After the Georgia War, I argued that whatever damage Russia had done to its international reputation could be recouped with a demonstration or two of reasonabless and responsibility. I expected the demonstration to come in Abkhazia and South Ossetia themselves, but I underestimated the degree to which the conflict with Georgia was “personal.”
Instead, it looks like Russia has chosen the other two frozen conflicts of the region — the breakaway Moldovan province of Trans-Dniester and the breakaway Azerbaijan province of Nagorny Karabakh — to demonstrate that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were a one-off — Russia’s equivalent of the West’s Kosovo — and not a precedent with regard to separtist regions. Russia will be hosting the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Sunday, and has proposed a 1+2 negotiation format to Moldova (with Russia being the one) to replace the 5+2 format (with the U.S., EU, OSCE, Ukraine and Russia being the five) currently in place but inactive.
According to David Capezza of the Center for a New American Security, Russia’s renewed influence in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe is as much a result of NATO’s disinterest over the past eight years as Russia’s resurgence. But rather than a threat, he argues that Russia might be a partner, so long as NATO identifies its interests and reengages in the region:
As Cappezza puts it, the alternative is watching more of the region’s 5+2 negotiations become 1+2’s.