Letter From the Editors

Besides the ongoing Ukraine war, which is now in its ninth week, the post-Soviet space has no shortage of other frozen conflicts that may or may not be starting to exit the deep freeze. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was the bearer of bad news in parliament, telling deputies that the world apparently wants Armenia to “lower expectations in the matter of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, or else it won’t be able to provide help to Armenia.” To say that this ruffled some feathers in the enclave’s capital of Stepanakert is an understatement. Deputies there have accused the Armenian leader of treason, stating that Yerevan is basically handing over Nagorno-Karabakh to Baku on a platter. According to journalist Ashot Gazazyan, hopes for giving the unrecognized territory “a special status will now be thrown into the dustbin of history.” This sentiment was echoed by Karabakh Foreign Minister David Babayan, who said that if the republic is integrated into Azerbaijan, “genocide and the loss of its homeland” are sure to follow, “which will in fact doom Armenia as well.”

The breakaway republic of Transnistria is also on edge following three terrorist attacks on its key infrastructure. First, the republic’s Ministry of State Security came under grenade launcher fire. Then, two of the republic’s biggest radio transmitters were blown up. Luckily, there were no casualties, but the Transnistrian authorities nevertheless declared a red level terror alert.

The explanations that followed from Tiraspol, Chisinau and Kiev were “mutually exclusive,” Vedomosti reported. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry blamed the attacks on Russian intelligence; Moldovan President Maia Sandu said that these “attempts at escalation are linked to forces within Transnistria that favor war and are interested in destabilizing the situation”; Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky chose a more diverse approach, pointing the finger at both Chisinau and terrorist groups that supposedly infiltrated the republic from Ukraine.

Given that Moldova and Transnistria have endured an uneasy coexistence for about 30 years now, both are concerned that the hostilities in neighboring Ukraine could “defrost” tensions between them as well. However, expert Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky believes that such escalation could be exactly what Chisinau is after – under pressure from the West, of course. According to him, this kind of provocation, “along with the likely incitement of other conflicts in the post-Soviet space, is part of the West’s anti-Russia strategy.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sergei Zhiltsov of the Russian Military Academy. He believes that the US’s strategy on Russia is to keep the Ukraine conflict going as long as possible. “The US needs the military operation in Ukraine to continue so it can justify failures in its own economic policy, which have recently worsened,” writes Zhiltsov. Rising inflation, persistent shortages of certain food products and growing energy prices – all these are forcing the Biden administration “to shift blame to Russia,” he concludes. It follows from this that “thawing out” other frozen conflicts in close proximity to Russia’s border would dovetail nicely with that approach.

But what keeps Oleg Karpovich of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy up at night is the possibility that Washington will also try to cunningly drive a wedge in the relationship between Moscow and Beijing. “Perhaps it will try to exploit some differences between Russia and China, at the same time dropping hints that it might lift some of the [anti-Russian] sanctions in exchange. Should that happen, it will be very important for Russian diplomats to see through ploys and forestall them from the get-go.” According to Karpovich, Russia must also build its presence in the global South, especially Africa. The writing is on the wall – relations with the West are being put in the deep freeze. When they will thaw is anybody’s guess.