Russia and True Europe in the Black Sea Region

As in the Balkans, Russia was prepared to accept the OSCE as the major international actor in the Black Sea region. Even the UN Mission also visited the region, and the control of the conflict resolution was eventually taken over by the OSCE. During the early stage of the Transnistria conflict in Moldova in September 1992, Russia endorsed the CSCE decision to send a representative of the CSCE Chairman-in-Office to Chisinau to follow up on the work of the quadripartite mechanism that involved the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova. A year later it allowed the deployment of the CSCE Long-Term Mission to Moldova. Another year later, Russia allowed the OSCE Mission to Moldova to assume more responsibilities in the Transnistrian conflict by signing an agreement on “Principles of Cooperation between the OSCE Mission and the Joint Control Commission in the Security Zones” on 20 July 1994. These principles allowed the OSCE to patrol the Security Zones, to participate in the Joint Control Commission, and eventually to host negotiations on resolving the conflict. In the early stages of the conflict Russia did its best to distance itself from the separatists. Commenting on Russia’s position in the OSCE, the senior US diplomat and Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, William H. Hill, stressed that, notwithstanding deep differences with some OSCE states on some individual policy issues, Russia was apparently willing to work cooperatively with other members of the OSCE, including the United States, even on the territory of the former USSR.53 Similarly to Moldova, Russia accepted mediation of the CSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities during the tensions in Crimea, which resulted in peaceful constitutional compromise and autonomy for Crimea.54

The same algorithm worked in the Caucasus. In November 1992, the Long-Term CSCE Mission was deployed in Georgia. In the run up to the Budapest summit, Moscow allowed the OSCE a larger role in monitoring developments in and around the conflict zone in South Ossetia. It also granted the OSCE the right to participate as an observer in a Joint Control Commission comprised of representatives from the peacekeeping contingents of Russia, Georgia, and the Russian republic of North Ossetia. From then on the OSCE Mission assumed an important role not only in negotiations between the parties to this conflict, but also on the ground.55 Moscow was also pushing for a similar OSCE mandate in Abkhazia, and it was only the lack of resources on the side of the OSCE that prevented the organisation from extending its activities on this conflict as well. Even in this division of labour one could see that the OSCE had important privileges. The OSCE Mission was allowed access to the UN-sponsored negotiations on Abkhazia. OSCE officers were allowed to visit this region. On the other hand, the UN had no such privilege. Working closely with the OSCE—dominated by the Western world—demonstrated that in the Caucasian conflict Russia prioritised its participation in great power practices, even if it meant it had to support the Turkic-speaking militant tribes of the Caucasus over Georgians, who were Christians and long-term Russian allies in the region.

Envisaging such a role for the OSCE demonstrated that Moscow perceived it not merely as a multilateral forum, but also as an important instrument that would allow Russia to undergo a major internal transformation and reunion with True Europe. This trust in the OSCE is highlighted by the fact that the organisation became the only intergovernmental actor that was allowed to mediate inter-ethnic conflicts within Russia. First, OSCE was allowed to support the resolution of the conflict between two Northern Caucausian regions of Russia—North Ossetia and Ingushetia—over Prigorodny Rayon.56 Second, OSCE was allowed to deploy its Assistance Group in Chechnya in April 1995. Although it was not an easy decision for Russia, Moscow allowed the OSCE Assistance Group to oversee negotiations between the parties during the hostage-taking crises, as well as monitor the human rights situation, oversee presidential elections in January 1997, and maintain a forum for dialogue between the parties.57 Never again was any international organisation allowed to play such an important role in inter-ethnic or centre-periphery conflicts inside Russia.

At the same time, Moscow tried to prevent other European actors from shaping the OSCE agenda for the post-Soviet space. When the EU came up with a proposal to formally institutionalise the primary role of the OSCE in conflict resolution on the European continent, Russia simply rejected the proposal.58 Indeed, the limit to which Russia would allow the True Europe to penetrate the Russian Self was quite specific even in the period of greatest harmony between the two polities. Although Russia invited or accepted several CSCE missions in the post-Soviet space, foreign minister Kozyrev stressed that "Russia would not abandon the Former Soviet Union to international organizations”.59 Yury Ushakov, the head of the Russian delegation at the CSCE talks, suggested that if one wanted to solve European problems with Russia, the OSCE would be a good organisation to use, but warned that Russia would not take any orders from the CSCE because it was just a beginner with no experience in military matters or peacekeeping.60 So, intuitively or not, even the most pro-Western Russian foreign minister refused to consider any situation when Russia could be downgraded to the position of apprentice even of True Europe. The post-Soviet space was the area where Russia’s competence was to be demonstrated and enhanced, and certainly not questioned even in an indirect way.

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