INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA:
A (DE)STABILIZING FACTOR IN THE CAUCASUS
Yana Amelina, Head of the Sector of Caucasian Studies, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) (Moscow, the Russian Federation)
The August 2008 war and recognition, on 26 August, 2008, of the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia by the Russian Federation and, later, by several other countries created a new situation in the Greater Caucasus, which many of the regional and world geopolitical players have found unpalatable. Their active efforts to change the new reality run up against the recognition of independence of these two states, which Russia cannot revoke without losing its international prestige and influence in the Caucasus right up to possible secession of the Northern Caucasus. The above-mentioned players have no choice but to use force to liquidate the republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; if this happens, complete and final destabilization of the Caucasus will be inevitable.
Meanwhile, neither the young republics nor the Russian Federation are making it a point to get more states to recognize the independence of the first.
Georgia and the Western Actors:
“New Approaches” to South Ossetia and Abkhazia
Georgia, which is still deliberating the question of “restoring territorial integrity” (“reunification” with Abkhazia and South Ossetia contrary to the will of their populations), is the most active among the regional players determined to change the post-August 2008 landscape. This will inevitably call for the use of force despite Georgia’s ardent desire to join the EU and NATO and the large-scale economic and social reforms designed to confirm Tbilisi’s “European choice.” In view of the allied relations between Russia and each of the new states and the presence of Russia’s military bases in their territories, another attempt to restore Georgia’s “territorial integrity” by force will lead to its crushing military defeat, disintegration of its statehood, and the emergence of several puppet quasi-states in its territory.
Fully aware of this, Tbilisi will hardly venture to use arms any time soon. Georgia gained much more influence in the Northern Caucasus when it unilaterally abolished the visa regime with the Russian Federation; however the process stopped at the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Tbilisi, however, could tip the balance in its favor by skillfully applying “soft power.”
Some of the American think-tanks can be described as the main world actors determined to help Tbilisi regain control over the two republics. They guided the North Caucasian “initiatives” of Georgia up to and including the use of the “Circassian card” and the attempts to re-orientate South Ossetia and Abkhazia away from Russia toward the West (as represented by the EU and U.S.). In fact, Washington is pursuing its own geopolitical aims: restructuring the Greater Caucasus by pushing Russia out of it and diminishing the role of Turkey and…………….