Russia: I think you better recognize

Abkhazian flag South Ossetian flag Russia’s State Duma unanimously approved a resolution today to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states. This move has been hinted at for months but obviously, as RIA-Novosti observes, “the Georgian-Russian conflict has dramatically changed the position of the self-proclaimed republics.” President Medvedev still ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
593018_080825_Abkhazia5.gif
593018_080825_Abkhazia5.gif

Abkhazian flag
South Ossetian flag

Russia's State Duma unanimously approved a resolution today to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states. This move has been hinted at for months but obviously, as RIA-Novosti observes, "the Georgian-Russian conflict has dramatically changed the position of the self-proclaimed republics."

President Medvedev still has to approve the resolution, but it's not too early to consider the implications of Russia's recognition. This development seems to be the best indication so far that the dreaded Kosovo effect -- the emboldening of separatist movements around the world in the wake of Kosovo's recognition -- was more than just hype. This was exactly what the Georgians had in mind when they decided not to recognize Kosovo last winter.

Abkhazian flag South Ossetian flag

Russia’s State Duma unanimously approved a resolution today to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states. This move has been hinted at for months but obviously, as RIA-Novosti observes, “the Georgian-Russian conflict has dramatically changed the position of the self-proclaimed republics.”

President Medvedev still has to approve the resolution, but it’s not too early to consider the implications of Russia’s recognition. This development seems to be the best indication so far that the dreaded Kosovo effect — the emboldening of separatist movements around the world in the wake of Kosovo’s recognition — was more than just hype. This was exactly what the Georgians had in mind when they decided not to recognize Kosovo last winter.

While U.N. membership for the two new states is about as likely as Putin and Saakashvili taking a fishing trip this fall, it will be interesting to see if any countries follow Russia’s lead and recognize them. Recognition has historically had much more to do with politics than international law and it’s quite possible that countries hoping to curry favor with the Russians –Belarus and Venezuela come to mind — might set up ties with the de facto states. Analyst Paul Goble believes 15 to 20 countries might join in, hardly an international consensus but still enough to avoid a “Cyprus scenario” where the states would be recognized by only one other country.

This month’s events have given some other frozen conflict participants pause as well. Medvedev was leaning pretty hard on Moldova’s president this weekend, urging him not to repeat the “Georgian mistake” by trying to retake control of the quasi-independent Transnistria region, which is tepidly supported by Russia. The Moldovans seem to have gotten the message and I wouldn’t be surprised if Moscow continued to use the former Soviet Union’s separatist movements for political leverage. (Crimea, perhaps?)

Let the recognition wars begin.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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