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Venezuela to Recognize Independence of Abkhazia, South Ossetia

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Chávez Backs Moscow on Rebel Regions

 

MOSCOW— Ever the rabble-rouser, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez thrust himself into one of the most contentious disputes between Russia and the West on Thursday, announcing that his country would become the third to recognize the independence declared by two Russian-backed rebel regions of Georgia.

 

Russia recognized he two republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as independent a year ago, shortly after it fought a war against Georgia over the territories. Until Thursday, only Nicaragua had followed suit.

 

“Venezuela is joining in recognition of the independence of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Mr. Chávez said during a meeting with Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at his residence outside Moscow. “Starting today, we will recognized these republics,” he said, through a Russian translator.

 

The announcement drew an immediate response from Abkhazia’s de facto president, Sergei Bagapsh, who thanked Mr. Chávez and pledged closer economic and political ties with Venezuela, Interfax reported.

 

Mr. Medvedev also offered his thanks. “We are not indifferent to the fate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; we were the first state that came to rescue of these young regions,” he said, in remarks broadcast on Russian television. “We are glad that worldwide support for them is growing.”

 

Moscow’s decision to recognize the two regions and deploy hundreds of Russian troops in both after its brief war with Georgia last August drew widespread international condemnation. It also raised tensions with some other countries in the former Soviet sphere, who worried the precedent could encourage separatist movements within their own borders.

 

The issue has also ensured that tensions remain high between Russia and Georgia. Lately, the two have clashed over shipping rights to Abkhazia via the Black Sea. The Georgian coast guard has impounded five ships from different countries this year for delivering supplies Abkhazia in violation of Georgian law.

 

Georgia brushed aside Mr. Chávez’s announcement on Thursday as insignificant.

 

“It does not change the situation concerning these regions at all,” said Alexander Nalbandov, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. “Ninety-nine percent of the international community recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia.”

 

Mr. Chávez arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and, in usual form, delivered a speech at a local university railing against the United States. The Kremlin has typically tried to distance itself from Mr. Chávez’s often flamboyant jingoism, but Russia has become one of Venezuela’s key international partners in recent years.

 

Mr. Chávez sees Moscow as possibly playing as a counterweight to Washington’s influence in Latin America. He has visited Russia eight times as president, often seeking to procure Russian-made arms and weapons systems. Russia and Venezuela have in recent years signed agreements worth over $4 billion for deliveries of fighter jets, helicopters, automatic weapons, among other systems. In a visit last year, Mr. Chávez signed an agreement for a $1 billion loan from Russia for weapons purchases and military development. Russia was third last year in global weapons sales, recording $3.5 billion, just Italy, with $3.7 billion, according to a recently released Congressional study. The United States sells the most by far, with agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, the study said. It noted that China and India continue to be Russia’s main weapons clients, but that it has a new focus is on arms sales to Latin American nations, in particular to Venezuela.

 

On Thursday, Mr. Medvedev reiterated Russia’s commitment to supply Venezuela with an array of new weapons, adding that such sales would adhere to international law.

 

“We will supply Venezuela with all the weapons that they request,” Mr. Medvedev said. “We will supply tanks among the deliveries,” he said. “Why not? We have good tanks. If our friends order them, we will deliver.”

Can someone who has followed the Abkhazian/South Ossetian independence movement please explain why more countries haven't recognized their independence? I wouldn't expect a global consensus in their favor, but three countries seems like an extremely small coalition.

 

This my extremely basic understanding of the issue, and I'm sure some of the narrative is incorrect: Abkhazia and South Ossetia are territories on the Russian-Georgian border. They have their own national identities independent of Russia and Georgia. Because they were not separate republics under the USSR, they were not recognized as independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. They have been trying to secede from Georgia for a while, and, recently, their secession erupted into an armed conflict when Russia lent military aid to their cause. The United States and most of the rest of the international community saw this as a strategic move by Russia to expand its regional influence at Georgia's expense (which I'll concede, it probably was), and declared their support for the "territorial integrity of the Georgian state."

 

Assuming at least some of that is correct: in an apolitical world where recognizing Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence wouldn't further Russia's expansionist ambitions, wouldn't support for those countries fall in line with the US's ideological backing of self-rule (in so far as that still exists)? I mean, I can't come up with the opposing argument - does anyone who knows more than I do want to chime in?

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Like the US ideological backing of self rule in Iraq? Panama? Afghanistan? Chile? Nicaragua? Vietnam? Iran?

 

Should I go on? US foreign policy has nothing to do with US ideological principles, and hasn't since the Spanish American War (and perhaps the Mexican American War). If it did, we'd be less powerful, more liked and considerably safer from radical box-cutter wielding loonies.

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Hey, I'm not disputing that. I just don't believe that American hegemony has persevered enough to keep every world nation except for Russia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela following our lead. Maybe our foreign policy in the region is driven by a desire to perpetually posture ourselves against Russia (for whatever reason), but that can't be EVERYONE'S thinking... can it?

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Russian and US firms compete over drilling/pipeline rights in the region. Which country has closer ties to the legitimate governments is likely to have its firm win contracts in an area that has huge transit potential from the Persian gulf to europe. A threat to US Petro-corp dollars is a threat to US security, by current thinking, and supporting break away nations that owe what they have to a nearby, militarily dominant, proto-facist Russia would certainly threaten our ability to dominate global markets.

 

Not unlike the real problem George HW Bush had with Noriega's Panama in 89...we needed a puppet, not someone who threatened to genuinely use the power of the canal for the people of Panama, regardless of American interest. Or backing the Shah, or the Sauds, or toppling Allende, etc etc etc. A book worth reading.

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Can someone who has followed the Abkhazian/South Ossetian independence movement please explain why more countries haven't recognized their independence? I wouldn't expect a global consensus in their favor, but three countries seems like an extremely small coalition.

Well, it depends on the country but there are a few reasons. First, many countries don't recognize the independence of the countries because of their own secessionist movements and their fears surrounding them. Though that should be obvious. The other main reason is that most nations don't want to legitimize Russia's (or any other country's) expansionism/aggression in violation of international law. Fear of Russian aggression is certainly a motivating factor for many European and post-Soviet countries.

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Well, it depends on the country but there are a few reasons. First, many countries don't recognize the independence of the countries because of their own secessionist movements and their fears surrounding them. Though that should be obvious. The other main reason is that most nations don't want to legitimize Russia's (or any other country's) expansionism/aggression in violation of international law. Fear of Russian aggression is certainly a motivating factor for many European and post-Soviet countries.

 

Yea sure, that's why Europe is trying so hard to diversify away from Russian natural gas and oil ;)

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