Rezonansi, Tbilisi, Georgia
Aug 30 2008


Separatist provinces are about to become part of Russia


Mari Otarashvili


Abkhazia, South Ossetia seeking membership of military alliance

It was reported yesterday that Abkhazia is planning to join the
Russia-Belarus union. Abkhazia is effectively prepared to become a
Russian province. Russia, meanwhile, it taking some steps to safeguard
the security of the separatist republics: along with preparing to
establish military bases there, Moscow is also working to make them
part of the "collective security system".

If countries like Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan follow Russia's example and recognize the independence
of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia, they will have to send
their troops to the two provinces in the event of an armed
conflict. Political analyst Mamuka Areshidze has suggested, however,
that this is mere PR since these republics are actually under Russia's
protection.

Following Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia
and the so-called South Ossetia on 26 August, the two provinces are
expected to from a military alliance with Moscow. Russia's Interfax
news agency has reported that Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia
could become members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization
[CSTO]. According to the same source, the member-states of the
organization will discuss the possible accession of Abkhazia and the
so-called South Ossetia on 5 September.

Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan are the current members of the CSTO. If these countries
recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, their
accession to the organization will only be a matter of time.

What is CSTO and how important is it for Abkhazia and the so-called
South Ossetia to join it? Rezonansi spoke to political analyst Mamuka
Areshidze about these questions.

Armenia, Belarus likely to recognize separatist republics

[Rezonansi] Are Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan to follow Russia's example and recognize the independence
of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia?

[Areshidze] Most of the residents of these countries are
pro-Russian. It is possible that such a precedent (the accession of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the organization) will create another
precedent. At any rate, Russia has been working for a long time now to
make this happen. Since Kazakhstan has been Russia's ally, Moscow has
worked intensively in that country. However, Kazakhstan also has
certain ties with Georgia, which is the reason why Nazarbayev has
refrained from supporting Russia's move.

Tajikistan has a puppet government that has only been able to retain
power through the support of the Russian armed forces. Kyrgyzstan is
under dual influence. As you know, there is a US military base
there. Russia will therefore find it quite difficult to obtain the
country's consent. As for Uzbekistan, its leader always acts according
to the situation and hence it is possible that he will take certain
steps on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

I am convinced that Armenia and Belarus are the two countries that are
set to support the recognition of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's
independence.

[Rezonansi] What kind of an organization is the CSTO and how valuable
would its membership be for Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia?

[Areshidze] If these countries recognize the independence of Abkhazia
and South Ossetia, they will have a duty to ensure their
security. This means that they will have to send their troops and
armaments to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the event of a war.

[Rezonansi] Does this mean that the membership is important?

[Areshidze] I would not say that it is important as it is more of a PR
move. Should a conflict arise, the Russian army would once again have
to be the "saviour" of the Abkhaz and the Ossetians. This is PR as
they want to show that an international organization has backed
Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They do not have the resources to aid the
Abkhaz and the Ossetians. The powerful Russia will have to protect
them but it still wants to be able to say that an international
organization has recognized the independence of the separatist
republics.

[translated from Georgian]