In part one of Russia and the West: Beyond Ukraine, I laid out the national priorities and goals of the Russian government in fomenting violent conflict in zones where well-supported insurrectionist movements strive to cultivate an environment of separatism and, ultimately, independence for the separatist regions. In part two, I will examine Russian efforts to dominate the national priorities of states in the post-Soviet space and assess the likelihood for conflict in specific regions of significant insurrectionist movements.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia comprise two large parts of what is commonly referred to as Eurasia. After the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922, Moscow’s policies dominated the local economies of what now exist as independent states.

Eastern Europe and the Caucasus

By destabilizing Ukraine, Moscow has effectively eliminated Ukraine’s bid for near-term integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). However, the events taking place in Donbas have elicited fears in places such as Moldova and Georgia, which failure to cooperate with Moscow on important issues of its foreign policy, could elicit interference by Russian intelligence and military forces in separatist areas such as Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Eastern Europe, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Spiridon Ion Cepleanu
Eastern Europe. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Spiridon Ion Cepleanu)

The recent presidential election in Abkhazia, outlined in my previous articles both here at SOFREP and at Foreign Intrigue, signaled a renewed dissatisfaction with Georgian efforts to reintegrate the breakaway region firmly under administrative control of Tbilisi. Simultaneously, Russian efforts to reignite the insurrectionist campaign in South Ossetia, reflected in recent infrastructural improvements and policies marginalizing ethnic Georgians in the breakaway region, reinforced an established separatist campaign with a renewed sense of purpose. Moscow’s efforts to target the tension-addled separatist regions such as Crimea, Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia have contributed to instability in Eastern Europe.

The most intriguing of the possible insurrectionist resurgences could happen in Moldova. The thin slice of land occupying Moldova’s eastern territory, bordering Ukraine, is Transnistria. Having been in a state of ‘frozen conflict’ since the fracturing of the Soviet Union in 1991, Transnistria represents a powder keg – a tinderbox of potential conflict that could be very easily ignited with interference by and support of Russian intelligence services.

Găgăuzia, another region in Moldova with separatist ambitions, could follow suit and pull apart the territorial integrity of Moldova, fracturing the country. Recently, the European Union Parliament ratified an association agreement, ostensibly paving the way for the codification of ties between the European Union and the former Soviet republic. I noted recent events in Moldova (and the Caucasus) in my article at Foreign Intrigue, titled Another Look: Ukraine, Russia, and Moldova (A Preview). I will expand upon the significance of recent events involving Moldova in my next article here at SOFREP.

Public officials in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have also expressed increasing concern about Russian aggression and interference in the three Baltic states. Most urgently, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite issued dire warnings about a failure to halt Russian interference inside the states of Eastern Europe. In an interview published September 24, Grybauskaite emphasized the need to confront Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. When asked if Russian President Vladamir Putin will ‘…go to Transnistria…’, Grybauskaite responded:

If we will allow him to go, he will go anywhere. The problem is that Putin’s Russia today is ready and willing to go to war. Europe and the West are not ready and not willing to go to war. There is no leadership in Europe or in the world able to stop Putin. Afterwards, we will be surprised that new territories are taken, that new countries are partitioned, and it will be a lot more costly and too late maybe to solve it. (Lally Weymouth, The Washington Post, September 24)