Russia can no longer adequately fulfill its role as a force for order and guarantor of stability in many areas of the former empire. Putin himself felt that too.

In 1922, one hundred years ago, the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” was founded; 69 years later it fell apart. Thereafter, most of the former republics of the Soviet Union selectively cooperated in the loose, inefficient, “Commonwealth of Independent States.”

However, only the CSTO defense alliance and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) were relevant, although only a few of the former Soviet republics took part. But these alliances, led by Russia, are increasingly coming up against integrative limits.

Due to Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine and the poor performance of the Russian army, there have been withdrawal movements by Russia in recent months. On the one hand, the war against Ukraine initially increased fears of a revisionist Russia that could also attack other states.

On the other hand, the alleged military strength of the Russian army has been demystified and Putin’s authority in Russia’s neighboring states has been significantly reduced. So the war had ambivalent effects on how Russia was perceived by its neighbors.

Russia can no longer adequately fulfill its role as a force for order and guarantor of stability in many areas of the former empire. Despite leading a collective defense alliance, Russia has failed to prevent or help resolve the border war between the Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Gerhard Mangott is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna

Also in the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Russian power of mediation is lost. Despite the stationing of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijani attacks on Armenian territory could not be prevented in recent months.

In this conflict, too, the CSTO failed; Armenia received no military support from the alliance, although it had expected Russian help. The Armenian government’s dissatisfaction with this is shown by the fact that Prime Minister Pashinyan did not sign the final declaration of the CSTO meeting two weeks ago.

The lack of Russian military stabilization aid can of course also be explained by the Ukraine war, in which the majority of Russian armed forces are deployed. However, if Russia is unable to credibly provide security guarantees, the states in the post-Soviet space will increasingly turn to other actors.

Kazakhstan in particular has significantly intensified its diplomatic contacts with China and the EU in recent months. The EU has an interest in reducing Russian influence in Kazakhstan and making the country less economically dependent on Russia. China, which previously accepted Russia as the dominant security guarantor in Central Asia and concentrated on its economic role in the region, is now clearly softening this self-restraint.

Even an economically weakened Russia, especially as a result of the sanctions, loses its attractiveness as a trading partner. This also weakens cohesion in the Eurasian Economic Union. In any case, the implementation of the goal of establishing a common market in the EAEU has only progressed slowly.

The Russian leadership is reacting to these developments with unease, but at the same time has to accept that it has clearly lost its appeal as a military and economic anchor in the region. This goes as far as humiliating Putin, who has had to wait minutes for his interlocutors at various regional meetings in recent months.

Until now, it had been the other way around: Putin was notoriously late for talks. This protocol detail alone shows the shift in the interests of previous Russian allies.

All of this adds up to the strategic costs of the Ukraine invasion. If the Russian victory in Ukraine also fails to materialize, Putin’s decision to invade will actually have to be classified as a serious strategic mistake.