How Moscow Sees Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Interesting interview over at CFR today with Elizabeth Fuller of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, which takes a look at how Moscow can reconcile support for Georgia’s breakaway regions while managing separatist tensions within its own territory. She argues:

The more I think about it the more I am inclined to believe that Russia has never intended to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If Russia had done that, after it protested the recognition of Kosovo, it would have laid itself open to allegations of double standards. Russia had not let Chechnya secede. It would be difficult for Russia to argue that Abkhazia and South Ossetia have the right to become independent from Georgia but that Chechnya doesn’t have the right to become independent from Russia.

I suspect, but this is something I cannot document, that the Russian leadership found all of this intensive speculation within Russia, within Georgia, and abroad about the possibility that it might recognize Abkhazia as a very useful smokescreen while they sat down and decided on their “Plan A” and their “Plan B.” Particularly interesting is that Russia has now come up with a new plan to resolve the conflict between Moldova and Trans-Dniester. They are apparently trying to shove this plan down the throat of the Moldovan president, Vladimir Voronin.This is a plan that would create a so-called joint state between Moldova and Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester is in the same position vis-à-vis Moldova as Abkhazia is vis-à-vis Georgia. The big plus of the Russian plan for Moldova compared with [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili’s plan for Abkhazia is that it doesn’t use the word autonomy, which is something that the Abkhaz reject. It is a way of keeping Trans-Dniester in Moldova, without labeling it in a way that Trans-Dniester would find unacceptable. I wonder whether Russia will say—if and when Moldova accepts this peace plan for Trans-Dniester—why will Georgia not accept this model for resolving its conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.