The Russia-Georgia conflict is a watershed for a new era in geopolitics. As America scrambles to react to the crisis, Russia will continue to challenge Western influence in the former Soviet space. In turn, both will turn to Europe, and Europe’s ability to defend its own interests will be the most severe test yet for the Union. All the while, China, Iran and others watch with keen interest.
As U.S.-Russia relations continue to sour over the Russia-Georgia conflict, it is unclear how the two nations will be able to rebuild their relationship. Although the conflict led to the current deterioration in relations, problems between the two countries were present before. Despite strong rhetoric from Washington, there is a need for an improved dialogue between the United States and Russia.
The search for a way for all parties in the Russia-Georgia conflict to sit down at the negotiating table is gradually beginning. There is real promise that an EU forum can establish an acceptable format and most likely, Russia is ready to make some concessions. Nevertheless, excessive pressure on Moscow will only strengthen its internal conservative forces and thus exacerbate its hard line stance.
Although in the short term the basis for a ceasefire has formed between Russia and Georgia, the conflict has entirely transformed the region. Russian peacekeepers can now no longer operate alone in the separatist regions. In addition, South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot revert back to Georgia. Finally, the already deteriorating Russia-U.S. relationship will now face a new set of challenges.
A united Europe could play the pivotal peacemaker in the Russia-Georgia conflict, strengthening cooperation in the continent’s east. However, both unity and independent action on Europe’s part are unlikely. Therefore, the Russia policy of the next U.S. president will be essential for ensuring stability in the region.
The Bush and Putin administrations have misleadingly folded Chechnya into the global war on terror. Their critics have done little better by defining Chechnya as a human rights challenge. However, ignoring Chechnya or focusing primarily on human rights misses the larger issue, which is not what happens to Chechnya, but what kind of Russia emerges from that forgotten war.
Trenin and Malashenko examine the implications of the war with Chechnya for Russia's post-Soviet evolution. Considering Chechnya's impact on Russia's military, domestic politics, foreign policy, and ethnic relations, the authors contend that the Chechen factor must be addressed before Russia can continue its development.