Dec 13, 2016 | 16:44 GMT

3 mins read

Eurasian Partnerships on Russia's Doorstep

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Eurasian Partnerships on Russia's Doorstep

The states that lie between Russia and Europe will no doubt feel the impact of the political upsets occurring outside their borders in the West. Countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union have watched the changes with growing unease, and they are likely re-evaluating their stances toward the competing giants looming on their eastern and western flanks. All of them, from those in Eastern Europe to those in the Caucasus, will have to prepare for a new geopolitical environment in which Russia may no longer be able to be ignored and the West may no longer be able to be counted on.

As these countries reassess their situations, they will likely turn to each other for help. Ukraine will be particularly important to watch: For the past three years, it has relied on the West's backing in its spat with Russia over the eastern region of Donbas. But now, Ukraine cannot be sure that Western economic, political and defense aid will continue. Of its neighbors, neither Poland nor the Baltic states are in a position to fully replace EU or NATO forces, but they could form a supplemental alliance of sorts with Ukraine. In fact, Ukraine has already begun to ramp up its joint training and military exercises with Poland and Lithuania, and it will probably continue to do so. Ukraine, which is also working to reduce its dependence on Russian energy by reversing natural gas flows from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, will likely try to join their burgeoning energy network in the years ahead as well.

Like Ukraine, Georgia has become concerned by the potential withdrawal of Western aid. Tbilisi is currently engaged in a dispute with Moscow over the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it has tried to integrate more closely with the European Union and NATO. Both organizations, however, have repeatedly put off Tbilisi's requests for membership plans. Georgia will respond to the West's distraction by cozying up to two of its key neighbors and allies, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Tbilisi has already forged sturdy economic and energy ties with Baku and Ankara that will likely grow stronger. The three countries, meanwhile, now hold trilateral military exercises that will probably increase in scope and frequency, with the biggest exercises the three nations have ever held taking place in 2017.

The Ukrainian and Georgian blocs will undoubtedly encounter challenges in the months ahead. Turkey's reluctance to directly challenge Russia will influence the political dynamics of the Caucasus, while volatility in Ukraine could hamper Kiev's efforts to form a Baltic alliance. At the same time, Europe and NATO will by no means halt their activities in the region. But as the West becomes a more reluctant partner to the Eurasian states on Russia's doorstep, they will have little choice but to lean on each other for support.

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