Rus­sia’s ‘new re­al­ity’ dis­mem­bers Ge­or­gia

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective - BY BETSY PISIK

UNITED NA­TIONS | Rus­sia on Aug. 26 rec­og­nized the “in­de­pen­dence” of two break­away Ge­or­gian re­gions, re­spond­ing to what Rus­sian U.N. Am­bas­sador Vi­taly Churkin called “a com­pletely new re­al­ity” and ex­pand­ing de facto Rus­sian ter­ri­to­rial con­trol for the first time since the col­lapse of the Soviet Union.

The an­nounce­ment, two weeks af­ter Ge­or­gia sent sol­diers to one of the en­claves — South Os­se­tia — came at a nadir in Rus­sian re­la­tions with the West and trig­gered a fresh round of con­dem­na­tion from the United States, Ge­or­gia and Euro­pean coun­tries. The con­dem­na­tion ap­peared to have lit­tle im­pact on Moscow.

“We are not afraid of any­thing, in­clud­ing the prospect of a Cold War,” Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev de­clared af­ter an­nounc­ing the Krem­lin’s de­ci­sion. He also promised an un­spec­i­fied mil­i­tary re­sponse to a U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in Europe. Rus­sia has al­ready sus­pended con­tacts with NATO.

“The peo­ples of South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia have sev­eral times spo­ken out at ref­er­en­dums in fa­vor of in­de­pen­dence for their re­publics,” Mr. Medvedev said in an ad­dress to the na­tion. “It is our un­der­stand­ing that af­ter [the blood­shed] they have the right to de­cide their des­tiny by them­selves.”

In New York, Mr. Churkin said Ge­or­gia’s ini­tial use of force in South Os­se­tia jus­ti­fied the move and that Rus­sia’s em­brace of the break­away en­claves “showed so much pa­tience.”

“They have been urg­ing us to rec­og­nize them for years,” Mr. Churkin said.

How in­de­pen­dent the en­claves will be is ques­tion­able.

While most Rus­sian troops have with­drawn from Ge­or­gia, hun­dreds re­main, os­ten­si­bly as peace­keep­ers, in what Rus­sia calls a “zone of re­spon­si­bil­ity” be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tive bor­ders of Ge­or­gia and South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia.

The Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry said it would im­me­di­ately be­gin to ne­go­ti­ate “treaties of friend­ship, co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual as­sis­tance” with the en­claves.

Mr. Churkin de­nied that the action had any­thing to do with NATO’s recog­ni­tion of Kosovo, the break­away Ser­bian repub­lic whose in­de­pen­dence Rus­sia has op­posed.

Mr. Medvedev’s an­nounce­ment sparked scenes of ju­bi­la­tion in the South Os­se­tian cap­i­tal, Tskhin­vali.

Ge­or­gian Pres­i­dent Mikhail Saakashvili said the Rus­sian an­nounce­ment had “no le­gal force” and re­stated his coun­try’s in­ten­tion to join NATO.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, ap- par­ently sur­prised by the speed of the Rus­sian action, said it would veto any ef­fort to ob­tain in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for the ter­ri­to­ries.

“Abk­hazia and South Os­se­tia are a part of the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized bor­ders of Ge­or­gia and it’s go­ing to re­main so,” Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice said.

Pres­i­dent Bush called the Rus­sian move “ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

By the af­ter­noon of Aug. 26, the guided mis­sile de­stroyer USS McFaul and other naval ves­sels car­ry­ing re­lief sup­plies ar­rived at the Ge­or­gian port Ba­tumi. Moscow has ac­cused the United States of us­ing the aid as a fig leaf for a planned mil­i­tary build-up in the re­gion.

The White House also an­nounced that Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney will visit Ge­or­gia and two other ner­vous Rus­sian neigh­bors, Ukraine and Azer­bai­jan, this week.

France, the cur­rent head of the Euro­pean Union, con­demned Rus­sia’s ac­tions as “con­trary to the prin­ci­ples of Ge­or­gia´s in­de­pen­dence, sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity” as rec­og­nized by the U.N. Char­ter and sev­eral Se­cu­rity Coun­cil reso­lu­tions.

U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon’s re­sponse was milder.

“The sec­re­tary-gen­eral re­grets that on­go­ing ef­forts to find a com­mon so­lu­tion on the way for­ward in the cri­sis in Ge­or­gia within the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil may be com­pli­cated.”

This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS A South Os­se­tian in Tskhin­vali aims his ri­fle into the air Aug. 26 in cel­e­bra­tion of Rus­sia’s recog­ni­tion of the re­gion’s in­de­pen­dence.

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