Russia and the Unresolved Conflicts in Eurasia

Relations between Russia and the West have normalized greatly since the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. While the war initially led to questioning of Russia’s credibility as a mediator in Eurasia’s other conflicts, such criticism has taken a backseat to the improvements in relations that have followed. However, while Russia’s policies toward the West have changed, this article suggests that Moscow continues to pursue the quest for a zone of privileged interests in Eurasia, and that a chief instrument in this respect is the manipulation of unresolved conflicts. While Russia continues to undermine Georgia by other means, its role in the conflicts over Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh have not changed. In Transnistria, Moscow has failed to respond constructively to German efforts to move toward a resolution, even though the German initiative has gone out of its way to accommodate Russian interests. In the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Moscow took the lead in revitalizing peace talks in November 2008, only weeks after the conclusion of the war in Georgia. This suggested that Moscow instrumentalized the peace talks in order to consolidate its position in the South Caucasus rather than seeking to function as an honest broker; this fact, along with continued arms sales to both parties, revealed a lack of credibility as a negotiator that ensured the talks would not succeed. Thus, Moscow’s policies continue to form a leading obstacle to conflict resolution in the post-Soviet space.

Authors: Svante E. Cornell