Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MicroRepublics and MicroRepublicans

The spat between Russia and Georgia has the potential to erupt into a wider conflict. Now that NATO is talking about accepting members right on Russia' doorstep, the stakes are definitely getting higher. One more potential flashpoint for the next President to keep an eye on lest Americans troops find themselves committed in Ossetia, yet another piece of ground most Americans have never of before.

Yesterday Vladimir Putin ordered his officials to strengthen economic ties and provide consular support to residents in the separatist republic.

The president said Russia would recognise legal entities registered in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia, another breakaway region. The move stops short of recognising Abkhazia's claim to independence, but only just.

Russia's foreign ministry yesterday insisted it did not want confrontation. But yesterday's move will enrage Georgia's pro-western and US-backed government, which accuses Moscow of attempting to annex its rebel regions

by stealth. Last night Georgia's foreign minister, David Bakradze, said Russia's move amounted to a "legalisation of the de facto annexation process". Georgian officials said Tbilisi was preparing "an adequate response". In London, the Foreign Office was moved to delve into the confrontation, saying the move "would only increase tensions in the region".

Putin's provocative action appears to be a deliberate response to Georgia's unsuccessful attempt this month to join Nato. Leaders of Nato, meeting in Bucharest, deferred Georgia's and Ukraine's application for the alliance's membership action plan, despite strong support from the US president, George Bush. But Nato countries agreed Georgia would join eventually. And when it does, the alliance's mutual defence commitment will include sorting out the problem of Abkhazia, a lush micro-republic on the Black Sea's eastern coast that is a 45-minute drive from Putin's summer residence in the resort of Sochi. |How a tiny breakaway province could become the new cold war frontline - Guardian|

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