Russia Plays Conciliatory Role in ‘Other’ Frozen Conflicts

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:

Cooperation is essential to securing a NATO-Russia partnership, yet itremains unclear as to what the strategic goals of the partnership are,specifically NATO’s interests in Eastern Europe. NATO and Russia needto define and understand their individual strategic visions and wheretheir interests are. In turn, cooperative exercises, such as thosediscussed in Rome, can serve as venues to further bolster thisrelationship.

As Cappezza puts it, the alternative is watching more of the region’s 5+2 negotiations become 1+2’s.