The secessionist movement in Eastern Ukraine galvanized the attention of the world with the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Donetsk on July 17. Many of those now paying specific attention to the intensifying conflict in Eastern Europe’s largest nation-state have begun researching the history of conflict throughout the former Soviet states of Russia’s near abroad and have found the human terrain, the history of ethnic migration, and the geopolitical value of the area confusing.

In the effort to provide just a bit more fidelity to the important regions that could dramatically affect the quickly intensifying conflict between the West and a resurgent Russian state, I will be publishing a series of analytical pieces designed to offer just a head nod to areas of importance in the weeks, months, and years ahead. These regions include Abkhazia, Găgăuzia, Transnistria, the former Yugoslavia, Nagorno Karabakh, and Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk). In this, I intend for these articles to be only a primer for the reader on understanding the related events that make these areas important in the ongoing conflict between Russia and the West. Specifically, I will focus these articles upon areas that constitute fracture points. I loosely (and generally) operationalize the term fracture points (specifically for purposes of examining the conflict between Russia and the West) in this context as follows: geographical areas and regions that occupy space along or straddling important lines of demarcation or fissure points between the two belligerents and represent valued terrain connecting the two competing sides of the conflict.

On July 23, I published an article at Foreign Intrigue titled Ukraine, Russia, and The West: Ahead and Beyond. In the article, I anticipated the consequences for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 specifically and the exacerbation of the conflict between the West and Russia in the wider, longer-term analysis. In the article I outlined a series of policy topics and events to anticipate becoming part of the public debate on the nascent conflict between Russia on the one side and the United States and the European community on the other. Among those topics I anticipated to become part of the public debate as the crisis evolves were the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), missile defense, and the exacerbation of fracture points. I offered reasoned analysis of how these geographical locations could prove decisive in the tonal intensification in the quickly escalating conflict in the weeks and months ahead:

Exacerbation of fracture points. Both The West and Russia will apply pressure and influence upon geostrategically valuable territories. Regions such as AbkhaziaGăgăuziathe former Yugoslavia, and the Caucasus will once again be the subject of debate and prognostication. The Kremlin has also rekindled its historical ties with the government of Cuba in an effort to galvanize support in the western hemisphere and seeks a strategic balance to the encroachment of NATO into the Russian near abroad. In the near-term, it is likely that these points, which in many ways signify lines of demarcation both culturally and geopolitically between the West and Russia, will receive political and diplomatic pressure by both sides. Both the West and Russia will seek to take advantage of public opinion, de-legitimize unfriendly political regimes, and attempt to co-opt local economies. Important areas to watch include the aforementioned Caucasus (Abkhazia and Ossetia), the Baltics, the Balkans (especially Serbia), and Moldova (with special attention paid to the pro-Russian autonomous region of Găgăuzia. (Ukraine, Russia, and The West: Ahead and Beyond, Foreign Intrigue, July 23)