Russian Legislature Recognizes Breakaway Provinces
The Federation Council and the Duma, the upper and lower houses of the legislature of the Russian Federation, have voted in favor of recognizing the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, from Georgia:
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament unanimously approved on Monday resolutions calling for the recognition of two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states, a move likely to worsen already strained relations with the West.
Both houses of parliament, which are controlled by Kremlin loyalists, swiftly approved non-binding resolutions calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognize the pro-Moscow breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The lower house, or State Duma, approved a second resolution calling on parliaments worldwide to back independence for the two regions, saying they had many more reasons than the former Serb province of Kosovo to aspire to international recognition.
Where does the 500-lb. gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants. Both of the regions have had de facto independence from Georgia since they broke away more than a decade ago so in one sense giving these two areas recognition is just an acknowledgement of the facts on the ground.
I was skeptical of the idea of Kosovo as an independent country when we were supporting the ethnic Albanian Kosovars in their bid on several grounds including that the area was landlocked, had no historical independent identity, and was culturally important to the Serbs. But there was at least some argument for independence on the grounds of the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population of the region.
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are geographically smaller than Kosovo and don’t have anything like a tidy ethnic identity absent the “ethnic cleansing” that’s been going on and no doubt is going on right at this moment. If I recall correctly under the Soviet Union they were an autonomous okrug and an oblast, respectively.
In particular it’s hard to imagine South Ossetia as a viable state. Not only is it landlocked but it’s tiny. It’s 8% smaller geographically than the county in which I live (Cook County, Illinois) and, perhaps, has 2 or 3% of the population. The average income of South Ossetians is less than a dollar a day—they’re among the poorest people in the world. Unless you believe that a torrent of Russian foreign aid will flood into the country it’s hard to imagine how the area is going to dig itself out of its hole on its own.
Well, the other shoe has dropped and Russia is all but certain to be the first country in the world to recognize the independence of the two territories. What’s next? The Independent Republic of Springfield, Illinois?