The Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies (MIR) hosted Olesya Vartanyan, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, to discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine on the three breakaway regions in the South Caucasus on May 5.

Vartanyan, who is based in Tbilisi and previously worked as a journalist covering Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, outlined her role with the International Crisis Group before sharing recent developments on the ground in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh with both in-person and online audiences. She summarized her observations in three main trends: increased demands from Moscow for breakaway regions to demonstrate loyalty and support; fears that these regions will become a “second front” for mounting Russia-West conflicts; and threats to existing and proposed formats for negotiations and conflict resolution.

Vartanyan voiced concern that renewed fighting could spread along existing front lines – particularly in the vulnerable Nagorno-Karabakh region – while the international community is focused on resolving the conflict in Ukraine. She also spoke of the Georgian experience of “moving borders” and of painful memories of the Russo-Georgian war triggered by accounts of Russian occupation of Bucha, Ukraine.

“Where Something is Thin, That’s Where it Breaks: How the War in Ukraine Affects Conflicts in the South Caucasus” illuminated the dangers facing smaller nations in the former Soviet space and gave MIIS students the opportunity to connect with a courageous, prize-winning, and peacebuilding professional.