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Moscow on the way to recognising the separatists

By M. Alkhazashvili
Wednesday, August 27
August 25 might become a historic day for Russia. For this was the day it passed its own death sentence.

Both chambers of the Parliament unanimously supported recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. However the last word on the matter belongs to President Medvedev, or in reality most probably Prime Minister Putin.

Russian legislators were “generous” in blaming, criticizing and threatening Georgia and the West. The illusion that the old empire is already recovered was clearly there. But the Duma forgot one thing in the euphoria of its “glorious victory” over Georgia. The Soviet Union with its satellite states was more powerful and dangerous than Russia is today. But what happened? It collapsed.

The Kremlin’s intention to legalize the separatist regimes is just a challenge to the West to show it who’s boss. Once again the inferiority complex of the Russian leadership is demonstrated. “Tit for tat, you recognize Kosovo and we will recognize the separatists in Georgia,” Moscow has threatened many times. It is more than naive to speak about “independence” for South Ossetia or Abkhazia. The people living there have been given Russian passports and Russian occupation forces control whatever goes on there.

The Russian political elite regrets it did not completely destroy Western-oriented Georgia. However grabbing two Georgian regions and keeping the Russian armed forces on the territory of another sovereign state, to say nothing about the refusal to follow the terms of the Sarkozy-brokered ceasefire agreement, show clearly that the Kremlin ignores any international law and is prepared to repeat its aggression any time, anywhere, against anyone.

What will Medvedev/Putin do? Some analysts think they will pause until the September 1 EU summit is convened, in order to try and bargain, whatever it is they think they have to bargain with.

Russian analysts frequently warn their hot blooded politicians about the threats their country could face by recognizing Georgia’s breakaway territories. Russia has several dozen autonomous ethnic entities of its own, which might slowly move in the separatist direction. Chechnya could be repeated once again followed by Ingushetia, Dagestan and others which are quiet for the time being. Russia will find itself in complete isolation in the political or, more seriously, the economic and financial spheres. Russia’s next door neighbour Ukraine will start taking urgent steps to protect itself, and NATO at least will now take commonsense measures to help it do so.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are following the developments in Georgia and its separatist regions closely. Armenia hopes that the precedent Russia has set will make it easier for it to legalize its occupation of Nagorno Karabakh. However it is hopefully aware that if it too recognizes the Georgian separatist regions it will create problems for itself concerning the transit route through Georgia. So Russia is on the edge of creating a storm over the Caucasus. It can step back at any time. Or will it prove itself absolutely irresponsible?

P.S. Yesterday around 3 p.m. Russian President Medvedev put his signature on the Russian Parliament’s appeal. Thus Russia recognized the independence of separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This is no longer about Georgia, its regions or Russia. It is a challenge to the entire world.