Russia's invasion of Ukraine has had grave implications for the Kremlin's aspirations to remain a guarantor of security in Central Asia and has put relations with partners in the Middle East on shaky ground.
The war has resulted in an embarrassing debacle, claiming massive personnel, materiel and economic losses for Russia, and forcing the Kremlin to divert troops and resources from Syria, among other places, to Ukraine.
Russia intervened in Syria's civil war in 2015 on the side of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and has continued to pump in military, financial and humanitarian resources in the country -- until Russian forces were beset with failures in Ukraine.
"In recent months, Russia has reduced the number of its troops in Syria, ceded control over territory and reduced humanitarian aid," the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported in February.
"Experienced Russian troops are gradually being transferred to Ukraine and being replaced in Syria by rookie soldiers," it said.
Soon after the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow redeployed a squadron of Su-25 fighter planes, sending them from Syria back to Russia.
Then in August, Russia shipped an S-300 long-range missile system from the Syrian port of Tartus to Crimea, according to Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat International (ISI).
ISI captured images showing the S-300 anti-aircraft battery in Masyaf, northwestern Syria, in April 2022, and then the empty site on August 25, Reuters reported August 29.
Separate images showed the battery components on a dock at Tartus between August 12-17, but by August 20 they were gone. ISI concluded they had been transferred to a Russian vessel, the Sparta II, which left Tartus for the Russian port of Novorossiysk, on the Black Sea.
Russia has also virtually stopped its financial assistance to Syria, redirecting aid and humanitarian cargo to the newly annexed territories of Ukraine, Carnegie reported.
"Syria is still subject to international sanctions and has just undergone a devastating earthquake, so without support from its key sponsors, the situation in the country is bound to deteriorate," it said.
But even before the war in Ukraine, Moscow proved unable to properly support its partners in the region.
In February 2018, Russian mercenaries and their Syrian allies who tried to dislodge a small US force from a base in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, experienced the kind of combined-arms operation that Russia has never mastered, the London Independent reported in May that year.
In the Battle of Khasham, the Pentagon sent "Reaper drones, F-22 stealth fighter jets, F-15E Strike Fighters, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters" to decimate the attackers, the Independent reported.
Of the about 500 pro-Syrian-government fighters, including Russian mercenaries, involved in the offensive, between 200 and 300 were killed in the counter-strike.
None of the approximately 40 Americans was harmed in the battle.
There are also reports that Russian controlled Coastal Defence Cruise Missile (CDCM) batteries over the years have refused to support their Syrian partners during NATO coalition strikes.
The war in Ukraine has further destroyed the myth that Russian military equipment is top rate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long boasted about his country's new generation of "invincible" weapons.
Yet his claims did not stop Ukrainian forces from downing a supposedly "invulnerable" Kinzhal hypersonic missile last month or an Su-34 fourth-generation fighter jet in March.
Ukrainian missiles also sank two Russian warships within the first two months of the war: the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, on April 14, 2022; and the Saratov, an Alligator-class tank landing ship, on March 24, 2022.
Those technological defeats came after armies with Western weapons, including those made in Türkiye and Israel, regularly thrashed foes using Russian weapons in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan.
During a six-week war in 2020, Russian-equipped troops from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, the breakaway pro-Armenian region in Azerbaijan, suffered devastation from Turkish drones used by Azerbaijan.
A sobering spectacle for Central Asians
For Central Asians, Russia's abysmal performance in Ukraine has denuded the military's ability to protect them in a crunch.
After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Russia insisted on staying on as the "protector" of Central Asia. To this day, it keeps troops in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Those three countries are in a Russian-dominated security bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). CSTO member-state armies routinely perform joint exercises, and Russia is their primary weapons supplier.
Now the value of Russian military doctrine and technology has been called into question.
Even before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, perceptive Central Asians had their doubts.
"Russia, in the form of aid, gives Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan obsolete equipment, when it's trying to horse-trade for certain favours," international relations analyst Ruslan Nazarov of Astana said in 2019.
"How effective these vehicles and equipment will be under real combat conditions is a big question," he said presciently.
"The saying always was that Russia has a large, modern army," Justin Crump, a British military veteran and CEO of risk intelligence firm Sibylline, told Business Insider in 2022.
"We discovered that the modern part isn't very large and the large part isn't very modern. And the large part is increasingly getting smaller," he said.
Another problem for Russia: 'brain drain'
Russia's inability to protect its military and regional allies is also being exacerbated by the nation's unprecedented brain drain following the invasion of Ukraine.
With Russian men of military age fleeing conscription, and families and young professionals escaping to dodge crippling sanctions, there are few remaining with the ability to implement any changes that could address these significant shortfalls.
At least 500,000 and up to 1 million Russians -- including high-ranking officials, industrialists, celebrities and skilled tech workers -- left the country in the year following the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to independent estimates.
The exodus reached a peak last September when the Kremlin ordered the draft of 300,000 men, causing panicked traffic jams at Russian borders with countries like Kazakhstan, Georgia and Mongolia that still allow Russian citizens to enter without restrictions.
The loss of engineers and scientists will further harm Russia's struggling arms industry, already affected by the shoddy performance of Russian weapons in Ukraine and by the reluctance of potential buyers to risk being sanctioned by the West.
Resorting to attacks on civilian targets
Unable to protect its military and regional allies, Russia has resorted to targeting cities, civilians and critical infrastructure for political gains.
March 2022 was the deadliest month of the war for civilians, according to the United Nations. At least 500 civilians were killed in Russian rocket and missile attacks on apartment blocks and public buildings, Ukrainian authorities said that month.
"We assess that Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure and non-military targets, with the purpose of needlessly harming civilians and attempting to instil terror among [the] Ukrainian population," a Pentagon official said last October.
Examples of this strategy are a daily occurrence.
On June 13, for example, nighttime Russian missile strikes on infrastructure including a five-storey apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih killed at least six civilians.
Six missiles had hit five civilian sites, and two more people died in a food storage facility that was also struck, he said.
As in Syria, Russia's strikes have not spared hospitals in Ukraine.
More than 1,000 attacks on healthcare systems in Ukraine have been recorded since the start of the Russian invasion, more than in any other humanitarian emergency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said May 30.
"The 1,004 WHO-verified attacks over the past 15 months of full-scale war have claimed at least 101 lives, including both health workers and patients, and injured many more," the WHO said.