South Ossetia and Abkhazia: Independence Recognized

The Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and the genocide of the Ossetian population which triggered Russia’s adequate military response eventually led to irreversible consequences. The developments transformed fundamentally the situation in the Transcaucasia and possibly even in the entire global politics.

The hopes of the Georgian leadership and its patrons that Moscow would take a passive role did not materialize. The situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the expulsion of the aggressor from the regions forced Russia to take clear and immediate political steps. Following the unanimously adopted appeal of the two chambers of the Russian Parliament to the Russian President, it became obvious what the decision had to be. Desperate calls for agreeing to the international mediation, voiced by a number of analysts, were nothing more than the last attempts to reverse the essentially irreversible.

On August 26, 2008 Russian President D. Medvedev officially declared that Russia had recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In his statement, he laid out a clear historical, political, and legal vision of the ethnic conflicts which had taken place in the territory of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic since 1991. He said that the attacks on Tskhinvali and Sukhumi ordered by Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991 under the unthinkable slogan "Georgia for Georgians" killed thousands of people and turned tens of thousands into refugees. At that time, Russia blocked the extermination of the Abkhazian and Ossetian peoples, and, seeking a political solution, undertook the peacekeeping mission in the conflict. President Medvedev emphasized that in the process Russia invariably based its activities on the recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia.

In 1990 Georgia scrapped all the Soviet-era legislation and thus destroyed the legal basis of the incorporation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia into it. For a long time, this fact was ignored, the result being that Georgia was allowed to act aggressively in the conflict zone (it amassed armaments in the demilitarized zone, illegally installed checkpoints, and took other steps contrary to the peacekeeping regime in South Ossetia). The inaction was seen as a sign of weakness by the Georgian political leaders, and the appeasement policy logically made possible the Georgian attack on South Ossetia on the night of August 7. President Medevedev said that the breakdown of the negotiation process, violations of the previously reached agreements, political and military provocations, and attacks on peacekeepers were severe breaches of the conflict zone regime established with the UN and OCSE support.

Legally, the Russian President’s decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is based on the UN Charter, the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations and the System of the Sources of International Law, the OCSE Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and other documents. Yet, the factor of greatest importance is the will of the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The reading of specific international law norms such as the right to self-determination and the territorial integrity is inevitably affected by the current political context, but the principles demanding not to use force and to resolve conflicts peacefully (not by means of mass extermination campaigns) must be accepted as the unquestionable basics under any circumstances. Tbilisi is guilty of numerous severe violations of the principles as it organized blockades, perpetrated terrorist acts, created intolerable living conditions for the Tskhinvali population, and eventually attacked Russian peacekeepers and citizens in South Ossetia.

Even though, in strict accord with the UN Charter, the Georgian aggression has been repelled, the situation in the region remains far from normal. Russia’s official recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia opens the way for the next set of necessary measures to ensure peace and security in the Caucasus. Those may include the extension of security guarantees to the peoples of the two Republics and the establishment of fully functional mechanisms of Russia’s peacekeeping in the Caucasus.

The situation appeared fairly definite till August 26. The six points which emerged with the help of French President Sarkozy who became "the self-proclaimed mediator" and were later subjected to editing by the Tbilisi criminal did help to address the tactical task of freezing the military activity and of easing the tensions to an extent. However, they cannot be regarded as a valid long-term instrument. First, the Georgian side has no intentions to fulfill its part of the obligations. Rather, Tbilisi would use the agreement to get a pause needed to build up its military capabilities in the region. Secondly, the interpretation of the document is bound to be increasingly anti-Russian. The French delegation has already submitted to the UN Security Council a resolution draft seemingly based on the Sarkozy plan but including a statement asserting the territorial integrity of Georgia in the borders of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. Such diplomatic maneuvers actually targeting Russia are exactly what had to be expected.

Attempts to internationalize the conflict in a format acceptable to the West – possibly by deploying armed peacekeepers in the region under the UN or the OCSE flag – are another direction of the political activity of Washington and Brussels. The truth is that the OCSE structures have shown being absolutely unfit to deal with the region’s problems and, moreover, have been known to collaborate with the aggressor. There is information that the OCSE knew when exactly the attack would be launched and did nothing to prevent it (miraculously, the OCSE mission suffered no damage during the disperse bombardment of Tskhinvali). In Abkhazia, OCSE made no efforts to arrest the militarization of the Kodori Gorge by Georgia. This does not seem surprising if one recalls the developments around Kosovo. In 1998, Serbia admitted a diplomatic observer mission to Kosovo which was supposed to monitor the situation in the region but focused on reconnaissance instead. Officially the mission was led by the OCSE, but in practice it was largely run by the CIA. Mission head W. Walker "discovered" mass murders of Kosovo Albanians in Racak, etc.

The next logical step following Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia must be a military-political alliance of Moscow, Sukhumi, and Tskhinvali aimed at securing the new Caucasian states against any further aggressions and eliminating the risk of conflict internationalization in the framework of a Balkan-style scenario.

Russian diplomacy should not slow down upon the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A lot has already been said about the need to immediately carry out the economic reconstruction in the Republics. The political and diplomatic background maximally favorable from Moscow’s perspective must also be ensured as there is a potential to do so. We should not forget that it is Brussels, not Moscow, who needs the Russia-NATO cooperation most. Leaks concerning the possible bans on the NATO military transit to Afghanistan across Russia have already seen the light of day in Western media. Considering the difficult situation in Central Asia prone with instabilities, for example, in the north-western part of China, such a ban could be a natural measure. The logic behind Moscow’s politics must be explained to Russia’s allies, particularly the Shanghai Cooperation Organization members. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry indicated that a joint Shanghai Cooperation Organization statement on South Ossetia would be issued on August 28.

In the future, the purpose should be to form an efficient collective security system in Eurasia to replace the UN which has demonstrated poor efficiency and reluctance to abide by its own principles during the Caucasian crisis.

[Source: Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow, 28Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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