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Policy brief | 20 November 2017

Unrecognized Actors from Unrecognized States: Moscow’s Puppets or Inevitable Interlocutors

Image of William Hill

William Hill |Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, Former Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova

Arms Control CSBMs Diplomacy Eastern Europe OSCE Risk Reduction Russia Security Euro-Atlantic Security

In this policy brief, Dr Hill examines the role of unrecognised state authorities in international relations and conflict resolution, arguing that their agency is a crucial factor for consideration when writing policy on Europe’s frozen conflicts.

There are significant benefits to be derived short of attaining political settlements by engaging separatist representatives and fostering technical contacts and cooperation between the authorities of the recognised states and the separatists.

For the moment prospects for improvement in all of these post-Soviet conflicts seem gloomy. However, it would be a mistake to presume that improved relations with a more cooperative Russia will automatically lead to progress or resolution of these conflicts. Russia will have to be part of any solution, but so will a knowledge and understanding of local history, conditions, grievances, and aspirations. It is also a mistake to assume that western attention to all these conflicts at this time is not particularly useful, since there is little chance of quick settlement.

External engagement and involvement can offer technical, but still important benefits to local populations. Such engagement and involvement will also give western representatives and governments the knowledge and experience to take maximum advantage of opportunities for progress when the current chilled atmosphere of east-west relations eventually warms.


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.