The Ukraine Crisis May Trigger the Middle East and Caucasus Upheavals

The Russian military continues their advance into Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

While Russian soldiers have failed in their initial bombardment and subsequent attempts to decapitate Ukraine’s leadership, they continue pushing.

In contrast to what the West is focused on, the immediate effects of the Ukraine conflict go further.

While many people have talked about what China might do, two more places may start soon because of the Ukraine conflict.

South Caucasus

Firstly, warfare may return to the South Caucasus, where Russian soldiers entered 16 months ago to partition Azerbaijani and Armenian troops.

In November 2020, Armenians retreated and established fortifications outside the Armenian Dadivank monastery in the Azerbaijani province of Kalbajar. 

The Russians were comfortable and content with their assignment, which they viewed as both simple and career-enhancing.

They were elite forces that extended out along the new front lines, not just between the cliff overlooking the city of Shushi and Stepanakert, the seat of government of the self-declared Armenian Artsakh state Nagorno-Karabakh.

Although a ceasefire deal was reached, there remains no peace.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan demands the entirety of Nagorno-Karabakh and a large portion of Armenia, notably Yerevan.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin withdraws peacekeepers to send them to Ukraine, it may only be a short time until Aliyev chooses to resume his war of annexation and ethnic cleansing.

There are other problems as well, not just in the South Caucasus.

Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council deserves credit for striking alarm bells almost immediately about the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the Middle East. 

Arab Nations

Ukraine and Russia supply the majority of grain to several Arab governments, many of which face an urgent food shortage without considerably increasing prices.

While the Persian Gulf states may have sufficient reserves to cushion the shock, other countries, like Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq, do not. 

Iraqi protests have already begun, while Egypt has a longstanding history of bread riots in response to reducing subsidies and increasing bread prices.

The Arab Spring erupted, due to a widespread feeling that society and the economy abandoned the poor.

In Egypt and Tunisia, protesters deposed dictators, while civil war began (and persists) in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Nevertheless, no country has implemented significant economic reforms. 

Egypt continues to be a security state, while Tunisia has abandoned its brief democratic spring.

The issue today is not so much whether a fresh round of demonstrations will arise as it is whether governments will be able to suppress them when they do. In either case, the Middle East is in for a bumpy ride as food prices continue to increase dramatically.

Administrations in the United States have a strong preference for compartmentalization. The State Department and Pentagon split the world into several geographical divisions and commands, not all communicating and cooperating effectively.

Regrettably, what occurs in Ukraine does not remain in Ukraine. Russia triggered the tremor; the wave may be on the verge of striking.