Wednesday, 31 August 2011

One small step towards recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

The recent presidential elections in Abkhazia have reignited the debate concerning the legitimacy of any internal political developments in the two newly independent states, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both the EU and the US declared the elections illegitimate – notwithstanding the fact that there had not been any major violation of voters’ rights or incidents that might shed any doubt concerning the outcome. It was as simple as that – “both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of Georgia, both are occupied by Russian military forces, hence the people of those ‘breakaway’ republics have no right whatsoever to express their will”.

Even before that, commencing its five week-long vacation, the US Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 175 which recognizes both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as integral parts of Georgia “occupied by the Russian Federation”.

Amongst all the usual Western fuss on the issue, one voice has been very distinctly (and I must say, rather unexpectedly) heard. A prominent American conservative commentator and presidential ex-candidate Patrick Buchanan wrote an opinion piece “Why Are We Baiting the Bear?” published on “The Post Chronicle” website on August 28.

“Is the Senate trying to reignite the Cold War?” asks Mr. Buchanan, and answers, “If so, it is going about it the right way.”

Next question, “What is wrong with Senate Resolution 175?” And the answer is, “Just this. Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia has been under Georgian control for 20 years. When Georgia seceded from Russia, these ethnic enclaves rebelled and seceded from Georgia.”

To this I might add. The only period in history when the two territories WERE under Georgian control, was the few decades-long Soviet period – and that was only due to the policy of “Georgianization” pursued by Stalin. When after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia chose to disintegrate, the same right was granted to all autonomous entities. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia overwhelmingly decided to remain within the former Union, which in today’s terms would be equal to uniting with Russia.

Further, Patrick Buchanan debunks a number of myths or stereotypes prevailing in Western minds.

One is the myth of the “Russian invasion, or aggression against Georgia”.

“This is neocon propaganda,” writes Mr. Buchanan. “Russian troops are in those enclaves because in August 2008 Georgia invaded South Ossetia to re-annex it, and killed and wounded scores of Russian peacekeepers.” And the ongoing presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is basically “a deterrent to Saakashvili (Georgia’s necktie-eating President. – B.V.), whose agents have been working Capitol Hill to push the United States into a confrontation with Russia on Georgia’s side.”

Further on, Mr. Buchanan outlines a number of examples clearly demonstrating the hypocrisy and the double standards of the U.S. policy. What seems most significant is the rare (for any Western public figure) recognition of the fact that there is basically no difference between the situation with Kosovo and that with the two independent (but not as widely recognized) states in the South Caucasus. Kosovo’s independence, as we remember, was achieved only due to massive Western support, including 1999 NATO bombings of sovereign Yugoslavia.

“Do we not have enough on our plate in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan not to be telling Russians how they should behave in lands closer to them than Grenada or Cuba is to us?” asks Patrick Buchanan. The question hardly needs an explicit answer.

Of course, Mr. Buchanan is no longer an active public politician or official, so his opinion may be disregarded by the establishment as a personal view of just one individual. But neither has he ever been identified as a Russian (or, Soviet) crony, therefore I should say that such an opinion expressed by a well-known, prominent and influential commentator is more than just simple jabber of an ordinary man-in-the-street.

Probably it will still take a long time before the truth about Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence dawns upon decision-makers in Washington, but Patrick Buchanan’s article is a clear sign that the process has already begun.


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