The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Russia recognizes Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence

August 26, 2008

That was quick. So much for the resolution simply serving as “leverage” for Putin and Medvedev in negotiations with the US and NATO.

As predicted, Moscow’s rationale borrows directly from the west’s argument in favor of Kosovo independence.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised broadcast Tuesday he had signed decrees to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“This is not an easy choice but this is the only way to save human lives,” he said.

Medvedev said he believed Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia earlier this month gave the breakaway republics a right to independence.

“(Georgian President Mikhail) Saakashvili chose genocide to achieve his political objectives,” Medvedev said. “Thus he dashed all hopes for peaceful coexistence of Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians in one state. The South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples have repeatedly voted for their republics’ independence in referendums. We understand that, after what happened in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia’s capital) and what was being planned for Abkhazia, they have a right to be in charge of their own destiny.”

Medvedev also accused Georgia of thwarting negotiations on the breakaway republics’ status, ignoring agreements and carrying out provocations.

This comes after a day of “tense standoffs” in Georgia and Moscow’s decision to halt the WTO-membership process.

One odd thing: this also comes not long after the Russians downgraded the number of civilian causalities among the South Ossetians by around ninety percent. Although “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are matters of intent, not magnitude, that does take away some of the force behind their accusations against Georgia.

More Analysis to come.

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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.