12 December 2009

Almost states and elections

There are an amazing number of quasi, wannabe states out there. Many are even recognized by other states, just not enough (and not all of the big 5).

One of these, Abkhazia, had its first post-quasi-independence election. Abkhazia is, of course, one of the two provinces that broke off from the FSR of Georgia.

It strikes me as problematic the way that different states react to new states. No one can realistically claim that the Georgian government actually has any sway over Abkhazia, just like no one can claim that Serbia still has sovereignty over Kosovo, or Moldova over Transdniestr, or China over Taiwan. Yet, for political reasons, each of these is denied by one or more major powers.

China, at least, has a consistent policy (probably due to its troubles with Taiwan). It refuses to recognize any separatist state, at least until the whole world is willing to recognize it.

But for both the US and Russia, this means that we only recognize those regimes we like. Kosovo is independent to the US, but not to Russia. Abkhazia is independent to the Russians, but not to the US. I understand not wanting to reward aggression or sham governments, but at the same time it strikes me as containing much of the silliness of US policy to Iran or pretending that the government on Taiwan was going to "take back" China one day. It's just not likely to happen.

I sometimes wonder if the Russian leadership would be willing to accept a certain tit-for-tat on Kosovo and Abkhazia. We recognize one, and they recognize the other. Would they be willing to go for that, particularly after an (admittedly flawed, but nevertheless real) election in Abkhazia?

I know-it would destabilize world borders and throw Georgia under the bus. How? I'm not sure; I'm really not convinced that recognizing reality does anything to hurt people.


  1. Does a putative recognized Abkhazia have to take back 200,000 to 250,000 former residents who were forcibly displaced in the wars of the 1990s?

  2. Well, we haven't required Kosovo to take back displaced Serbs, from what I've seen, so I doubt it.

  3. I think that Kosovo is willing to take back Serbs (though not as willing to keep things peaceful for them as the international community would like), as the K-Albanians would still be something like 90 percent of the population. So I don't see any need for requirement.