Thoughts on the frozen conflicts in the space of the former Soviet Union
Frozen conflicts are a term used to describe unresolved territorial disputes that have resulted in de facto statehood for unrecognized entities. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the former Soviet space, where the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of several new states, many of which have unresolved conflicts with their neighbors.
One of the most significant challenges to resolving these conflicts is Russia's ongoing meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Russia's involvement ranges from providing military support to unrecognized entities, to using propaganda and economic pressure to influence the political decisions of neighboring states. The general consensus among experts and policymakers is that there can be no progress in resolving these conflicts without a democratic Russia that respects the sovereignty of its neighbors. Unfortunately, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has become increasingly authoritarian and aggressive, making it difficult for neighboring states to trust Russia as a partner in conflict resolution.
The consequences of Russia's aggression in the region are clear. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which began with Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, has resulted in over 13,000 deaths and displaced over 1.5 million people. The conflict in Georgia, which began with Russia's invasion of South Ossetia in 2008, has left thousands dead and resulted in the de facto separation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.
Russia's aggression is not limited to military action. The country has also used economic pressure and propaganda to influence the political decisions of neighboring states. For example, Russia has used its control of energy supplies to pressure Ukraine and other countries into making political concessions. Russia has also used propaganda to sow discord and undermine democratic institutions in neighboring states, such as through the use of state-sponsored media outlets to spread disinformation.
The root of Russia's aggression can be linked to Vladimir Putin's personality. Putin's worldview is shaped by his experience as a KGB officer during the Soviet era, and his belief that Russia's status as a great power has been unfairly diminished since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin's authoritarian tendencies are reflected in his efforts to suppress dissent within Russia, and his willingness to use military force to achieve his foreign policy objectives.
Attempts by neighboring states to swing from Russia's influence can often degenerate and create further instability. The example of Ukraine is particularly illustrative. When Ukraine sought closer ties with the European Union, Russia responded with military intervention, leading to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ultimately, the resolution of frozen conflicts in the former Soviet space depends on the willingness of all parties to engage in constructive dialogue and compromise. It is important for all sides to recognize the legitimate concerns and interests of their neighbors, and to work together towards a peaceful and sustainable solution. This will require a shift away from the zero-sum mentality that has characterized many of these conflicts, towards a more collaborative and cooperative approach. It will also require the support of the international community, which can play an important role in facilitating negotiations and providing assistance to affected populations. In the end, the resolution of frozen conflicts will require patience, perseverance, and a commitment to the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. But with the right approach, it is possible to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of the region.