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Cool conflicts in Russia’s near neighbourhood

Published Monday, January 21, 2019

For many former Soviet States, proximity to a resurgent Russia has given rise to territorial conflicts and thousands of deaths. This paper looks at the areas of conflict, the causes of the conflicts, Russia's role and international attempts to broker peace.

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Cool but not frozen

For many former Soviet States, being in the vicinity of a resurgent Russia has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, as territorial disputes continue and – in some cases – escalate. Although these situations are often termed “frozen conflicts”, for those on the front lines they are far from frozen; significant damage is still being done to their lives.

Despite renewed international efforts for joint initiatives and partnerships to resolve these crises, the great ‘Russian bear’ dominates its near neighbours both militarily and politically and the present Russian leadership sees an interest in keeping the conflicts going.

Conflicts in Russia's near neighbourhood

Indications of President Putin’s determination to consolidate Russia’s borders and sphere of influence as he sees NATO‘s reach extend ever eastward have been seen in:

  • the annexation of Crimea and the seizure of Ukrainian Navy vessels attempting to enter the Sea of Azov;
  • a consolidated military presence in the Georgian territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia;
  • interference in the ethnic and territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in Nargorno-Karabakh; and
  • a significant number of troops stationed in Moldova (specifically Transnistria).

International mediation

Mediation by international organisations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the imposition of sanctions are showing limited successes; ultimately, the conflicts are unlikely to be resolved unless there is systemic change in Russia, which most commentators regard as unlikely.



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