One significant difference is created by the eruption of revolutionary energy in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of this year, which has shown with shocking clarity that stagnant dictatorships can collapse from absurdly insignificant triggers with no external conspiracies.
The fiasco in Kazan is a very personal setback for President Dmitry Medvedev who has invested much effort in this mediation seeking to gain a better entry in the history books than a Commander-in-Chief who took holidays on the eve of the war with Georgia and compensated by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Experts have been speculating about such scenarios for years measuring the grain of salt to take with the increasingly militant official rhetoric in Baku, and this created a body of prophecies, which could turn out to be self-fulfilling. Medvedev cannot check these dangerous dynamics but the problem is more than just his inability to compel the two parties to behave. It is useful to remember that Moscow’s failure to organize a peacekeeping operation in Karabakh back in 1994 was caused by the deepening instability in the North Caucasus leading to the first Chechen war. The North Caucasus is now again engulfed by violence, which cuts into the much-valued political stability of the country and threatens to undermine its integrity. Stagnating Russia cannot project any stability in its neighborhood, the feebleness of its leadership aggravates every conflict from the brewing revolution in Belarus to the state failure in Kyrgyzstan, and Karabakh could become an “angry bird” that hits the shaky construct of collapsible institutions.