Monday, 25 August 2008

Russian parliament recognises Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence

Breaking news: President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia has formally recognised the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. (26 August 2008)

Russian parliament unanimously recognised the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions in an extraordinary session. The decision, which is non-binding, will now be sent to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev for approval.

Should this move gets materialised by Kremlin, i.e. should Russian president formally recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, this could serve an important precedent for other breakaway regions in a post-Soviet space. Regardless of differences, this move would strengthen Karabakh positions in its quest for independence.

In the meantime, BBC wonders whether this would end up as new Kosovo when independence was recognised by a substantial number of states or North Cyprus when only Turkey has done so.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, currently holding EU presidency, has called for a special EU summit on Georgia on 1 September to discuss the situation.


Observer said...

I'd be interested to know what you think about it yourself? And what do you think the impact will be for Artsakh?

artmika said...

As I said, I believe this would strengthen Artsakh/Karabakh position in its quest for independence. Karabakh is the first “breakaway region” in the Soviet-post-Soviet space, i.e. effectively it’s the first real precedent for self-determination movement in our region. Besides, as for now, Karabakh has much more developed state structures than, say, either Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Also, population composition with overwhelming Armenian majority, even considering Azeri minority which lived there during Soviet times. Compare it to Abkhazia’s case. I am not even going into historical aspects of the conflict.

What is more important, however, is that with these moves by Russians, and previously by West re Kosovo, whether they want to admit it or not, the notion of “territorial integrity” became more flexible, and international community started seriously considering options of regional security and an introduction of a system of non-use-of- force in the South Caucasus, which can only be a good sign. Even more, regardless when or whether Russia would formally recognise Abkhazia or South Ossetia, these events have one more positive outcome, one would hope, by toning down Azeri militaristic rhetoric and affecting public opinion there.

I suppose these would be my thoughts, for now.

spm said...

How is it strengthening NKR/Armenian position?
It only shows complete defeat of Armenian diplomacy. Every other breakaway republic has been recognized so far by at least one country that matters.

South Caucasus is protected naturally from Russian easy invasion by mountain ridge. Thats is why Russia needs(ed) Armenia as its stronghold there. They used Armenia directly to invade Georgia in 1920. This time there was no direct military intervention from Armenian soil, but Armenia's dividing stance and presence of Russian base is a factor anyways. However after breaching Caucasian mountains and putting their foot in southern Ossetia, Russians will become even more ignorant of Armenia and its interests than ever before. I think Armenia so far did not gain anything from this conflict and is going to loose more.

Anonymous said...

In 1921 you meant, and they mainly used Azeri territory for Georgian takeover ,not Armenian.Just a little correction. Now, regarding the topic.
When are Armenians going to stop filling with joy whenever Georgia gets in trouble? We hope this is going to help Armenia? Recognition of South Ossetian independence? How exactly? You guys actually think Russia loves us so much they're going to upset Azerbaijan, whose oil and gas they're trying to get to transport to Europe and partly started this war to kill Nabucco gas pipeline project which was going to transport Azeri and Middle-Asian gas through Georgia. Russia now effectively gave these countries no choice but to use its territory and pipelines. Recognizing Karabakh's independence will give Russia nothing at all. Zero. Actually, they will loose their main tool of control over both Armenia and Azerbaijan. When is this blind love for mother Russia going to come to an end? If anything, it's Azerbaijan who is in a winning position out of all this, not Armenia. We are blockaded from all directions, Azerbaijan doesn't have that problem and if they decide to become Putin's great petrogas political plan of control over Europe, then we're fucked. Georgia is like air to Armenia, we should be very careful not to upset our dear neighbours. Do you guys really care for Ossetian independence. If you ask me, then fuck them, don't give a shit about their aspirations, whether they're Russian, Georgian or Chinese controlled. But Georgia has to be stable and democratic for the sake of Armenia's stability. So Georgia is who I support.

Ani said...

Archuk, since you're repeating your statement on both Nazarian and Unzipped, I'll do the same: Although at face value, it seems that Russia should equate NKR with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, their reasoning is different and I don't think they will actually support an NKR independence move right now. It's interesting that that REGNUM report came out; I'm wondering if it was an attempt to get Armenia to take that bait. It doesn't seem to have worked, at least today. (Ref. is to "Nagorno Karabakh can be recognized by Armenia simultaneously with Russia recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia")

Russia's true interest in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is in their adjacency to Russia. They will become de facto (if not de jure) provinces of Russia, and much weaken Georgia--simply looking at the map shows how deeply the South Ossetia border goes into the heart of Georgia. Russia however (I believe at least) would rather see Armenia and Azerbaijan stay weak and at cold war with each other than have a resolution either one way or another of NKR. And the fact that today Medevev reassured Azerbaijan (and Moldova) today on NKR and Transnistria strengthens my point of view.

The idea of a "Caucasian Union" must be quite frightening to Russia, and precisely what they would want to prevent.

me said...

