The independent resource on global security

7. Russia and its neighbourhood: conflict developments and settlement efforts




In 1994, alongside the continuing conflict-generating trends in the independent
states of the former Soviet Union (FSU), there were modest signs of
stabilization and successful conflict management. The hostilities in some
conflict areas stopped; negotiations brought certain positive (if modest)
results; and relations between the states were less troubled than in the
first years of their independence.

The positive record of 1994 includes the completion of Russia's troop
withdrawals from the Baltic states, the playing down of the most serious
tensions in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and its more
business-like pattern of operation, and the negotiations that were held on a
number of conflicts in the FSU. For most of the year domestic developments in
Russia were less explosive than in the recent past, although there were clear
signs that the stabilization was only superficial.

However, there remains the risk of serious domestic crises within and tensions
between the former Soviet republics, the situation in and the policies of
Russia being the most important factors. The war in Chechnya was the most
dramatic culmination of the crises in 1994, significantly spoiling the overall
record of the year and drastically changing the overall climate both in and
around Russia. The conflict in the North Caucasus could serve as a catalyst to
the many negative domestic trends. Independent public opinion has also become
more outspoken, however, and the Kremlin may become increasingly interested in
neutralizing its failures and manifesting the continuity of Russia's reformist

Four of the eight major FSU conflict or conflict-prone regions are located in
the Caucasus (Chechnya, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh), three in
the European part of the FSU (the Trans-Dniester region, the Baltic states and
the Crimea), and one in Central Asia (Tajikistan). Russia has been involved in
all of them, either as a party to the conflict or as an external `pacifier'.
Russian peacekeeping forces have operated in South Ossetia, the Trans-Dniester
region, Abkhazia and Tajikistan and are being negotiated for deployment in
Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict-management efforts of international
organizations have developed in all these regions (although in some cases, as
in the Crimea, they did not go beyond low-profile representation). The cautious
and mainly symbolic activities of the Conference on Security and Co-operation
in Europe (CSCE) in Chechnya are the first case in which Russia has accepted
international involvement in a domestic Russian conflict.

In 1994 the CIS continued as an institutional infrastructure providing for
multilateral interaction between the new independent states. With the
evaporation of both the initial illusions and the initial scepticism about the
CIS, the participating states seem to proceed from the assumption that it could
play a useful albeit limited role in organizing their mutual relations.
However, most of the over 400 multilateral documents adopted remain on paper.
The CIS states seem to accept both the `variable geometry' approach (with a
limited number of participants in specific projects) and the bilateral
cooperation approach as more practical and reliable.