This project examines Russia’s use of force in separatist conflicts in the former Soviet Union revealing that, contrary to what some have suggested, Russia has not pursued master plan to rebuild the Russian Empire or Soviet Union, and has not pursued a foreign policy driven by ethnic nationalism or imperialism. While Russia has maintained military and foreign policy contingencies for engagement in these types of conflicts in the event of crisis, there is little evidence of extensive Russian pre-planning focused on generating “frozen conflicts,” as a central focus of Russian geostrategy. Instead I find that Russia has used unplanned crises, often resulting from security dilemmas, to “freeze” these conflicts in order advance a number of geopolitical goals focused on ensuring the security of Russian state when the opportunity has arisen. The transformation of these conflicts can have the effect of creating a socio-psychological infrastructure that perpetuates gradual, but observable, change in the ethnic identity of separatist de facto states. Russia’s intervention in these conflicts has developed this infrastructure based on the concept of a “Russian World” to which these separatist groups are said to belong. The Russian World serves a tool of Russian foreign policy in that it has replaced the relationship Moscow had with these separatist entities during the Soviet period.
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