I tend to think that this will in fact create an international backlash against independence movements in the region and shorten the Minsk Group's patience with maintaining the status quo. And so far, I haven't seen any mention of Gharabagh in Duma's resolution, a sad development given our "brotherly" relations with Russia.

As we've seen, matters such as these are all about what suits what superpower when and unfortunately have very little to do with precedent.Europe rallied behind Kosovo but not Ossetia and Abkhazia; Russia crushed the Chechens but is now talking about people's right to self-determination. I agree that the only way out of the chaos is a strong Caucasian union that however seems highly unlikely at this point.

artmika said...

We need democracy and stability not just for Georgia but for all South Caucasus countries. That’s why instead of blaming outside forces for this conflict (be that Russia, US…) my main blame lies on local leaders. As I wrote to a Georgian reader of this blog, “The whole South Caucasus is at stake but the main threat is coming from local leaders who thanks to their reckless politics made sure that our region became very susceptible to foreign forces, and as a result - in this case Saakashvili's politics (nothing was left of his 'democratic credentials' after last November violent dispersal of peaceful protesters in Tbilisi) - what we got is weakened, devastated Georgia, weakened South Caucasus, and increased influence of Russia over the region. And of course, the most painful outcome of this war is to see so many casualties...”

There is absolutely nothing joyous in my post/comment about Russia’s policies in Georgia and Caucasus. I was just trying to speculate if something positive could come out of this horrific mess which we are now in, including for Karabakh. Sooner all sides understand that it is impossible to ‘solve’ the problems with “breakaway regions” with force, the better it would be for the region. It is now impossible to consider South Ossetia and Abkhazia as part of Georgia as “territorial integrity”. It is impossible to consider Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. But it is possible to consider all these republics as part of different South Caucasus. That what my post & comment implies. (Perhaps, it was not clear, therefore I decided to clarify my position) I beleive there is chance for South Caucasus to make a fresher start. Sounds more like a wishful thinking but hey if there is the slightest possibility, I would definitely go for it. That’s the reason why I think Oskanian’s article is so current and worth considering.

The only way for South Caucasus to move forward and to balance as much as possible increased Russian (as well as others) influences is to unite as much as possible within some kind of security/stability framework. Yes, despite differences and existing conflicts. Therefore, I think Turkey’s and Oskanian’s proposals are worth considering if of course they would not remain juts words but rather something practical. As a first step, Turkey should open up its borders with Armenia, without any preconditions.

P.S. I am a bit puzzled re Russia's attitude towards the "Caucasian Union" framework as they reportedly gave their "OK" to it. Also, US seems not pleased at the idea, at least as of now, as reported by media.

Ani said...

Pulling a quote from your "Cacausian Union" post:

"Turkey's proposal to establish a Caucasian union was widely accepted. The union, called by Turkey as "Caucasus Stability and Partnership Platform", is envisaged to bring Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia under the same roof."

Russia would be far less willing to view the proposal positively if their name wasn't on the list! I'd think the whole point of a "union" would be to exclude all the superpowers and have a balanced approach to both Russia and U.S. Apparently Russia's view of a "union" would be that they would get to control not only the Caucasus but also Turkey, whom they at present don't have much sway with. (They'd probably also insist that Turkey not join the EU.) It's not like there could be an equal partnership among Russia and the other countries--no wonder the U.S. is skeptical.

Haik said...

Double standards my friends. The same "solution" doesn't fit all.

I agree with unzipped and most of you.

If we don't sort out the local issues there can't be even hope for Artsakh. For the past 10 years we were loosing our independence day by day. Now our foreign ministry is a virtual space.
The only way Armenia and Artsakh can survive is establishment of true and direct democracy in Armenia. This is something we can do.

artmika said...

Very important quote from the Russian Foreign Ministry statement re legal aspects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence

This quote is important as Russia tries justifying legality of recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence by Soviet law of succession of a state. This is one of the main legal justifications which Armenian side brings about in relation to Karabakh independence too.

From the statement by Russian Foreign Ministry (emphasis mine):

"Since the outbreak of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in early 1990s, as a result of Tbilisi actions, Russia has been doing its utmost to contribute to their settlement on the basis of recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia. Russia has taken this position despite the fact that the proclamation by Georgia of its independence violated the right of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to self-determination. In accordance with the Law of the USSR "On the procedure for addressing the issues related to the secession of a Union's Republic", autonomous entities that formed part of Union's Republics were entitled to resolve themselves the issues of their stay within the Union and their state legal status in case of the secession of the Republic. Georgia prevented Abkhazia and South Ossetia from exercising that right."

Ani said...

