Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s interview with French television channel France 24 late last month (September 28) highlighted both current and future perspectives for bilateral relations between the two countries. At the same time, it sent a signal to Armenia, which has long presumed to have a much closer relationship with France (President.az, September 28).
The Cossack revivalist movement in southern Russia (and beyond) since the collapse of the Soviet Union is marked by two parallel tendencies. On the one hand, there is Cossack activism based on appeals to ancestral identity. This is geared not merely toward the revitalization of Cossack culture and way of life immortalized by Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Sholokhov but also toward convincing the Kremlin that, despite the Soviet-era reprisals, the Cossacks are still a force to be reckoned with, and that they could serve as protectors of Russian interests, especially in frontier regions. “The main goal of Cossackdom in the North Caucasus is to serve as the guarantor of Russian presence in this geopolitically important region of the country,” the ataman (chieftain) of a Cossack organization in the southern Russian Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia said in an interview in early October (EADdaily, October 7).
In its multi-domain confrontation with the West, Russia presumes that the main driver is the rivalry with the United States, while typically portraying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a sworn but disorganized enemy. However, it is in fact the European Union that is engaged in the most direct antagonism with Russia and regularly takes aim at the most rotten pillars of the corrupt autocratic regime upheld by President Vladimir Putin. Russian-US relations have remained on an even keel since Presidents Putin and Joseph Biden’s Geneva summit in mid-June; but the visit to Moscow last week (October 11–13) by Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, reconfirmed—tense as her meetings in the Kremlin were—that (uneasy) stability (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 12; Kommersant, October 14; see EDM, October 14). And while NATO was the designated adversary in the recent Russian Zapad 2021 massive military exercises, tensions between Moscow and the transatlantic alliance have subsided since (see EDM, October 12). The EU, on the other hand, has meanwhile continued to tighten its sanctions against Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, and expand the bloc’s relations with Ukraine.