In the first two parts of this series, I outlined Russian foreign-policy priorities as each relates to the state’s national interests. I have examined how those drivers have converged to begin impacting conflict zones in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the past 12 months. Over the last few months, I have focused most of my contributions on a series of conflict zones I have categorized as fracture points. Generally, these areas constitute pressure points in the intensifying conflict between the West and its adversary, Russia. Among the fracture points I have examined are Donbas (Ukraine), Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan and Armenia), and the Georgian breakaway separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
These fracture points represent valuable terrain for Russian policy strategists. Among the geopolitical battlegrounds where Russia and the West are wrestling for control are areas in which external forces could easily catalyze another war in Eastern Europe. Many of these areas have been characterized as “frozen conflicts.” Frozen conflicts, loosely defined, are places where ongoing separatist campaigns have been drawn out and, while ceasefires may have limited recent violence, the territorial conflicts remain unresolved. These frozen conflicts are, in large part, byproducts of the Cold War era. The failure of Western and Russian leaders to anticipate potential ethnic and political conflicts as borders were redrawn in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union contributed to the present-day conflicts already plaguing or threatening to erupt in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
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