The pressure mounts along Moscow’s periphery. Ukraine’s parliament is currently working to pass a law that would enable Kyiv to expand its control of the Black Sea. The U.S., meanwhile, publicly blamed Russia for the stalled talks on the Ukraine conflict and described conflict resolution in places like Nagorno-Karabakh as important to Washington. Turkey also asserted its influence in the former Soviet Union when its foreign minister called on Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to enhance their cooperation with Ankara in support of regional development. And on Russia’s southern flank, reports of small acts of protest against the use of the Russian language and a growing sense of Kazakh nationalism emerged. Moscow’s sphere of influence seems to be contracting. As it does, countries on Russia’s borders will have more room to promote their national interests, while outside powers may have a chance to make inroads in the region.
The gap between U.S. and Western European defense priori