Tuesday Map: Abkhazia, what’s really at stake?

The smaller the renegade province, the bigger the pawn — at least so it seems in the world of post-communist geostrategic positioning.  Just as the dust has begun to settle around the Kosovo independence issue, Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now find themselves front and center in the separatist question lime light. ...

595067_080513_georgia_map2.gif
595067_080513_georgia_map2.gif

The smaller the renegade province, the bigger the pawn -- at least so it seems in the world of post-communist geostrategic positioning.  Just as the dust has begun to settle around the Kosovo independence issue, Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now find themselves front and center in the separatist question lime light.

In recent months, the U.S. has pushed for Georgian memebership in NATO, rebel pockets and all; while Russia has upped its ties with both of Georgia's de facto independent states. And just this week, the EU threw in its two cents, declaring support for Georgian territorial integrity.

The smaller the renegade province, the bigger the pawn — at least so it seems in the world of post-communist geostrategic positioning.  Just as the dust has begun to settle around the Kosovo independence issue, Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now find themselves front and center in the separatist question lime light.

In recent months, the U.S. has pushed for Georgian memebership in NATO, rebel pockets and all; while Russia has upped its ties with both of Georgia’s de facto independent states. And just this week, the EU threw in its two cents, declaring support for Georgian territorial integrity.

With Moscow-Tbilisi tensions running high, let’s take a look at what Abkhazia and South Ossetia really have to offer…beyond their mad drone-downing skills:

Map by Phillipe Rekacewicz – UNEP/GRID-ARENDAL

According to this week’s Tuesday Map of Georgia’s environmental and security issues from the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), the two rebel provinces come complete with two refugee camps (orange triangles), two nuclear waste sites (yellow markers), and one “large aging Soviet industrial complex still generating pollution” (red circle).

Abkhazia does have a beautiful coast — so beautiful, in fact, that the most famous Georgian of them all incorporated it into Georgia proper back in 1931, setting the province on course for decades of ethnic tension and the economic isolation. Beautiful or not though, this week’s map shows that much of Abkhazia’s shore line is actually chock full of “pesticides and/or heavy metals (mainly inherited from the Soviet period)” (yellow patches).

All in all, I can see why neither Georgia nor Russia will give up their influence over this diamond in the rough — what country wouldn’t forsake regional stability for a few more nuclear waste sites?

Lucy Moore is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.