Russia Approaching Conflict on Three Fronts

Here goes a little piece from openDemocracy about Russia’s triple-pronged security mess, with confrontations broiling from Ukraine to Georgia to the North Caucasus.  The authors assume that the leadership is playing with fire in terms of dealing with all three.

It will be difficult to help Russia deal more effectively with its own problems in the North Caucasus.  Russia needs new political, economic, and social strategies to address underlying problems.  In addressing violence in the North Caucasus, heads of state agreed in the 1999 OSCE Summit Declaration that it was “important to alleviate the hardships of the civilian population” and that a “political solution is essential.”  These priorities are just as compelling today.  Europe and the US should exercise leadership in the EU and G20 meetings on aid to NGO’s and humanitarian aid in the North Caucasus.

These actions, if carried out openly, will help Russia and itsneighbors foster reform and political accommodation for a more securefuture.  Georgia and Ukraine ought to take conciliatory steps as well. They should exercise caution in taking actions which might provokesharp Russian responses, such as interdicting ships bound for ports in Abkhazia or Russian military trucks traveling on public roads in Crimea.

When Russian forces alongside Chechen irregulars invaded Abkhazia inthe early 1990s, Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze warned RussianPresident Yeltsin that igniting separatism in Georgia would come backto haunt Russia in the North Caucasus.  He was right.  The threetinderboxes pose new risks to Western security. They deserve newpriority and a broader perspective to keep the peace.