A decade ago, it was just another down-at-heels vacation destination. But the Black Sea resort town of Sochi has been transformed by hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. And now, it aims to become a Russian version of Monte Carlo.
Armenians are seething over Russia’s possible role in the shoot-down of an Armenian helicopter near the frontlines in Nagorno Karabakh. Feelings of betrayal are such that the popular mood is souring on Armenia’s pending membership in a Moscow-led trade bloc.
Nine months after Kyrgyzstan and its largest investor outlined restructuring terms for the country’s largest gold mine, negotiations are again sidetracked. With parliamentary elections less than a year away, some lawmakers are once more beating the nationalization drum.
In Ukraine, Russia is widely seen as a troublemaker intent on destabilizing the government in Kyiv. But when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh, the longest current conflict in the Caucasus, the Kremlin is expected to act as a force for restraint.
When Azerbaijan served as chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, it scoffed at the spirit and purpose of the organization and moved vigorously to squash all forms of free speech at home. Now that Baku no longer holds the top spot, civil society activists are worrying about what Azerbaijani authorities will do next.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia suddenly found that its main rocket launch facility was situated in newly independent Kazakhstan. Since then, the two countries have periodically squabbled over the strategic Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The government crisis that erupted in Georgia earlier in November was originally cast as a struggle over the country’s geopolitical orientation. But as time passes, it seems the real fulcrum of contention is connected with checks and balances on authority, and the potential influence of unaccountable public figures.
There is a good chance that economic jockeying between China and Russia in Central Asia will intensify in the coming months. For Russia, Chinese economic expansion could put a crimp in President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan for the Eurasian Economic Union.