Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States

Article excerpt

Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States, Dov Lynch. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2004. 168pp. $12.50 paper.

Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States covers a broad range of topics but focuses on the issues that allow Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria to maintain their de facto independence from Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova. Lynch's real task, however, is to show why and from what approach the international community, specifically the United Nations and European Union, should tackle these conflicts to bring about a peaceful resolution.

In chapter 3, "The Logic Driving the Separatist States," Lynch separates the internal and external issues that push the de facto states toward independence. The internal issues include an insistence on sovereignty, the local populations' palpable sense of fear and insecurity, and the strength of criminal and military elements. Lynch explains that one of the most stubborn points in negotiation between the de facto states and the "metropolitan states" (Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) is the de facto states' insistence on full, independent sovereignty, that is, to be a fullfledged member of the international community. Lynch presents interview after interview with political leaders (in all but a few cases the economic and military elite as well) who point out that they are prepared to wait years for the international community to recognize their states, as recognition merely "reflects the existing reality" (47; emphasis in original). As strong as this argument may be, a reader may feel disconcerted when Lynch mentions later on that the leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh only masks its desire for integration with Armenia through the language of independence, that Ossetian leaders' "independence" is only a path to integration with the Russian Federation, and that Abkhaz politicians waver between independence and alignment with Russia as well (88-89).

The fear and insecurity felt in the local populations and among internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as the strength of criminal and military elements (too often one and the same), go hand in hand. One should not underestimate the fear of reprisal that the Abkhaz and Armenians feel, but this anxiety is not shared in South Ossetia and Transnistria, where cooperation between "enemies" in illicit trading and smuggling has fostered some trust. …

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