Thursday, February 16, 2006

U.S.-Russia Dialogue: Eurasia (Post-Soviet Space)

One of the most contentious issues in the dialogue was over "Russia's neighborhood" (the "post-Soviet space"). The U.S. remains suspicious that the Russians do not really consider the Eurasian states to be fully independent. The Russians are angry at what they see as unjustified U.S. interference in their bilateral relations with their neighbors.

It is clear that there is no accepted thinking about the "proper" role for Russia to play in the Eurasian space—and the extent to which Russia’s economic and political dominance gives it the right to chart the overall direction of the region.

There is also increased concern that other Eurasian states might seek to draw the United States in to potential conflicts. While we were there, the incident with the detention of three Russian officers in Southern Ossetia by Georgian forces was coming to an end, and there were discussions about whether or not the Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili might be tempted to use force or provoke an incident in an attempt to bring the separatist regions of Georgia back under central control--confident in the belief that the United States would fully back Georgia in any possible clash that might result with Russia. My concerns is that there appear to be too little crisis management operations set up in Washington and Moscow to prevent a small incident from blowing up into a major confrontation.

One underreported tale refracting through the US-Russia problematic in post-Soviet space is that of R. Gregory Stevens, the man famous for dying in Carrie Fisher's house. It happens that RGS was sent to Georgia by the US to help shore up the Shevardnadze element when it appeared the Rose Revolutionaries looked a bit too unfairly postured for success.

Expect the US, rhetoric aside, to maintain a convenient ambiguity. If Georgia picks unnecessary fights with Russia, the blush is off the rose. Notice the silence emanating from Washington when Georgia lately accused the Russians of pipeline sabotage.

The question mark is how Kosovo negotiations affect the American willingness to tolerate Russian assertiveness in the limbostates.
An interesting article will appear in the spring 2006 issue of TNI on Kosovo and the other frozen conflicts of greater Europe. The author proposes a "swap" along the following lines: conditional independence for Kosovo with another partition for the Serbs or substantial international guarantees for the Serbs; Georgia letting go of Abkhazia and Ossetia in return for departure of all Russian forces remaining on the "core" of Georgia and "remainder Georgia" free to affiliate to the West (with Armenia remaining in a loose Russian orbit as a counterbalance). Don't know whether anyone will pursue this as actual policy but it is a creative approach.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?