Saturday, March 8, 2008

Abkhazia appeals for world recognition

In the farthest corner of Europe, along the Black Sea coast the little region of Abkhazia is trying to breakaway from the nation of Georgia to form its own country.

The Abkhaz people contend that they have had their own country for 15 years now, since they drove the government forces out of the northwest corner of Georgia - the problem is that no one else regards Abkhazia as a nation. Even Russia, their neighbor to the north, has refused so far to recognize Abkhazia.

Two things though have happened that Abkhazia hopes will change the situation. First is the recognition of Kosovo's independence last month. The Abkhaz see a similar story in their land - an oppressed ethnic minority, which rose up to drive the government out of their territory - and assume that if its right to recognize Kosovo, then its right to recognize Abkhazia. The second event is a restoration of economic ties between Abkhazia and Russia.

After their war for independence, Abkhazia established economic and political relations with Russia. For years Russia was Abkhazia's only trading partner and Russia granted Russian passports to many of Abkhazia's citizens. In an attempt to improve relations with Georgia, Russia cut its ties to Abkhazia. But last week, Russia changed its mind again and restored its economic links to Abkhazia.

On one hand, reopening their ties to Abkhazia is simply a way for Russia to cause problems for Georgia - relations between the two countries is bad and is getting worse as Georgia tries to join Western bodies like NATO and the European Union. The other reason though for Russia to reopen the ties is the Olympics. The 2014 Winter Games will be held just up the coast in Sochi, Russia. And Russia is hoping to use Abkhazia as a source of both raw materials and cheap labor to help build all the venues you need to hold an Olympic Games. It would be a boom to Abkhazia's economy, which currently relies on a little agriculture and the visits of a few tourists looking for something really off the beaten path.

Recognizing Abkhazia's independence though is a difficult call for Russia. While Russia would love to stick it to Georgia by helping to carve a new country out of its flank, Russia then risks having the same thing happen to them - Russia has for the last decade been fighting to keep the region of Chechnya from breaking away. The Georgians surely would not pass up the chance to cause trouble for Russia then in return by recognizing the claims of the Chechens.

So Abkhazia is likely to remain where its been these last 15 years - not a country, but not part of Georgia either.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: