As explained in Parts One through Three of “Beyond Ukraine”, Russia strategists have essentially calcified the country’s approach towards undermining the influence of the European community in integration efforts of former Soviet republics. Cultivating support for insurrectionist activity in order to undermine the territorial integrity of states such as Ukrain and Georgia is one part of a larger strategy to ensure Russian dominance over the affairs and policies of its near abroad.

Georgia and separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Due to a confluence of factors to include enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) and the evolution of former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia away from their former patrons in Moscow, the Kremlin initiated a more aggressive policy of interference in key separatist regions in the post-Soviet space in Eastern Ukraine last winter. Culminating with the annexation of Crimea and the intensification of insurgent rebellion in Donbas, Russian clandestine support for rebellion in Ukraine is reflective of a resurgent Russian foreign policy of domination over its near abroad states from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. In attempting to identify where Russian intelligence and military assets may next be applied in this nascent new geopolitical battle with the West, Russian strategists have targeted separatist regions in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.

While the war in Donbas rages, the Moldovan parliamentary elections of November 30th could signify a watershed moment for the future of conflict along a line of demarcation consistent with assessments of a new “iron curtain” of sorts. On November 24th, Russian and Abkhazian officials codified the integration of military forces under Russian command structure and effectively streamlined the foreign policy of the unrecognized breakaway state with that of Moscow. As I wrote in “Abkhazia Signs Agreement to Integrate Foreign Policy and Military Forces with Those of Russia”:

The agreement, signed in Sochi on November 24, deepens cooperation between Abkhazia and Russia, effectively integrating Abkhazia’s foreign policy with Russia’s and creating a joint military structure that places Abkhazia’s military forces under the command of Russian officers. (SOFREP, December 2)

In the wake of the elections in Moldova and the real threat of an escalation of the so-called frozen conflict in the breakaway autonomous region of Transnistria, some observers have begun looking again at Georgia, noting the opportunity that South Ossetia presents to the Kremlin for further exacerbation of separatist movements in a country still desperately seeking room under the security umbrella of NATO while recently wracked by government instability. Georgian government officials have recently been upturned and dislodged from office, including key members of the national cabninet. As Cory Welt explains in his recent article “Trouble In Tbilisi”, the government instability in the former Soviet republic is as intriguing as it is disconcerting:

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s decision to sack the country’s minister of defense, Irakli Alasania, has rattled the fragile Georgian Dream political coalition of six parties that has governed since its October 2012 upset victory over the United National Movement (UNM), the party of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Over the last two years, the Georgian Dream has cultivated the popular image of a democratic and socially responsive successor to Saakashvili’s ground-breaking but heavy-handed regime, which catered to the West but failed to combat poverty and unemployment. But the Georgian Dream coalition’s benevolent image is now under threat.

The infighting within Georgian Dream should not come as a surprise. The coalition has been an alliance of convenience since it was formed in 2011, united on the basis of a desire to oust the UNM, which had worn out its welcome after nine years of rule. (Cory Welt, Foreign Policy Magazine, November 6)