When Georgia declared it’s independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Nations of Abkhazia (on the western edge of Georgia) and South Ossetia (on the north-central edge of Georgia also declared their independence. Under the internationally recognized right of political self-determination Georgia had not only the right, but the self-proclaimed duty to establish its independence. No less can be said of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These are both lands dominated by distinct nations (with Fourth World populations of about 200,000 and 70,000 respectively) long established and clearly recognizable as distinct, unto themselves. Mature peoples can live next to each other without injuring or threatening one another.
Recent acts by the Russian Federation and by Georgia demonstrate immature and destabilizing behaviours threatening to the peace of the region. Russia is cynically reaching beyond its borders to reclaim its power over weaker peoples in an obvious revanchist attempt to rebuild the USSR empire. It is clearly demanding that Georgia, the Ukrain and other countries in what Russians call the “near abroad” to knuckle under to Russia’s commands. Russia has killed thousands of Chechnyans next door to North Ossetia to keep that country under its tow. While Russia basks in the richness of its new found wealth from Europe’s purchase of its oil and gas, the Russian leadership–Putin the Authoritarian–has once again sought to express its political will at the end of a gun barrel. Violence and threats of violence have been used by Russia much too long to consider this imperial state to responsible member of the international community.
Georgia, attempting to act bigger than its own pants chose to ignore a popular vote (done twice) by the South Ossetians and by the Abkhazians to affirm their political independence. Like their bigger neighbor, Russian Federation, they chose to use the gun barrel instead of responsible diplomacy dealing with the self-proclaimed independent countries. Georgia must be denounced for its failure to act responsibly and maturely.
The European Union, United States of America, United Nations and the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe must act quickly to directly address the claims of independence by Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is clear that Abkhazia wants closer relations with the Russian Federation…it s economic future is closely connected to Russian oil and other exports. If Abkhazia wants to establish an uncoreced association with the Russian Federation, then that arrangement should be facilitated and sanctioned by the EU, USA, UN and OSCE. It is equally clear that South Ossetia would like a closer association with North Ossetia and in all probability a balanced relationship with both the Russian Federation and Georgia. This too is motivated by economics.
What appears largely to be a debate over political freedom and economic rights is being addressed by guns and bombs from Georgia and Russia. None of these concerns can be dealt with through these means. Russia must be pushed back inside its nest. Georgia must step back into its nest and a regional conference of nations and states should be convened to sort out the political and economic concerns of nations in the Caucusus. Nations invited to the table should be both Abkhazia, the Ossetias, Katmyk, Chechnya, Daghestan, Inguishia, and Karachai-Cherkess.
The states invited should include Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the EU, USA, Russian Federation and Kasakhstan.
This Caucusus Regional Conference of Nations and States would address the concerns states governments have about the independence of smaller countries along the Caucusus, procedures for each country to establish a new political status, economic relations, Caspian Sea oil development and transport to the Black Sea, and strategic concerns of the nations and states. All the parties to the conference must have equal right of participation and access to information. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should host the Conference of Nations and States and convene within the next few months.
Responsible diplomacy recognizes legitimate economic and political concerns of parties conflict with one another. To prevent a major explosion of violence in this strategic choke point, the world’s political leaders have a duty to take responsible and immediate action.
(c) 2008 Center for World Indigenous Studies
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here