They said that, huh? Time for Wikipedia geography lessons, since apparently we're going to have all sorts of new countries now, all yearning to breathe free, and I'm sure that Russia will have no problem at all with that:

(These are within the current borders of Russia:)

The 1978 Constitution of the RSFSR recognized sixteen autonomous republics within the RSFSR. Their current status (as of October 2007) within the Russian Federation is given in parentheses:

Bashkir ASSR (now Republic of Bashkortostan)
Buryat ASSR (now Buryat Republic)
Chechen-Ingush ASSR (now Chechen Republic and Republic of Ingushetia)
Chuvash ASSR (now Chuvash Republic)
Dagestan ASSR (now Republic of Dagestan)
Kabardino-Balkar ASSR (now Kabardino-Balkar Republic)
Kalmyk ASSR (now Republic of Kalmykia)
Karelian ASSR (now Republic of Karelia)
Komi ASSR (now Komi Republic)
Mari ASSR (now Mari El Republic)
Mordovian ASSR (now Republic of Mordovia)
Northern Ossetian ASSR (now Republic of North Ossetia-Alania)
Tatar ASSR (now Republic of Tatarstan)
Tuva ASSR (now Tuva Republic)
Udmurt ASSR (now Udmurt Republic)
Yakut ASSR (now Sakha (Yakutia) Republic)
Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast (now Altai Republic) was promoted to the ASSR status in 1991, in the last year of the Soviet Union, thus becoming the seventeenth ASSR

South Ossetia, like Nagorno-Karabakh was an Autonomous Oblast, not a Republic. You can see that list at

artmika said...

I do not know direct wording in the Soviet law itself, but Russian Foreign Ministry cites the right of "autonomous entities" which could be republic or "oblast". On the other hand, while Russia potentially put itself in a very tricky situation re its own autonomous entities, they may argue that they did not "succeed" from the Soviet Union per se, its other Soviet states did so. But double standards are always out there in international politics as "spm" mentioned in a comment to my post too.

Ani said...

Hate to say I told you so (well, maybe I don't):

September 10, 2008
Russia’s Recognition of Georgian Areas Raises Hopes of Its Own Separatists
MOSCOW — Tatarstan is a long way from South Ossetia. While South Ossetia is a poor border region of Georgia battered by war, Tatarstan is an economic powerhouse in the heart of Russia, boasting both oil reserves and the political stability that is catnip to investors.

But the two places have one thing in common: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, both have given rise to separatist movements. And when President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia formally recognized the breakaway areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations two weeks ago, activists in Kazan, the Tatar capital, took notice.

An association of nationalist groups, the All-Tatar Civic Center, swiftly published an appeal that “for the first time in recent history, Russia has recognized the state independence of its own citizens” and expressed the devout wish that Tatarstan would be next. The declaration was far-fetched, its authors knew: One of Vladimir V. Putin’s signal achievements as Mr. Medvedev’s predecessor was to suppress separatism. The Tatar movement was at its lowest ebb in 20 years.

But Moscow’s decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia made Tatarstan’s cause seem, as Rashit Akhmetov put it, “not hopeless.”

[...](long article follows)

hugeness said...

er i realise this is a bit of an old thread, but not many people realise that russian nationals were publishing in (either april or july) cant remember which, that in government meetings it was accepted in principle that transnistria south ossetia and abkhazia could become members of the russian federation.
if you know about their foreign stance as peacekeepers in these regions, it shows how the western powers ignored the writing on the wall.

hugeness said...

oh.. sorry here is the reference

Gevorgyan said...

Here are two articles about the Russia's possible new war in the Caucasus - namely in Georgia. Interesting to have your opinions re this.

Грани.Ру::Обама и Саргсян::(Кто удерживает Путина от войны) :: Андрей Пионтковский :: 07.07.2009

Ежедневный Журнал::ОПЯТЬ НЕ БУДЕТ::ЛЕОНИД РАДЗИХОВСКИЙ::07.07.2009

Gevorgyan said...

Here is one more opinion.
I see nobody wants to discuss the possibility of the question at issue which may impact our country profoundly if the situation develops in an unpredictable direction.

Robert Amsterdam :: Preparing a Pretext to Invade Georgia :: July 24, 2009

artmika said...

Gevorgyan, to be honest, in my opinion, all these talks on Russia's possible new war with Georgia have no real basis or urgency, and made for the sole purpose to divert people's attention from real problems facing the countries. I may be wrong but believe that for now and for a foreseeable future Russia achieved its main aim, and they do not need to get involved in a new war with Georgia. On the other hand, Georgia simply cannot afford to even try attempting at new war. What Georgia needs now is to re-instate democracy and go forward with the after-war state re-building process ensuring the rights of ethnic and other minorities, thus making the country more appealing to them.

Gevorgyan said...

I agree that Russia has many internal and external problems and that there are cases when talks about wars are made with the "sole purpose to divert people's attention from real problems facing the countries".

Nevertheless wars begin for other purposes too. In Russia's case it can be:

1. To treat former Soviet republics as their vassals.

2. Domestic difficulties: shrinking population base, ruinous economy and financial institutions, soviet stile authoritarian government, corruption...

3. China's, Japans and other Eastern states vigorous challenges.


5. Enormous military spendings, particularly on nuclear arms.

6.The bitterly painful feelings of the loss of empire.

There are so many strategic and tactical reasons for the Russia's new war in the Caucasus or in the Ukraine (for example), that it will take a long list to be mentioned.

And what concerns to strengthening democratic institutions in Georgia I am completely in line with you.