Friday, January 1, 2021

‘Arc of Instability’ around Russia that Grew in 2020 Likely to Spread and Intensify in 2021, Martynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – The coronavirus pandemic has overshadowed what has been the most dramatic development in the past year for Russia: the increasing instability in the arc of countries around its borders, a trend that gives every sign of intensifying in 2021 with new crises likely in Qarabagh, the Fergana valley and Transdniestria, Pavel Martynov says.

            The Nakanune commentator says that the last year has been characterized by “a growth in tensions literally across the entire post-Soviet space.” Five years ago, there was only the Donbass, but now it can be seen everywhere and appears certain to spread and intensify (

            The Qarabagh conflict is far from over, and there are likely to be a recrudescence of the kind of conflicts not only in the Caucasus “but also in Transdniestria and the Fergana Valley” in Central Asia that Moscow hasn’t see or had to deal with since the late 1980s and early 1990s, Martynov continues.  

            But if many of the conflicts are long-standing, some of them have reached the point where they may be about to explode. The presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan on January 10 may even lead to the collapse of central authority and splitting apart of that country, the commentator says experts like Aleksandr Knyazev say.

            Indeed, they suggest that Kyrgyzstan may descend into the kind of chaos long seen in Afghanistan, something that could make it a source of conflicts in neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and affect plans by China to build a railroad. Indeed, one of Kyrgyzstan’s oblasts has the potential to become “a Crimea or a Donbass.”

            There has never been a fully articulated separatist movement in that oblast, Martynov adds, “but given the weakening of the state and the reduction of its importance, it is impossible to exclude that something like that may arise.”

            At the same time, the upcoming parliamentary elections in Moldova may re-ignite the Transdniestria issue. The new pro-Western Moldovan president has called for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Chisinau’s control over the breakaway republic. If the parliament changes and goes along, there will be a crisis there.

            It is even possible this will spread into Ukraine. Belarus is already unstable because of the continuing protests, and even the three Baltic countries, long a bastion of relative stability, have been weakened by the pandemic and may find it difficult to emerge from the current crisis without the kind of clashes that have weakened other parts of the region.

            What all this means, Martynov concludes, is that the region will enter 2021 in a less than quiescent way and that “practically in all regions of the post-Soviet space, there will be conflicts that could draw Russia in or force it to yield to others if it does not intervene. One can only hope, he says, that “there won’t be any major bloodletting” in 2021.


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