Silent Support: Moscow Urges Its Partners To Reconsider Values

by Arkady Dubnov

WPS Agency
What the Papers Say (Russia)
September 4, 2008 Thursday

Russia’s post-Soviet allies refuse to go all the way and recognize
South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow’s energetic efforts to muster post-Soviet allies will be toted
up tomorrow, almost a month after commencement of hostilities in South
Ossetia. Russia desperately needs allies who will second its recent
actions in the Caucasus. Success or failure of its efforts will
be determined at the summit of the CIS Collective Security Treaty
Organization (Organization) in Moscow, tomorrow. The Organization’s
Council of Foreign Ministers is meeting in the Russian capital, today.

Attention such as now has been focused on no previous summit of the
Organization. It is only expectable because no Organization member
has ever been involved in hostilities beyond its own territory until
now. This is the first time therefore when the Organization is expected
to formulate its position on so serious a matter.

Secretaries of member states’ security councils met in Yerevan,
Armenia, yesterday. Organization Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha
was quoted as saying that it was time for the structure to reconsider
certain values. Bordyuzha referred to the so far unconfirmed reports
that Ukrainian military personnel had participated in the hostilities
on Georgia’s side and actually fired at Russian aircraft. The problem
is, the Ukrainian regular army trains its antiaircraft complex crews
on Russian firing ranges using Russian drones for targets.

"Georgia’s action itself pushes Abkhazia and South Ossetia into the
collective security framework, and membership in the Organization
is their sovereign decision," Bordyuzha said. "Anyway, they cannot
count on successful and stable development without (participation in)
the collective security framework."

Bordyuzha is apparently echoing Sukhumi’s and Tskhinvali’s thoughts
on the matter but all of that is just wishful thinking for the time
being. Membership in the Organization requires more than recognition
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia alone. Recognition by
all Organization members is required, and that’s precisely the
snag. Official Moscow recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August
26 but not one of its allies followed suit. Not even Belarus. The
hints Minsk kept making that it would happen in a day or two but
certainly before the Organization summit remained just that –
hints. It is said that Alexander Lukashenko does not want to spoil
his own game with the West that recently gave him a friendly pat
on the shoulder for liberalism with regard to the opposition. All
adversaries of the regime were released from Belarussian prisons
on the eve of the parliamentary election and told to go ahead and
run for the parliament. It is Lukashenko’s chance to rid himself
of the annoying title "the last dictator in Europe". Recognition of
legitimacy of the forthcoming election by the West may actually turn
the trick and even persuade the EU to lift sanctions.

Neither did Russia fare any better with persuading Armenia, another
close ally, to recognize the Georgian wayward autonomies. Invited
for a meeting in Sochi on September 2, President of Armenia Serj
Sargsjan ducked request for a clear-cut evaluation of the situation
in the Caucasus. Neither was he particularly inclined to recognize
Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"It is not the first time that Moscow is trying to get Yerevan to
put Tbilisi under pressure, but Armenia has always avoided doing so,"
Armenian political scientist Alexander Iskanderjan shrugged. "It is to
be expected, actually. Take a look at the map. With the Azerbaijani
blockade of Armenia is in force, Georgia is essentially the only
connection between Armenia and the rest of the world." Iskanderjan
suspects that official Yerevan has one other ace to play should
Russia become overly insistent. "Sargsjan can always say that Armenia
cannot recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign state without
recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh." It is common knowledge after all that
Armenia cannot go for it these days because its major ally Russia will
certainly recognize territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in this case.

Central Asian countries are similarly reluctant to side up with Russia
in so sensitive a matter, at least in public. Insiders say that the
position of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan on the matter of
recognition is unlikely to differ from the position they displayed
during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe on
August 28.

Sources say that Bishkek, Dushanbe, and Tashkent reassured Russia
at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit that they thought
Moscow had every right to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as
sovereign states. As long as it abided by the six principles of
the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan, that is. As a matter of fact, not even
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin succeeded in eliciting from
Uzbek President Islam Karimov an expression of public support of the
Russian policy in the Caucasus, the other day.

All things considered, Kazakhstan with its President Nursultan
Nazarbayev appears to be Russia’s most steady and dedicated ally
and supporter. Opening a parliament session in Astana the other day,
Nazarbayev backed Moscow in practically the words he had previously
used in Dushanbe.

It seems that official Astana wouldn’t mind becoming the principal
international broker in the dialogue between Russia and the West over
the Caucasus.

As for the forthcoming Organization summit, it will become just
another demonstration of the fact that the process of divorce
within the erstwhile USSR is not over yet and that the Commonwealth
(conceived as it was as an instrument of making the divorce peaceful
and civilized) is shrinking in size. In a word, it is only necessary
to wait a month longer, until the next CIS summit in Bishkek.

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