Vladimir Putin has long sought to portray himself as strong statesman and guarantor of stability, at home and abroad. Now the Russian president is grappling with successive crises among his country’s neighbors. It’s an unwelcome test of Moscow’s role as regional watchman.
From Belarus to the Caucasus, the Kremlin cannot leave the outcomes of these flare-ups to chance. Yet the post-Soviet region is atomized, Russia’s economic might is bruised and its leverage vastly reduced. There seems to be little appetite for military action, and Moscow has few successful models of engagement to draw on. It’s also no longer the only power in town as Turkey and others play a greater role.