Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia’s independence in the aftermath of the war with Georgia has had the paradoxical effect of compromising its effort at building state institutions and symbols that has been sustained for the last 15 years.
The uncompromising stance taken by the Abkhazian delegation in the first round of the Geneva talks demonstrated that Sukhumi attached great importance to the status of independent state and would not accept ‘friendly advice’ on reducing its ambitions even from Russia.
The Abkhazian leadership has to cut a very fine line between securing necessary support from Russia and ensuring at least some freedom of maneuvering towards the goal of real independence. Politicians in Sukhumi suspect that in the near term Russia may not be that interested in convincing other states to recognize Abkhazia’s independence as it might diminish Moscow’s leverage. They nevertheless have reasons to assume that time works for their cause and the main one is the unstable internal situation in Georgia. As the patriotic mobilization gradually dissipates, the question about responsibility for the lost war inevitable moves to the centre of public debates, but President Saakashvili shows no readiness to admit any mistakes – and is unlikely to depart gracefully from the political arena. His possible attempt to suppress opposition could result in a protracted crisis that might trigger a new secessionist attempt by Ajaria. Turkey’s position towards this break-up, as well as towards Abkhazia, could be determined by the conflict developments in Iraq, which might sink into a violent quagmire after the probable US military withdrawal. In the situation of undermined US influence and increasing EU reluctance to consider the long-pending Turkish accession application, Ankara might shift priority to building closer relations with Russia – and that would favor the Abkhazian case. Whatever turbulence lays ahead, the main force driving the development of this protracted political conflict will be the commitment of the Abkhazians to building a functional self-sustainable and multi-cultural state.
Los conflictos del Caucaso