The United States' efforts to make inroads into Russia's borderlands will, in turn, shape Moscow's own actions against the West
In the Caucasus, Washington will focus its attention on strengthening ties with the Armenian government. Armenia has traditionally been one of the closest and most loyal allies of Russia — the country is a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization military bloc — but political tensions have emerged between Armenia and Russia in recent months following the rise to power of opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan in April's Velvet Revolution. The United States hopes to exploit these tensions by driving a wedge between Armenia and Russia — something it has already tried to do, as evidenced by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton's visit to Armenia last month, when he expressed the United States' interest in selling weapons to Armenia. Moscow has viewed Bolton's offer as a direct challenge, as Russia currently has a monopoly on weapons sales to Armenia, as well as 5,000 troops in the small republic. While Armenia is ultimately unlikely to abandon its strategic alignment with Russia, political frictions between the two could offer the United States an opportunity to chip away at a key ally on Moscow's periphery.
Armenia's major adversary, Azerbaijan, will also attract U.S. attention, particularly when it comes to pressuring Iran. Azerbaijan's relationship with its southern neighbor will come under strain as the government seeks to maintain its foreign policy balancing act by switching gears to participate in the U.S. containment strategy against Tehran. Indeed, Azerbaijan already stopped purchasing natural gas from Iran before U.S. sanctions came into effect against the Islamic republic on Nov. 5, and it is likely to decrease economic ties with Tehran further this year. At the same time, the United States will also increase security support and conduct more military exercises with Georgia, the only country in the region that is actively pursuing European Union and NATO integration.
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