The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Steinmeier’s Georgian march

July 22, 2008

The Abkhazia plan proposed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been getting close to zero press in the United States.

Which may be appropriate. As a Kommersant headline sums it up: “Russia Signs On to German Plan, After Abkhazia Rejects It.”

Russia has given high marks to the plan for a Georgian-Abkhazian settlement proposed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and called it “conceptually absolutely correct.” That practical support from Moscow for Germany’s intermediary efforts comes immediately after the plan was rejected by Abkhazia and was a sensational surprise. Moscow has reacted jealously to all similar attempts coming from the West. In reality, it seems that Moscow simply did not want to be the one to sound the death knell for the plan, which has little chance of success in any case.

As the St. Petersburg Times reports:

The German-sponsored plan was agreed to in principle last month in Berlin by representatives of the five powers acting under the United Nations secretary-general — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The plan envisions three stages, the first of which involves increasing confidence-building measures between the government in Tbilisi and the Abkhaz leadership in Sukhumi.

The second stage is to focus on the province’s economic reconstruction with a donors’ conference in Berlin, while the third would see talks on Abkhazia’s political status, which most experts consider by far the most difficult issue.

Bagapsh said Friday that he would only consider the first stage.

Iakobashvili said expectations should not be raised too high and that no one expected that Steinmeier had any kind of magic wand that could solve the problems all at once.

Steinmeier himself said he had no illusions but that he wanted to press on.

“Each side’s position is still far from that of the other,” he said in a report posted on the German Foreign Ministry’s web site. “But the recent events force us to find a way out of the rising violence.”

Perhaps. But the status quo serves Russian interests pretty well: it gives Mosvow more time to de facto integrate Abkhazia into the Russian Federation.

Image source: the BBC

website | + posts

Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.