In recent days the American embassy in Georgia has acknowledged recruiting students from what it calls the “occupied territories” of that nation, and not a day goes by without the U.S., NATO and the European Union demanding the independent republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbass and Crimea be returned to Ukraine. Those three regions, like the now independent nations referred to as Georgian land occupied by a foreign invader – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – are among as many as ten disputed territories in the former Soviet Union any one of which – if not all at the same time – could trigger a war. (As four already have: South Ossetia in 2008, Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014 and Nagorno-Karabakh last year.)
Last year Azerbaijan and Turkey, the second most powerful NATO member, invaded the minuscule state of Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnically Armenian but claimed by Azerbaijan because of a map drawn up during the Stalin years. The small enclave, with a population of 145,000, held out for forty-four days but was ultimately defeated by the overwhelming firepower Azerbaijan and Turkey (with a combined population of 95 million people) could command.
Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia represent three-quarters of what have been termed frozen conflicts in former Soviet space. The other is Transdniester (or Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), squeezed between Moldova and Ukraine, with a population of under half a million. The four states jointly formed the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations in 2006 to contend with common threats from NATO partner states. Russia and some of its allies (such as they are) recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 after the U.S.- and NATO-backed government of Georgia invaded South Ossetia in 2008 and in doing so triggered a war with Russia.
Since the U.S.-engineered coup in Ukraine in 2014 which also resulted in war, in the Donbass, the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as well as Crimea, which reaffiliated with Russia, have been added to the list of what the U.S., NATO and the EU, unanimously and uncompromisingly, consider occupied directly or otherwise by Russia – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniester – or otherwise belonging to a NATO partner state. Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as being territory of Azerbaijan – in its entirely. Transdniester is considered to be part of Moldova. In every case the claims by the West and its partners are based solely on the status of the disputed territories within the framework of the former Soviet Union.
Not to be too detailed, or too arcane, but as an example Crimea was a part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic until 1954, when it was administratively transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It had never been part of an independent Ukraine, for the simple reason that there had never been an independent Ukraine until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Abkhazia and South Ossetia had the same relation to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and Nagorno-Karabakh with the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Transdniester had never been part of an independent Moldova for the same reason as the other states had not been part of any independent nation other than the Soviet Union and pre-Soviet Russia (except for the very brief period of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918 and Romania’s control of what is now Transdniester from 1918-1940): Moldova became a nation for the first time in 1991 as well.
The other parts of the former Soviet Union (and former pre-Soviet Russia) that have recently come into play as pieces on the chessboard, grand or otherwise, the West is challenging Russia on are the western part of Belarus, in the Grodno area where ethnic Poles are concentrated, and the former German, now Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. In Belarus Polish-backed separatists are agitating for independence from Minsk, with the Belarusian government warning for several months of a build-up of NATO forces in Poland and Lithuania on its western border. The two latter countries both enclose Kaliningrad on the land side as well.
On May 17 Aureliu Ciocoi, both acting prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova, and David Zalkaliani, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Georgia, will arrive in Kiev to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry:
“On May 17, the heads of Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan diplomacy will hold talks, the key topics of which will be the European integration of the three states, the priorities for the development of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and preparations for its summit this year, joint efforts to strengthen regional security.”
European integration means joining NATO first and the European Union second, as has been the case of the Eastern European nations that have joined both since the end of the Cold War: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The Eastern Partnership was established by the European Union’s General Affairs and External Relations Council in 2008 to expedite the Euroatlantic integration of all former Soviet republics in Europe and the Caucasus except Russia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Although the EU is the bait, NATO is the trap. The intent has been to wrest those states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had already joined NATO and the EU) from post-Soviet formations like the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), as well the Belarus-Russia Union State, thus leaving Russia a sectioned-off island in an ocean of NATO and EU territory. (Over the same period of time the EU has been pursuing an analogous program with the remaining former Soviet republics in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.)
It was under Eastern Partnership auspices that the EU Association Agreement was offered to Ukraine in late 2013. President Viktor Yanukovych’s demurral in signing it led to the violent uprising that overthrew his government early the following year. The post-coup junta immediately signed it.
So the meeting of the Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan officials in two days is significant for two, interrelated, reasons: The three nations, all on or near the Black Sea, are organizing their EU and NATO accessions in unison. They all have “frozen conflicts” on what they claim is their territory that need to be “resolved” before joining those two blocs. In other words, all three have “occupied territories” that will require “liberation.” With the assistance of the U.S., NATO and the EU.
That complementarity is recognized by the so-called occupied territories as well. This week South Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov visited the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic in a show of solidarity. While in the second he said:
“In the world order, where Russia – there is development, where America – there is war, there is death….By and large, Russia is the force that wants to help, not take away, wants life to be continued. Without a doubt, if Ukraine had implemented the Minsk agreements, there would have been no deaths. After all, in fact, the most important meaning of the Minsk agreements is to stop killing.”
Transdniester has also demonstrated support to South Ossetia and Abkhazia since they declared their independence thirteen years ago.
As did Gagauzia, an autonomous region of Moldova, which may prove to be the tenth conflict zone in the former Soviet Union. Like Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transdniester, it declared its independence as the USSR was breaking up (1990) or immediately afterward, later being absorbed into independent Moldova in 1994. The majority of Gagauzians are Turkic-speaking, as the people of Transdniester are primarily Slavic-speaking. Both feared an independent Moldova being incorporated into Romania – the two maintain a “one nation, two states” (the majority of Moldovans are Romanian-speaking) policy comparable to that of Turkey and Azerbaijan. The memories of the carnage wreaked by Romanian soldiers in 1941 when they invaded with their Nazi allies are still alive in Transdniester and motivated its secession in 1992.
Emboldened by the Azerbaijani-Turkish “victory” over Nagorno-Karabakh last year, aggression that has been renewed in recent days, groups like the Bucharest Nine and other pro-NATO/EU forces appear to be planning a final mopping-up operation in the former Soviet, one which would complete Russia’s encirclement and may well seal its doom.
Rick Rozoff is a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the manager of Stop NATO. This originally appeared at Anti-Bellum.