ROAR: Two years on, Abkhazia, South Ossetia still count on Russia

Russia’s recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia two years ago remains the main factor of political and economic stability of the former Georgian republics.

Abkhazia’s international positions have strengthened in the past two years, the country’s president, Sergey Bagapsh, said on August 24. He was speaking at a round table discussion to mark the anniversary of Russia’s recognition of the two former Georgian republics.

Bagapsh described the recognition of his republic’s independence as a historic event, to which Abkhazians “had been moving for long years.” Since then, "the activity aimed at attaining the recognition of Abkhazia by other countries has assumed special significance,” he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

“Abkhazia will never be part of Georgia, it will develop as an independent state” he stressed.

Abkhaz Prime Minister Sergey Shamba said that there was no alternative to the strategic union between Sukhum and Moscow. Russia is “the only strategic ally of the republic,” he noted at the round table.

Russian recognition solved the most important question of any state and any society; that is security and economic development, Shamba added.

At the same time, making this decision in 2008 and taking consequent steps, Russia confirmed that it “fully restored its authority in the Caucasus and no one can question that, even such important rivals as the United States,” he added.

Russian Ambassador in Sukhum Semyon Grigoryev agrees that that Abkhaz foreign policy has been successful in the two years since the Russian recognition.

“Some people in Russia and in Abkhazia are skeptical about the speed of international recognition of Abkhazia,” he noted. “The recognition is a priority, but neither Abkhazia nor Russia will try to influence anyone or spur on this process.”

Moscow will continue supporting the foreign policy of Abkhazia, including diplomatic work in third countries, the ambassador was quoted by the agency as saying.

“Russia’s political stance toward South Ossetia remains unchanged,” said the republic's president Kokoity, speaking at the meeting devoted to the anniversary. Moscow will not change its decision, despite the fact that Tbilisi and some other capitals would desire the contrary, he noted. The Russian president recently confirmed this, Kokoity stressed.

“South Ossetia will remember to whom it owes its salvation and the recognition of the right for freedom and independence,” he noted.

As South Ossetia also prepared to mark the recognition, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said on August 24 that Russia had deployed S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in the republic.

A source in the Russian Defense Ministry on August 25 denied the information, saying that “there are no S-300 systems in South Ossetia.” However, he stressed that S-300 was “a defense weapon, and there can be no restrictions on its deployment on the territory of the Russian base in South Ossetia.”

Earlier, Russian officials confirmed Moscow’s deployment of the S-300 system in Abkhazia in 2008 for defensive purposes as a regular armament of Abkhaz military base.

Russia’s assistance and security guarantees are “most important” for the two former Georgian republics, said Aleksandr Shatilov, deputy general director of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

Moscow secures “stability, relative economic well-being and military support,” he told Actualcomment.ru website. “And these states have been recognized by some UN member states,” he added.

“It is a different matter that the balance of forces in the world does not make mass recognition possible,” the analyst said. But for Abkhazia and South Ossetia this issue is “not fundamental,” he noted.

At the same time, “the semi-suspended status” of these republics is “favorable” to Russia, Shatilov noted. “On the one hand, South Ossetia and Abkhazia could be positioned as sovereign states. On the other hand, this does not allow to them to conduct a certain independent line and to toughly oppose Moscow, in particular, in economic issues.” Russia “has clearly strengthened its positions in the South Caucasus,” the analyst said.

There are a lot of states in the world recognized by few others, he noted. The Kosovo precedent may have more consequences because it emerged as a result of the disintegration of one of the important states in Europe. The world community had paid less attention to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he noted.

The results of the recognition “proved to be not as alarming or dangerous as they could have been,” president of the Petersburg Politics foundation Mikhail Vinogradov told the website. “They did not entail a serious international isolation of Russia, although the risk was big enough.”

“But it is difficult to speak seriously about the independence,” the analyst noted, adding that it was “rather a symbolic and ideological gesture.”

At the same time, the Russian scenario in the South Caucasus may support “the preservation of ethnic conflicts rather than their settlement,” he said.

The recognition strengthened “Bagapsh’s fairly strong and effective regime,” but Russia has not demonstrated so far the ability to “stop a political and corruption marginalization of Eduard Kokoity’s regime,” Vinogradov said.

The fully-fledged settlement in the region should also include the return of refugees, the analyst noted. And if Russia wants to limit Georgia’s possibilities, “it should be understood that no considerable success has been achieved in creating an alternative to the [Georgian President] Mikhail Saakashvili regime,” he noted. "This did not happen, although there was a serious international isolation of Georgia, which it still cannot overcome,” he stressed.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT