Using the world’s attention centered on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is searching for brand new possibilities to help destabilize Europe and draw attention away from it in the atrocities his army is committing. Lately, Moscow continues to be exploiting existing domestic vulnerabilities in Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina by weaponizing secessionist movements. The previous two countries must deal with rogue, worldwide unrecognized “breakaway” territories with Russian military presence around the ground—Transnistria in Moldova and also the so-known as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia—while Bosnia is beset by ethnic trouble brought on by conflicts between its Bosniak, Serb, and Croat populations.
Moscow fuels separatist rhetoric and operates pro-Russian disinformation campaigns to inspire division and instability during these countries. While Western military analysts highlight the Russian army’s poor performance in Ukraine, the Kremlin doesn’t need to roll into these three countries with tanks to attain its objectives. Utilizing the same secessionist playbook in most three countries, Putin can accomplish two goals at the same time: strengthening Moscow’s waiting in these countries, and creating leverage over Western forces who don’t want the violence to spiral further.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has placed Moldova in an exceedingly vulnerable position. Moldova is Europe’s poorest country, is extremely determined by Russian gas, and it is presently facing various economic and security problems. In April 2022, because the war in Ukraine raged on, numerous inexplicable explosions happened in areas of Transnistria, a Russian-aligned territory along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that claims independence from Moldova. Some analysts think that these explosions were a staged provocation to provide Transnistria a casus belli to visit war with Moldova or Russia to make use of this territory to fight Ukraine from the new front.
Russian Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekayev has sparked further concerns by openly proclaiming that Russia’s war aim would be to seize full charge of Ukraine’s southern coast. If effective, this type of campaign will give Moscow use of Transnistria, where Minnekayev claims the Russian-speaking human population is being oppressed. Following a EU’s recent decision to allow Moldova (and Ukraine) candidate status, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asserted that Moldova associates candidate status with anti-Russianness. Peskov’s comment is essential because Russia has consistently justified its invasion of Ukraine by purporting to become protecting individuals persecuted by “Russophobia.” Lately, the foreign minister of Transnistria, Vitaly Ignatiev, presented Moldova’s EU candidate status like a dead end—killing any possibility for cooperation—and expressed dedication towards the territory’s independence and possible subsequent integration with Russia.
As with Moldova, growing separatist tensions in Georgia have intensified fears of the Russian invasion. In May 2022, the previous de-facto leader of so-known as South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, announced a referendum on unification with Russia. Although his successor canceled the intends to hold a referendum for the time being, Georgia still faces constant provocations from Russian-backed separatists, such as the kidnapping and illegal detention of civilians living plus the so-known as administrative boundary line. With Georgia’s population remaining overwhelmingly pro-Western and looking integration in to the EU and NATO, Georgia is especially vulnerable with no protection associated with a security umbrella. Through its local enablers, Russia is trying to change public opinion by distributing disinformation the precondition for Georgia’s NATO membership would come with recognition from the independence of Russian-occupied Georgian territories. Meanwhile, Russia is constantly on the stoke separatism inside a bid to keep its sphere of influence and also to weaken Georgia’s statehood. For instance, captured the Russian-controlled KGB of South Ossetia issued a statement claiming there are rising neo-Nazi and nationalistic sentiments in Georgia.
In addition, within the month following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 30,000 Russians fled to Georgia to prevent living under sanctions. The increase of Russian citizens is responsible for concern among Georgians that sooner or later, Putin could use the growing Russian population to warrant another invasion by claiming Georgia is “oppressing” Russian citizens. Russia used this type of pretext in 2008 if this launched a complete-scale invasion of Georgia and occupied 20 % of their territory—Abkhazia and also the so-known as South Ossetia. Russia continues to be waging a “quiet” war 14 years later by pushing a “borderization” policy that entails gradually grabbing more territories from Georgia.
As Russia is sparking fears of intensified conflict in Moldova and Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina has become facing its finest existential threat because the finish from the Bosnian war in 1995. Russia is undermining Bosnia’s stability by exacerbating ethnic divisions between Croats, Bosniaks, and Serbs. Milorad Dodik, the Serb person in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, functions like a key player within the Kremlin’s bid for that Balkans. He’s threatened Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia (the nation consists of two entities, another to be the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) but his actions speak louder than words.  In December, the Republika Srpska parliament voted in support of beginning a process for Bosnian Serbs to withdraw from national institutions like the Bosnian army, security services, tax system and judiciary. This type of withdrawal would make the collapse of Bosnia’s government and additional destabilize the nation before the 2022 general elections in October. The following instability could give Serbia justification to invade Bosnia and “annex” its Serbian speaking populations underneath the guise of protecting its compatriots abroad. As Dodik has emphasized, Putin has guaranteed him that “we aren’t departing our buddies.”
Dragan Čović, the best choice from the greatest Bosnian Croat party, continues to be pushing for electoral reform and that he freely stated this can be a “direct threat to peace and stability in Bosnia”, that is a dream become a reality for Putin. They’ve threatened to bar government functions following the country’s elections in October, which may only intensify the crisis.”
Through elevated meddling in Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Putin makes it obvious he can pull the trigger and defrost frozen conflicts whenever he pleases. The U.S. and Europe must send information warfare teams to counter Moscow’s weaponization of secessionist movements.  Failure to do this will be sure that the Kremlin will win during these vulnerable countries and can further destabilize Europe. Because the war in Ukraine has proven, where Russian influence goes, chaos and destruction follow in the wake.
Ivana Stradner is definitely an advisor towards the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Natia Seskuria is definitely an affiliate fellow in the Royal U . s . Services Institute.