Russia Direct releases a new report that analyzes the strategic factors that could play a major role in determining the outcome of not only the Ukraine crisis, but also the frozen conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh.
An elderly Ossetian woman stands in front of the house destroyed during a Georgian assault in Tskhinvali, the regional capital of Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. Photo: AP
With increasing tensions in Eastern Ukraine, there are now fears that the Ukraine crisis will lead to the thawing of frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space and have grave implications for both Russia and the West. The new Russia Direct report “Frozen Conflicts in the Post-Soviet Space” outlines Moscow’s major challenges in resolving these conflicts and offers a road map of how to minimize the consequences of these conflicts.
The report describes Russia’s overarching security concerns in the post-Soviet space, analyzes the important factors at play in each of these frozen conflicts and provides an overview of Russia’s new red lines in the region.
Video by Pavel Gazdyuk
In addition, the RD report includes case studies of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as interviews with Vitaly Ignatiev, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Transnistria, and Sergei Markedonov of the Russian State University for the Humanities. It also provides a list of recommendations for normalizing U.S.-Russian relations from a former U.S. diplomat in Moldova, William Hill, Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in Washington D.C.
Hill argues that, as conflicts have broken out in the post-Soviet space, the Western strategy has been to support the territorial integrity of states such as Georgia and Moldova. However, this approach is now being tested during the current Ukraine crisis.
According to another author of the report, Nikolay Silaev, a political scientist and a Caucasus specialist from Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University), the war in Ukraine has underlined how inherent contradictions between the former Soviet republics could turn into new conflict zones threatening the stability on Russia’s borders and on the European continent more generally.
Silaev argues that Russia “plays a dominating role” in the post-Soviet space and, according to him, this is not “the result of a deliberate policy, but simply due to its overall economic, political and military power.”
“This dominance will continue at least for the next decade, and will remain an important factor in post-Soviet relations,” he writes.
At the same time, Hill believes that Russia, as the largest state in the region, with deep historical, cultural, economic and personal ties with the other states and peoples in the region, should play an important role in resolving all these conflicts.
“No reasonable person would argue that Russia has no interests and should have no influence in its neighbors and the states in the region,” he admits.
Hill points out that, “The key objection of many Western officials and observers is how Russia has chosen to pursue those interests and to exercise that influence.”
“Coercive measures, such as embargoes on Moldovan wines, fruits, and vegetables; prohibitions on Georgian wines and mineral water; or threats to reduce or cut off natural gas deliveries to Ukraine, seem more likely to make more enemies in those countries than to convince policymakers to adopt positions favorable to Russia,” Hill explains.
“Such coercive reactions also provide more ammunition for that group of Western policymakers and observers which argues that Russia is simply bent on dominating the countries around it, and, therefore, must be met with further sanctions and isolation,” writes Hill.
Silaev also argues that one challenge that prevents the resolution of these protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space results from the different approaches of Russia and the West of how to deal with these problems. And both sides should admit that.
“Russia and its Western partners would be advised to recognize that they cannot be totally neutral in resolving conflicts in the post-Soviet space,” he wrote. “The circumstances do not suggest a common approach to resolving these conflicts. The major international players who mediate — or claim to mediate — conflicts should remember that the prospects for settlement depend on the willingness of the parties involved.”
Given that the 20-year history of conflict resolution in the post-Soviet space is littered with failed peace initiatives, “a broad, equitable and mutually-binding discussion of security in Europe is still relevant,” Silaev concludes. “The events of recent years should have convinced everyone on the continent that attempts to build such a system on the basis of unilateral action by NATO or the European Union are counter-productive.”
What are the Kremlin’s new red lines in the post-Soviet space? Will Moscow, Brussels and Washington be able to find common ground? What should Russia and the West do to resolve the protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space? Find forecasts and recommendations from Russian and Western experts in the full version of the Russia Direct report. To download the report, subscribe to Russia Direct.