2019 11 22
Vadim Volovoj. Military factor in “frozen conflicts” – destructive reality

transnistria_independence_dayIf someone thinks that military factor is not important in the modern world any more, he is definitely wrong. It was popular to say that after the end of Cold War the situation will change and international relations will become more peaceful: no ideological rivalry – no military confrontation. But practice demonstrated that this view was too much optimistic. Already Iraq invasion to Kuwait showed that there are states still eager to solve their problems using military tool.

Bloody post Cold War conflicts    

Ethnic conflicts with religious shade in the context of Yugoslavia disintegration in the Mid-90s proved once again that people are able to find reasons to kill each other for nothing. And it was just the beginning of the story, because only after some years the same happened with Kosovo when Serbia tried to protect itself from loosing even more territory (like Russian Federation did twice to keep Chechnya inside).

At the same time the collapse of the Soviet Union took place. It is used to state that this process was not so bloody as in case of Yugoslavia, but still: separation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Moldova and Transnistria military confrontation – all these examples prove that all complicated geopolitical processes are usually accompanied by the voice of weapons, and USSR collapse is not an exception.

XXI century started with September 11th and American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (again). Arab spring brought the war to Libya and Syria. Still big tension exists in Israelian-Palestinian relations, and nobody knows what is going to happen in Egypt where army had to take responsibility for stability in the country but at the same time to suppress radical “Muslim Brotherhood” which is not going to give up.

And of course we should not forget the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, which showed that Kremlin is ready to protect its interests in the post-soviet area using all tools available including military one. Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan because of Nagorno-Karabakh also remain rather strained, and Baku is in fact forced to strengthen its military capabilities in order to be prepared for the worst scenario.

To sum up, war is like winter – it may come sooner or later, but it will come anyway. In other words, Vegetijus proposal “If You Want Peace Prepare for War” is relevant to modern times as any other despite all positive changes which took place in international relations towards peaceful constructiveness in solving crises after the end of Cold War.

Several features of today’s military conflicts should be noted. First, they are usually closely related to historically based ethnic and/or religious tension which strongly stimulates both sides to use weapons and results in unlimited cruelty towards civil population. Second, global geopolitical rivalry becomes sharper every day and complicates local confrontation even more. Of course, international interference can help stop the violence (as it happened in case of Kuwait, Yugoslavia, Kosovo) but at the same time it can be very negative (take Syria example). And here we can straightly go to the destructive reality of “frozen conflicts” in CIS area.

Russia and the danger of new wars in the post-soviet area

As it was noted, the role of foreign power in a military conflict may be both constructive and destructive. Russia’s role in post-soviet “frozen conflicts” is very contradictive, but should be characterized as more negative than positive.

Explanation is very simple. In international politics usually dominates not the sense of friendship or goodwill but cold pragmatic interest, especially when we speak about “big states” like Russia. In other words, in CIS area, including the cases of “frozen conflicts”, Kremlin first of all seeks to ensure its own geopolitical interests, and if such an approach does not help to solve the conflict in general or even complicates the situation Moscow does not care, because this is not its problem. Accordingly, if there is a need to use military force in order to protect Russian position, it must be used despite the fact that such type of interference can make the situation even worse for the main conflict participants.

To see the theory in practice we can shortly analyze all CIS “frozen conflicts” in a row. Russia’s war against Georgia is the most obvious example. Both M. Saakashvili effort to bring South Ossetia back to Georgia in a military way and Russian military response show that military factor is still of big importance in CIS area (especially for Russia). More of that, Kremlin’s decision to militarize separatist territories transforming them to the actual Russian military bases in Caucasus means that Moscow possibly prepares for best online casino new wars in the region.

In this place we should remember the words of the Russian military base in Armenia commander Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky: “The Russian military base in Gyumri may interfere, should the Azerbaijani leadership decide to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno Karabakh in a military way”. Despite the fact that Russia’s right to support Armenia – even as a member of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) – in this case is disputable, Russian officer let himself warn Azerbaijan, and example of Georgia shows that Moscow intentions are serious. In this context it does not look strange that Baku strengthens its military capabilities. Differently from Armenia supported by Russia it does not have the West watching its back and  must take care of its security by itself.

Even in case of seemingly peaceful “frozen conflict” in Moldova military aspect remains important. First, Russia does not want to take back its peace keepers from Transnistria because they help to make pressure on Chisinau together with political and economic tools. Besides, it should be noted that Transnistria potentially is strategically important in the context of Russia’s response to American/NATO AMD in Europe (for example, there can be dislocated Iskander missiles).

Finally, nobody could predict that situation in Ukraine can become so sharp that talks about its disintegration (transformation to another “frozen conflict”) appeared. This can not happen without Russian military involvement, and there is no doubt that Moscow may interfere (remember how much Kremlin did to prolong its Black Sea Fleet dislocation in Sevastopol).


To make a long story short several conclusions should be made. First, it always seems that war can not happen, but it suddenly comes. Therefore all scenarios must be discussed all the time. Second, collapse of the Soviet Union left many painful wounds (“frozen conflicts”) on the body of CIS area. One of them – Georgia – became bloody once again, and this means that military factor is still a policy making tool in the post-soviet space. Third, it is obvious that Russia is one of the strongest military powers in Eurasia and could guarantee its stability. Instead it uses its military capabilities to protect its geopolitical interests – not to solve the problems. Realistic paradigm justifies such an approach, but this also means that such countries like Azerbaijan have the right for strengthening their military capacity too, especially keeping in mind the fact that it does not have the West watching its back. Georgia thought it had, but it was wrong. Thus fourth, CIS countries which try to choose European future expect for Western help, which is doubly important because Russian military machine needs to be balanced.

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