An Expert Breakdown of a Breakaway Region and the Kremlin’s Political Sea World
04 December, 2014
An Expert Breakdown of a Breakaway Region and the Kremlin’s Political Sea World
Political scientist Gia Kuchava estimates that the threat of being “swallowed” will loom above Abkhazia only if Russia manages to fully establish its authority in Crimea and other separatist regions, which would require tremendous amounts of money. Considering the current economic sanctions against Russia, coupled with the growing amount of internal problems, Moscow will have a very hard time doing this. Still, Mr. Kuchava is convinced that in the near future Russia will increase its pressure on Georgia.

GIA KUCHAVA:


– The treaty signed between Russia and Abkhazia clearly reveals its ultimate, subjugating purpose: For further expansion into the South Caucasus, Russia requires a military foothold. Vladimir Putin’s mention of the Abkhazian Railroad was no accident. In the near future, an unprecedented level of pressure will be exerted on the Georgian government to coerce it into opening this railroad – I wouldn’t rule that out, at least. Let me remind you that Armenia and Russia have been trying to reactivate this railroad for 20 years and that Russian experts do not even try to hide the fact that the Abkhazian Railroad will be a powerful bargaining chip for them in the region.
A NATO training center will become active in Georgia very soon. The rekindling of a military conflict at the Georgian-Abkhazian border is the last thing Russian economy needs right now because it is forced to incessantly “feed the fish,” personified by separatist regions, while making sure that the “fish” will not break the artificial levees and head towards different waters.

– Besides Russia’s desires, Abkhazian desires and choices should also be taken into account. Or do you think that their fate has already been decided by the signing of this agreement?

– There are two major political movements in Abkhazia: 1) People who think they won the war in 1993 and thus have no desire to relinquish their “sovereignty.” Some of them are “Amtsakhara” – the veterans; 2) The Abkhazian intelligentsia, supporters of ex-President Ankvab, who are opposed to the treaty. There are also the liberal-leaning Abkhazians who perfectly understand that Abkhazia may eventually end up becoming part of Krasnodar Krai, and they will kiss their 20-year-old dream of having a road to the West goodbye.
Keep in mind, however, that all Abkhazian movements and parties understand that without Russia, they’d be nothing. Thus, all political powers are pro-Russian, with the only difference being in who is more or less pro-Russian.

– Do you think they will eventually come to terms with getting annexed by Russia?

– They do not exactly have a choice. Why did Russia do this today and not tomorrow? Because for Russia, this is important in many ways: 1) It interferes with NATO creating its own infrastructure in Georgia; 2) It allows the establishment of direct transport connections with Armenia; 3) It allows Russian military bases in Armenia to function fully. This is confirmed by Putin’s statement regarding the opening of the railroad, which would allow transit along the Yerevan-Tbilisi-Sukhumi-Moscow route.

– How important will Georgia’s integration into European structures prove to be for solving the problem with Abkhazia and separatist regions in general?

– Nowadays Georgia is interested in facilitating and fortifying the presence of the West in the entire region and not just within its own borders. Azerbaijan, for example, sees Georgia as a main transit corridor for its energy commodities. Naturally, Russia doesn’t like this at all.
Georgia’s integration with the West would bring about many positive things, such as peaceful solutions to ethno-political conflicts. We have a perfect example of this in Moldova, which signed the Association Agreement along with Georgia. According to Natalia Snegur-Gherman, Moldova’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the number of inhabitants in Transnistria desiring Moldovan citizenship, grew by a large margin after the agreement was signed. Therefore Georgia’s association with the EU is a nightmare not only for the so-called governments of Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia) but for Russia as well.
Abkhazia was even forced to replace its “president” for being too lenient towards Georgia. After Ardzinba’s death, Russia made two attempts to put Khajimba at the helm of Abkhazia but failed at both. Sergei Baghapsh, the second de facto president of Abkhazia, died in Moscow due to “complications” after a simple surgery. Alexander Ankvab’s regime was toppled by a massive civil uprising. These two presidents, despite being ultimately pro-Russian, pursued a more or less independent policy. Khajimba, however, is a KGB officer. His obedience to Moscow’s directives is absolute.
First on social media sites and then on Abkhazia’s “national” TV, a statement was made claiming that more and more ethnic Abkhazians (not to be confused with Georgians living in Gali) go to Tbilisi to get higher educations or to find solutions to a variety of personal problems. Things like this make Russia shake in its boots but are extremely good for us. We should do everything we can to make more and more Abkhazians strive toward Georgia.

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