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4. Russia: conflicts and its security environment




The 1996 Russian presidential election was
an important step towards consolidation of Russia's political
system and enabled the governing élite to solidify its
grasp on power. Boris Yeltsin's victory did not, however, end
the struggle for power across Russia's political spectrum and
between the federal and provincial administrations.

Hostilities in Chechnya ceased, although settlement
of the enclave's political status was postponed until 2001. Russia's
active mediation has fostered political dialogue between the conflicting
parties in the Trans-Dniester region, Tajikistan and South Ossetia,
but the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia remain deadlocked.

There was a spectacular rapprochement
between Russia and Belarus while Belarus was experiencing a significant
shift away from democratic standards in domestic developments.
In Russian-Ukrainian relations, both governments have avoided
confrontation, although differences over the basing rights of
the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol and
other uncertainties persisted. The debate continued over the
scope and pace of integration in the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS), which is recognized by participants as a useful
framework for multilateral discussions but has not achieved much
in practice. Persisting disagreements between Russia and each
of the Baltic states - Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - over the
demarcation of borders and the plight of the Russian-speaking
minorities acquired a lower profile, but the Baltic states' desire
to join NATO has produced concern on the part of Moscow.