Russia Struggles with Its Breakaway Empire
July 31, 2017
Russia’s broader strategy of managing breakaway conflicts across the former Soviet space is coming under increasing stress. If Russia had previously used the conflicts in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine to deny\limit the ability of those countries to enter EU/NATO, now Moscow is losing its ability to maneuver in so many diverse conflicts simultaneously. Various players are trying to play their own game independently from Moscow. For example, on July 18, the head of the Donetsk’s self-proclaimed republic Alexander Zakharchenko announced the establishment of a new “state” Malorossiya – Little Russia – without the Kremlin’s consent. In Transnistria, the situation is heating up as Kiev and Chisinau are trying to blockade the breakaway territory and Moscow can do little as it has no direct land or air route. In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian forces watch as NATO exercises take place on Georgian soil, which suggests that, despite the Russian military footprint in the region, Western countries continue to support Georgia.
Surely Russia will remain a dominant military power in the region and the breakaway territories will stay dependent on Moscow’s support. Nevertheless, it will be increasingly difficult for Moscow to successfully pull the strings in several different theaters at once, particularly as the Russia faces its own financial problems, increased Western efforts to confront Moscow’s foreign policy, and disobedience from various separatist leaders.