საქართველოს პოლიტიკის ხარვეზები სეპარატისტული რეგიონების მიმართ
გამოცემა :
16:37 07-02-2015
A few hundred miles from the Moscow-backed offensives in eastern Ukraine, a quieter Russian expansionist project is taking shape in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On Jan. 23, the Russian Duma ratified what it called a “Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership” with Abkhazia, further extending and codifying Russian suzerainty over the balmy, subtropical republic on the Black Sea. In nearby South Ossetia, a rump highlands statelet of less than 40,000 people, its de facto president has promised an even more comprehensive treaty with Moscow likely to be signed later this month.

The reaction from Tbilisi has been, unsurprisingly, one of anger and protest. To most Georgians, the treaties represent a bold land grab, one not unlike Moscow’s annexation of Crimea early last year. To some extent, this view has unmistakable merit. Tellingly, the Russian leadership chose not to replicate the “recognition” model in Ukraine that it had pioneered in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Instead, Crimea was annexed outright while the separatist statelets in the Donbas, as the rebellious region of eastern Ukraine is known, conformed to the more familiar Russian model of support without recognition, which Moscow has traditionally applied to varying degrees elsewhere, including the so-called frozen conflicts in Moldova’s Transnistria and Gagauzia regions, Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and, before the 2008 war, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But with the new treaties, Moscow’s “recognition” of the Georgian breakaway territories has come full circle. The Kremlin failed to anticipate the logistical and financial challenges of almost single-handedly buoying the trappings of these two region’s independence. So it has gradually taken to a policy of loudly asserting the territories’ autonomy internationally, while steadily assuming ever-increasing direct control over their de facto governments, internal security and economies.

While South Ossetia separatists have long clamored for unification with North Ossetia, a subject republic in the Russian Federation, the situation is more complicated in Abkhazia. Unlike South Ossetia, much of Abkhazia’s considerably larger population seems to take its nominal independence seriously. Allowances are made for the region’s inherently asymmetrical relationship with their giant patron Russia, but few Abkhazians had any wish to trade Tbilisi’s rule for Moscow’s.

The initial drafts of the recent treaty, in fact, were met with widespread Abkhazian discontent, in part because it would have virtually disbanded Abkhazia’s de facto army. That was modified to mollify local elites. But concerns among ordinary Abkhazians continue to percolate, as many come to the realization that their independence may have been just a Russian geopolitical gimmick, revocable on a whim—if it was ever really there at all.

Nevertheless, the prevailing response in Tbilisi, echoed by its Western allies, has been to decry creeping Russian annexation. While this is an accurate reflection of recent trends, it also somewhat contradicts their previous assertions that the South Ossetian and even Abkhazian regimes were little more than Kremlin puppets, completely lacking any autonomy whatsoever. Russian military and political dominance was always a crucial variable when it came to the separatist regions, despite Moscow’s farcical refusal to admit its role as a party to the conflicts. But Abkhazia and—to a much lesser degree—South Ossetia did possess certain avenues for dialogue and even negotiation, especially before the 2008 war. To its credit, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition came to power in 2012 with the stated goal of seeking out and opening those lines of communication with their estranged cousins in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, only to find that it was likely already too late.

Today, Georgian overtures to both breakaway regions, however well-intentioned and genuine, are unlikely to make much of an impression, much less bring their leaders to the negotiating table. For example, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili’s pledge last October to grant “broad autonomy” to Abkhazia and South Ossetia hardly caused a stir in the separatist capitals, where periodic promises from Tbilisi are treated as empty, inexpensive gestures, rather than starting points for discussion. While a reflexive cynicism, or outright hostility, may be the chief culprit for the separatists’ incredulity, the Georgian offer is hardly strengthened by widespread political resistance in Tbilisi to even token forms of decentralization or the ever-questionable degree of self-rule in the country’s only nominally autonomous entity, Adjara.

If nothing else, hardening Russian control over Georgian territory ought to serve as a wakeup call to Georgia’s political class, which has simply alternated one-dimensional policies toward the separatist regions. Under the previous United National Movement government, which was in power during the fighting in 2008, this amounted to periodic saber-rattling and flying in Francophone pop stars to play liberation concerts. Under Georgian Dream today, it has been the unrequited willingness to hold direct talks.

Instead, the current circumstances suggest the Georgian government and the Georgian people should begin asking themselves harder questions about just how serious they are about reunification and, relatedly, what Georgians are willing to do to regain the territory that Russian troops now occupy. What is Tbilisi doing to provide a viable, and even desirable, alternative to Russia? Would Georgians accept a land-for-peace deal, even if it meant ending their claims to some regions? Should the country adopt more far-reaching decentralization policies to demonstrate its seriousness about granting autonomy to Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

There is ample evidence that many ordinary Abkhazians are unhappy with their new arrangement with Moscow, regardless of any placating word-smithing in the treaty. But Georgia, fixated as ever on Russian dominance, was in no position to even be a source of leverage for the separatists, much less a conceivable alternative. Barring the unforeseen, Georgia’s only hope for reunification with Abkhazia and South Ossetia is by establishing itself as not only the more desirable economy and polity, but also the better option for the Abkhazian people’s pockmarked quest for self-determination. So far, however, Tbilisi seems unwilling or unable to do so.

Michael Cecire is a Black Sea regional analyst and co-editor of “Georgian Foreign Policy: The Quest for Sustainable Security.”

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23:24 04-01-2018
კლინიკაში, სადაც თემირლან მაჩალიკაშვილი მკურნალობს, დამოუკიდებელი...
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სიახლეების გამოწერა
23:24 04-01-2018
კლინიკაში, სადაც თემირლან მაჩალიკაშვილი მკურნალობს, დამოუკიდებელი ექსპერტი მაია ნიკოლეიშვილი მივიდა. როგორც ნიკოლეიშვილმა განაცხადა,
23:05 04-01-2018
თურქეთის ერთ-ერთმა კლინიკამ მოითხოვა დამატებითი ინფორმაცია თემირლან მაჩალიკაშვილის ჯანმრთელობის მდგომარეობის შესახებ,