Former Soviet borders are being reconsidered

The Crimea precedent will make us look differently at similar issues in the Former Soviet Union. The problem was incited by Soviet authorities who loosely drew administrative boundaries between different regions. There are many of those who "suffered" from such actions, including, primarily, Transnistria, Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The situation where ethnic enclaves are trying to reunite with their homeland has developed in the Moldavian Republic, Nagorno-Karabakh that legally belongs to Azerbaijan but de facto is controlled by Armenia, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia (their independence is not recognized by most countries, but South Ossetia and Abkhazia are subsidized from the budget of the Russian Federation). Similar situation is seen in the Fergana Valley with its territorial disputes between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for the enclave Shahimardan in the Batken region populated by Uzbeks. What about the areas of compact residence of Russians in Latvia, where non Latvian Russian communities began to consolidate?

In Kazakhstan, in turn, the question of the potential inclusion of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan into Kazakhstan on the rights of autonomy is discussed. "Most of the borders in Central Asia are not natural. In the future there will be a situation when they will be reconsidered. We have to be ready for it. Borders should be without enclaves. The existing controversies will once be resolved. This may be true for Kazakhstan. As evidenced by the experience of Yugoslavia, everything can always be divided if there is such a desire," Kazakh political analyst Marat Shibutov told portal

Potential conflicts in the CIS are numerous, and they are all caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union that occurred in violation of international law. For example, autonomous regions were not given the right to determine their state affiliation.

This explains why not a single leader of the CIS gave a formal approval of the actions of Russia in the Crimean conflict. It has been reported that on March 11, President Vladimir Putin discussed his actions with the Customs Union partners, President Alexander Lukashenko and Nursultan Nazarbayev. Official statements on the results of these meetings are vague and sound something like "the situation should be resolved in the interests of the Ukrainian people and all people living in Ukraine."

Belarusian MFA continues to insist on the importance of preservation of Ukraine as "stable, territorially integral and independent state" in their statements. Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that Kazakhstan, as a strategic partner, was sympathetic with the position of Russia defending the rights of national minorities in Ukraine, as well as its security interests.

All these are vague words that allow interpreting them both as support of the actions of the Russian Federation in terms of reunification with the Crimea and condemnation of these actions. Experts from different countries in the former Soviet space commented for Pravda.Ru on their real concerns in the CIS countries in connection with the precedent in Crimea.

The problem of revising post-Soviet borders of the Russian Federation was identified earlier in 2008 in Georgia, said Alexander Iskandaryan, a Yerevan political analyst, the director of the Caucasus Institute. The Crimean events, in addition to the internal situation, are caused by the fact that, since 2008, there has been a certain revisionism in relation to the former Soviet republics. "The recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence has opened a Pandora's box." But even earlier Kosovo developments in Europe took place that played a decisive role, the role of demandeur of separatism, the expert said.

"The events in Crimea once again evidenced that the boundaries drawn by the Soviet Union are not satisfactory for everyone. Karabakh held a referendum on independence over 20 years ago, and Karabakh residents have long formed their own authorities. But I do not think that we will see a domino effect after the events in Crimea. It has not happened after South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Kosovo, or Cyprus. Each case has its own local political reasons," summed up Alexander Iskandaryan for Pravda.Ru.

His Azerbaijani counterpart Eldar Guliyev has a different opinion, although he sees the same acute points. "If the referendum leads to Crimea departing from Ukraine, it may encourage some other conflicts. First of all, this is the situation around Karabakh and Transnistria, told Pravda.Ru executive director of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress Eldar Guliyev, former Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN. "The Crimean factor may lead to unpredictable consequences, because the conflicting parties do not rule out military action, so this precedent may spark severe tensions."

"Certainly, Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Karabakh also need to be addressed, and a calm decision is necessary," said Sergei Musienko, Belarusian head of the analytical center ESOOM (Minsk). "Today, leaders and people living in these areas are watching the events to develop. I think a precedent has been created before our eyes, so now there are such powerful negotiations, foreign ministries of different countries are involved, there is a dialogue. The dialogue needs to be more serious because while diplomats are working, there is no war. "
The expert explained that the official Minsk could not assess the situation because "for us many positions in this case are not clear. Unfortunately, we are not involved in this dialogue and use the same information that you do, from the press, which is certainly sad," Sergei Musienko complained about the lack of a normal dialogue within the CIS.

The difficulty of the situation is evidenced by the fact that Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have expressed unequivocal support for self-determination of Crimea and the actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine. Transdniestrian authorities, despite the fact that earlier they regularly applied for recognition referring to the will of the people expressed at a referendum on independence in 2006, banned a meeting of the "National unity" in support of "self-organization of pro-Russian forces of Crimea and south-east of Ukraine and Russia's decision to protect its countrymen" scheduled for March 9. Could the reason be that the new Kiev government, in the situation of the economic blockade, is already discussing with Bucharest an expeditious solution to the Transnistrian problem, taking into account direct interest in Romania?

This is the next challenge for Russia. How will the Kremlin act in Transnistria?
Lyuba Lyul'ko


Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey