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Georgia’s situation uncertain immediately after Kosovo

By M. Alkhazashvili
Wednesday, February 20
The waves from Kosovo’s independence show no signs of quickly abating, with the repercussions—for Georgia, among many others—yet to be clear.

Every player finds themselves standing on ‘principles’ which require some logical dexterity. Washington insists on the uniqueness of every secessionist conflict, yet there is nothing localized about the inviolability of borders. And Moscow assails the recognition of Kosovo’s independence as illegal and dangerous, while suggesting it is now free to do the same for pro-Russian separatist regions—but if one secessionist state gaining international recognition is dangerous, two is doubly so.

Georgia itself muddles about in the middle, denying that Kosovo sets a precedent for Abkhazia and South Ossetia yet demurring from recognizing the fledgling state on grounds it is too ‘delicate’ for Tbilisi to weigh in on.

The Kremlin has had nearly a decade to prepare for Kosovo’s Sunday declaration of independence, but seems to have had no coherent Plan B ready. Moscow is now boxed into a corner, forced to either back down from their threat to recognize other separatist states, or worse yet, to carry it through and damage many of its own interests.

Within a Georgian context, Russian recognition of an independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia would strengthen President Saakashvili’s domestic hand by hurling the countries into severe conflict, and intensify Georgian commitment to a Euro-Atlantic orientation. The breakaway regions are one of Russia’s most effective weapons in the South Caucasus, and firing that shot without a sensible target would be counterproductive for Moscow. Yet Georgians remain nervous, with hope that the Saakashvili-Putin meeting will provide some comfort.