After first trying to look the other way when Russia mugged Ukraine, Azerbaijan now has joined the international show of hands against the conquest of Crimea.
Aside from hitting its yes button in the United Nations on March 27 to declare Crimea's referendum on joining Russia invalid, Azerbaijan’s embassy in Kyiv issued a statement supporting the inviolability of Ukraine's borders. “Azerbaijan condemns extremism, radicalism and separatism in its every manifestation and once again confirms its adherence to the principles of sovereignty, independence and support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the embassy said.
Until this point, Baku has treaded the ground carefully on Crimea. Moscow, along with the US and France, is one of three mediators for the critical Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
But within Armenia, many believe that Yerevan, under Russia’s thumb for both energy and homeland security, was just doing Moscow’s bidding. Earlier on, President Serzh Sargsyan pretty much congratulated Russia’s Putin on a happy annexation, according to an official release. These moves prompted a diplomatic slap from Kyiv, though Ukraine has refrained from severing ties with Armenia.
Crimea is also very much a local issue for Georgia, which sees parallels with Russia’s military move into separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and its vote in the UN was the most predictable one.
It was the Georgian public that took the lead in the Caucasus for condemning Russia's encroachment on Ukraine through rallies, concerts and online campaigns. By contrast, Georgian officials, fearing that Georgia may be next on the Kremlin’s to-punish list, have thrown fewer stones over the Caucasus mountains at their burly neighbor.
The Ukraine situation, in the meantime, threatens to get worse before it gets better. Russia has amassed troops at the Ukrainian border, and US officials increasingly share Kyiv’s fears that Moscow may try to shoplift more of the country.
To boot, Ukraine's departed and disgraced ex-president, Victor Yanukovich, has made a surprise call from Russia to hold referendums in all regions of Ukraine and says he will be back home soon. Many Ukrainian observers suggested that Yanukovich can return to Ukraine only on a Russian tank.
Consequently, Ukraine’s fragile interim government is bracing for more trouble. And the Caucasus for more political shrapnel.