Creating a Common Future: Opportunities for Confidence-Building Measures in Unresolved Conflicts of the Former Soviet Union



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Unresolved conflict in the former Soviet states is a common phenomenon: in addition to the most recent 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh, negotiations over conflicts that began in the 1990s in Transdniestria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia remain frozen. After decades of isolation, harsh rhetoric, and no dialogue, people across the boundary lines of each conflict have little experience with, or confidence in, the other side. My research focuses on the use of confidence-building measures in the unresolved conflicts of the former Soviet Union as a method of increasing the trust needed for an eventual common future. Confidence-building measures develop trust between conflicting sides through cooperation on low-stakes, common issues, trust which can then carry over into the peace process. Increasing confidence is essential at all levels: negotiators must trust the other side’s commitment, while the public must be willing to accept an agreement. Although these measures can be incredibly effective, discussion of them has stalled along with the larger negotiation process. My project seeks to refresh the understanding of confidence-building measures in the former Soviet Union and as a global tool for conflict resolution. To analyze confidence-building measures in the former Soviet Union, I present four case studies of unresolved conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transdniestria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. I include interviews with representatives of local civil society groups working directly on conflict-related issues, which provide original insight into the challenges faced by these efforts, as well as successes and ideas for further improvement. I find that confidence-building measures are beneficial for alleviating harmful situations and encouraging the development of societies capable of reaffirming less dangerous narratives, working toward a shared future, and, eventually, accepting the prospect of peace.



Conflict Resolution, Former Soviet Union, Intractable Conflicts