Russia: Georgia will lose South Ossetia
AFP/Getty Images Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said today, in no uncertain terms, that Georgia will lose South Ossetia. He also extended this forecast to the separatist enclave of Abkhazia, saying that it was “unlikely Ossetians and Abkhazians will ever be able to live together with Georgia in one state.” In fact, South Ossetia and Abkhazia ...
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said today, in no uncertain terms, that Georgia will lose South Ossetia. He also extended this forecast to the separatist enclave of Abkhazia, saying that it was “unlikely Ossetians and Abkhazians will ever be able to live together with Georgia in one state.”
In fact, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia for well over a decade, although international recognition has not followed. There are ethnic, religious and cultural differences between the two regions and Tbilisi that make unification impossible, even if the international community recognizes them as one country. Put bluntly, South Ossetians and Abkhazians hate Georgians and vice versa.
The key question moving forward, then, is not Georgia’s role in the two regions, but Russia’s. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured us in the Financial Times Tuesday that “Russia has no intention of annexing or occupying any part of Georgia and has again affirmed its respect for its sovereignty.”
But in Russia’s eyes, respect for the Georgian sovereignty still makes Abkhazia and South Ossetia fair game. Lavrov also notes that the majority of South Ossetia’s people are Russian citizens, glossing over the fact that Moscow has been conveniently issuing South Ossetians Russian passports for years, making direct intervention in the region a necessity to “protect Russian citizens.”
Seasoned Russia hand Strobe Talbott worries that the Kremlin might attempt to “Balkanize” the Caucasus, bringing the surrounding territories under Russian control in the same manner that Slobodan Milosevic tried to reunite the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s:
If [Lavrov] has given the world a glimpse of the Russian endgame, it’s dangerous in its own right and in the precedent it would set. South Ossetia and Abkhazia might be set up as supposedly independent countries (“just like Kosovo,” the Russians would say) — but would in fact be satrapies of Russia.”
More from Foreign Policy
The Scrambled Spectrum of U.S. Foreign-Policy Thinking
Presidents, officials, and candidates tend to fall into six camps that don’t follow party lines.
What Does Victory Look Like in Ukraine?
Ukrainians differ on what would keep their nation safe from Russia.
The Biden Administration Is Dangerously Downplaying the Global Terrorism Threat
Today, there are more terror groups in existence, in more countries around the world, and with more territory under their control than ever before.
Blue Hawk Down
Sen. Bob Menendez’s indictment will shape the future of Congress’s foreign policy.