What’s the difference between Abkhazia and Kosovo?
Georgian PM Nika Gilauri and FM Georgy Vashadze continue their ‘shuttle service diplomacy’ in the countries of the Pacific. The main objective of their visit to Australia and New Zealand is to prevent these states, along with other Polynesian and Oceanian countries, from recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. The necessity of such a high-ranking delegation was accepted after three countries of the region – Nauru, Vanuatu and Tuvalu – recognized Abkhazian and Ossetian sovereignty.
One of the most respected Georgian international relations experts, ex-head of the Diplomacy Academy, Joseph Tsintsadze, agreed to comment on this process as well as on common features of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Kosovo for VK.
- How tightly is the visit of the top Georgian officials to the Pacific region connected to the problem of the breakaway republics?
- It is true that Georgian diplomacy pays special attention to Australia and New Zealand, in order to stop the Russian plan for Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia's recognition. It is only natural, when Russia pays special attention to the same region. Russia had to address minor states of the Pacific, as it wasn’t even able to compel Syria and Cuba to recognize the republics, let alone European countries. So I think the measures taken by the Georgian government are adequate. But they should have been undertaken even earlier, before Moscow persuaded Nauru, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.
Of course, recognition from part of an island-state is purely symbolic in nature. It is sad that the proud people of Abkhazia have to literally buy such recognitions with Moscow’s help. Tuvalu recognized an independent Abkhazia? So what?! Tuvalu itself could perish in the waters of the Pacific any moment. And if Kremlin politicians think that the quantity of those recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia will gradually turn into quality – they are mistaken. Nevertheless, Russia carries on in the Pacific, our Foreign Ministry has this information. Probably, it comes from our UN Ambassador, Alexander Lomayiya. If the Russian Ambassador to the UN conducts meetings with entrepreneurs from insignificant countries – that definitely means something. It is sort of funny: Georgia allocated 14,000 dollars to help Tuvalu, but Russia, of course, was able to make a higher bid.
- Is it possible that bigger states of the region, such as Indonesia and Philippines, would recognize Abkhazia and Ossetia?
- I don’t think so. If there was such a possibility, Russia wouldn’t have to resort to Tuvalu and Vanuatu. I think that Venezuela and Nicaragua are the only relatively big states that are going to recognize the breakaway republics.
The ex-president of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh, visited Cuba, and wanted to keep it a secret. Of course, he didn’t go there just to see Fidel. But the sides couldn’t agree on the sum that could pay for Cuba’s recognition of the country. Unlike Tuvalu, Cuba wanted more than 20 million dollars or so, and Russia’s generosity isn’t unlimited, especially when there’s a risk of a drop in oil prices.
- Yes, but before Venezuela’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia didn’t hesitate to make a multi-billion-dollar contract with the country!
- But it was Venezuela that paid! For weapon deliveries from Russia. And Russia had a double profit. Venezuela is quite solvent, unlike Cuba. That is also why Havana didn’t strike the same deal as Venezuela – you can’t feed a hungry population with weapons. As for the weapons that were located on the Soviet base in Cuba – they were Soviet property, not Cuban.
Abkhazia became hostage to a false prestige, that doesn’t yield any practical benefits. If they are so secure about their statehood, why do they want Vanuatu to recognize them? It is ridiculous: in the case of Vanuatu, Moscow could only persuade this tiny state to recognize only Abkhazia, and not Ossetia. And Vanuatu’s government still changed its mind several times in two weeks. As you see, this shoul feel pretty embarrassing for Moscow.
The point is – will any of the OSCE countries, apart from Russia, recognize the two new states? Or NATO and EU members for that matter? Now that would have been a breakthrough.
- Georgian breakaway republics are often being compared to Kosovo. Do you think such a comparison is well grounded?
- In the case of Kosovo, all the world’s leading powers, apart from Russia, agreed to recognize it. But the plan of Finland’s ex-president has de facto been abandoned and the Kosovars feel themselves free from their obligations.
Kosovo is independent, but it will never enter the UN, as Russia has a veto there.
The main difference between Abkhazia, Ossetia and Kosovo is the following: the situation in Kosovo didn’t benefit any particular state, it was in the interests of the international coalition, while in our case Russia alone has all the profits.
And of course in both cases the international community supported the victims of ethnic cleansing: Albanians in the first case and Georgians in the second. Moreover, Kosovo is practically at the heart of Europe, and if Kosovo’s current leader, Khashim Tachi, is no better than Milosevich, it doesn’t mean that his predecessor, who gained European support, was the same. European media are silent about Kosovo today, but the crisis continues.
In our case the situation is less complicated: Russia has occupied Georgian territories, and Europe agrees with this point of view.
Interview by Georgy Kalatozishvili, exclusively to VK