Words and Deeds : Russian Foreign Policy and Post-Soviet Secessionist Conflicts

Publisert: 4. juli 2016

[Abstract] The goal of this report is to examine Russia’s policy towards secessionist conflicts in the post-Soviet space. In order to better understand Russia’s policy choices in that sphere, the report addresses three key issues: the internal Russian debate on separatism as a security challenge in the post-Soviet space; Moscow’s policies with regard to international institutions, regimes and frameworks; and the rising security agenda of international terrorism. The report is divided into five sections. The first chapter briefly outlines the scope of the study. The second chapter presents a theoretical framework used to address the issue of Russian policy towards the secessionist conflicts. The third chapter contains a detailed case study of Russian policy towards the secessionist conflict between Moldova and Transdniester. The fourth analyses Russia’s policy towards the conflicts between Abkhazia and Georgia and South Ossetia and Georgia, while the fifth chapter presents authors’ conclusions. The theoretical framework chosen by the authors of this study derives from two major schools in IR theory – the liberal-institutional one, and the constructivist one. On the one hand they raise the traditional neo-liberal question of the validity of institutions in international relations; on the other hand they ask how the ability of institutional frameworks to address various problems is affected by the identities of the actors who interact in the institutional arena. The report addresses the issue of Russian policy towards the secessionist conflicts in the post-Soviet space designed and implemented by President Vladimir Putin’s administration. It departs from the OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999, where agreements on the withdrawal of Russian forces from both Moldova and Georgia were reached. According to the Istanbul Pact, Russia was to withdraw its forces from these two countries in line with the CFE Treaty. At the same time, however, Russia has been playing an active part in the international community’s attempt at finding a viable solution to secessionist conflicts in the same areas. The report analyses how the Putin administration has framed the issue of secessionist conflicts and separatism in statements and doctrines and how this has influenced Russia’s policy towards the conflicts themselves and towards the institutions that are actively involved in the work on conflict resolution. In the authors view, Russia has since the early 1990s pursued an inconsistent and incoherent policy towards the separatist conflicts in the post-Soviet space. After having recognized the importance of separatism as a security challenge and threat within Russia and within the post-Soviet space, Russia has however chosen not to translate this approach into a viable and coherent policy towards these conflicts. Instead of pursuing a policy of unambiguous support for the territorial integrity of the states haunted by secessionist conflicts, Russia seems to have adopted a policy of playing the separatist card for its own purposes and has sought to maximize its geopolitical gains and retain some control in the areas that it deems important for the realization of its partly outdated geopolitical strategy. This policy may yield some short-term geopolitical gains, but in the longer term it may undermine Russia’s credibility as a predictable and serious international partner, as a ‘normal’ great power seeking its own new place on the recently redrawn global power map.