Russia Caucasus Ukraine

Has the thawing of “frozen” conflicts begun? 2nd sketch.

(B2) Are the porous zones and other frozen conflicts in Europe in the process of being resolved? As the story speeds up, right now, let's catch up with the latest episodes:

1st phase: mid-February. The initiative lies with the West. The United States and most countries of the European Union recognize theindependence of Kosovo, announce the dispatch of a police-justice-customs mission (Eulex) intended to replace the UN mission (UNMIK). The Russians are shouting at the goldsmiths, storming at the Security Council. But there is no more concrete action afterwards. Kosovo can announce the creation of its own army, supported by NATO. And the UN Secretary General can quietly specify in June-July in several letters addressed to “interested parties” what looks like a gradual disengagement from Unmik, without really arousing any ire other than a new declaration from the Russians saying that this decision is illegal. But that's all. The new Serbian government, which has grasped the Russian game, is quickly falling into line and playing for European integration (by pursuing a claim before international justice).

2nd phase: beginning
. This time, it is the Russians who are in charge. In a muscular way, like Blitzkrieg. Taking advantage of a strategic error by the Georgians (advised by the Americans) who tried to recover – in such a muscular way – South Ossetia, they responded by engaging the Russian army, in a “disproportionate” way, some would say, “limited ” will say the others (who remember the violent fighting in Budapest in 1956 = around 3000 deaths including 700 Russians or more recently the “dirty” war in Afghanistan). The objective is clear: to ensure control of theAbkhazia and South Ossetia, definitively. Westerners are alarmed. The United States, NATO, the European Union say it's not good, it's disproportionate”. In less than 48 hours, a ceasefire was agreed, on Russian conditions, endorsed by Nicolas Sarkozy in the name of the European Union (1). The Russians are withdrawing their troops, a little slower than expected, a little less far than expected, the famous “additional security measures“. And they announced the recognition of the independence of the two autonomous regions on August 26. Which is no surprise. The Russian press has been reporting this preparation for several days (which is surely one of the explanations for the sudden convening of the European Council by the French presidency which could not ignore this development).

And, now, prosaically, let's face it, there remain three other “frozen conflicts” to be resolved at European level:

- Nagorno-Karabakh, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. One is rather supported by Russia, the other by the West. Guess who will win… in a zone of Russian influence?

- Transnistria, it is the Russians, here too, who are in charge – and the Westerners know it well. Unlike in Georgia, the transition could be smooth here, barring last-minute provocation. Medvedev (Russian president) met Voronin (Moldovan president), most recently, on August 25. He assured him that there were “very good possibilities for resolving the Transnistrian problem” and “Russia was ready to do its best to ensure the final settlement of the Transdniestrian crisis”. Exceptional statement according to our Russian colleague, Kommersant, which should therefore not be taken lightly. It is in fact a question of allowing the reintegration into Moldova of the secessionist province while preserving a large autonomy for it but also, and above all, the Russian strategic interests, on the spot: non-adhesion of Moldova to NATO, presence of the Russian army (The 14th army is based in this strip of land), protection of the Russian minority (read the details of this reconciliation sketched for several months).

- Cyprus, which should not be forgotten in this list. The north of the island is still under Turkish “domination” (occupation/liberation) (a “peace operation” launched in July…1974 by the Turkish army and a solitary reconnaissance). It should be the European Union, primarily concerned, which should negotiate. Cyprus has been a member of the EU since May 2004. And Turkey has been a candidate for membership since 1999. But, surprisingly, there are no thunderous or threatening declarations, nor sanctions. And we hope that the UN will be able to come up with a new peace plan from its pocket (the previous one had aborted before Cyprus joined the Union, the Greek Cypriots having refused it…).

Let us quote a few more tense points

- Macedonia, it is the Americans who are in charge of the question. Mediation – under cover of the UN – but with an American mediator – to find a modus vivendi with Greece on the name of the country is necessary to allow the country's accession to NATO (as then to the European Union). )

- Serbia, the final signing of the stabilization agreement (and the opening of negotiations for accession to the European Union) is conditional on the arrest/surrender of the last fugitive Serbian war criminal (Mladic). It was the European Union which took charge of this “reintegration”.

- Spain, the Basque autonomists of ETA have not yet laid down their arms, despite several attempts at negotiation (unlike their counterparts in Ira who have returned to the peaceful path, gradually since the signing of a historic peace agreement in April 1998). The European Union has no position on the issue other than the condemnation of terrorism and armed struggle.


Photo credit: OSCE Georgia/ Mikhail Evstafiev, the Russians begin to withdraw, Russian BMP (infantry transport) on the road to Vladikavkhaz, August 16.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).