Russian policy towards the CIS, 1991-1996 : debates about the military and political involvement in the Moldova-Transdniestria, Georgia-Abkhazia and Tajikistan conflicts
The most serious foreign policy challenge that the Russian Federation faced from 1991 to 1996 was whether and how to respond to outbreaks of conflict within its neighbouring states. Unlike under the Soviet Union, there were open, diverse and complex debates about whether Russia should react to these conflicts, and if so, by what means. These foreign policy debates among the political elite and the ensuing policies form the subject of this thesis. The thesis asks what the dominant ideas expressed in these debates about foreign policy were, and whether they were reflected in Russia's policies towards specific military conflicts in the CIS States. To answer these questions, the thesis first derives insights about the role of ideas and debates within international relations literature which are helpful for the subsequent analysis of Russian foreign policy debates. It then identifies the dominant foreign policy ideas and foreign policy orientations, traces the major stages in the debates and the policies, and compares Russia's political debates, policies and actions towards the Moldova- Transdniestria, Georgia-Abkhazia and Tajikistan conflicts. Using interviews and both primary and secondary sources, the general finding of the thesis is that broad foreign policy ideas and orientations provided the backdrop against which debates occurred and policies were formulated or pursued. Ideas and debates were crucial factors in developing and defining an official pragmatic nationalist foreign policy orientation that crystallised in the later period. On the whole, there was congruence between the dominant ideas within the debates and the foreign policies enacted towards specific conflicts. Specific foreign policies towards the conflicts developed in response to the general debate (clash of ideas), which in turn responded to the domestic conditions and particular events in the near abroad. Military actions tended to start independently as local initiatives, and then fall in line with government policy.