O, Abkhazia!

A week or so ago, when Ned was asking for questions to ask Bill Cohen, Sam Nunn, and Chuck Hagel. I suggested he ask about Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Why? Well, because stuff like this happens:

A statement from the Russian foreign ministry said that “a bridgehead is being prepared for the start of military operations against Abkhazia”.
Russia accuses Georgia of amassing 1,500 soldiers and police near the rebel areas of the upper Kodori Gorge.

Tensions between Russia and Georgia have flared up recently, despite Russia lifting economic sanctions against Georgia earlier this month.
Last week Russian authorities insisted Abkhaz rebels had shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane – after Georgia accused a Russian plane of shooting down the drone.
And on Tuesday Georgia said it was blocking Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organisation.

Via Rob Farley. Morally, this is a tough call. On the one hand, Abkhazia, like South Ossetia, is a de facto independent state; it just lacks the legitimacy and tangible benefits (like formal trading relationships, treaty membership) that come with internationally recognized statehood (though they do make some awesome stamps). If I were convinced that Abkhazia would remain a stable, independent entity after secession, I’d be all for it breaking away. But that probably won’t happen. Abkhazia, like South Ossetia, would most likely be annexed by Russia if made independent. That isn’t a victory for national self-determination; it’s a victory for a state with strong authoritarian tendencies against a reforming democratic one. I’m with Rob on not wanting Georgia in NATO, because if this becomes a hot war the last thing we want is for that to automatically trigger hostilities between the US/Western Europe and Russia, but they still deserve some support in preventing a blatant attempted Russian land-grab. If Georgia is actually planning to retake Abkhazia, that makes things more complicated, but they still have a right to fight rebels within their borders. I’m not so sure the US has the diplomatic or economic leverage to prevent Russian military action, but if it exists, I think it makes sense to use it ( within reason, of course).

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