional states (particularly those among the former-Soviet Republics) to develop concerted political ties with Western partners (particularly with reference to the military expansion of the NATO alliance) and remains vigilant towards harder security threats emanating from the region to the Russian North Caucasus, particularly those relating to separatism and Islamic extremism.
Russian Geopolitical Power in the Black and Caspian Seas Region: Implications for Turkey and the World
Exerting influence in the wider Black and Caspian Seas region is becoming a crucial element in Russia’s current geopolitical strategy. Energy and security are two of Moscow’s primary concerns relating to the region. Turkey, the EU, and the United States, as well as international energy companies will have to be aware of the operational instruments which Moscow has been deploying as part of its geopolitical strategy in the region, which include: 1) inserting itself into the domestic political affairs of its post-Soviet neighbors; 2) simultaneously acting as a crisis mediator/peacekeeper and fostering regional tension to provoke further crisis; 3) behaving as the regional “strong man” in the name of protecting Russian minorities; 4) strengthening energy ties with other former-Soviet Republics in the region; and 5) striking bilateral commercial deals with select Western corporate partners and governments. The deployment of such instruments will ensure that Moscow’s approach to regional geopolitics will remain purposefully unpredictable and full of intrigue, and will invariably continue to take other regional actors by surprise.
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