Syria has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia has reacted by breaking its relations with that country. Ten years after Russia’s decision to recognize the two republics, Syria’s step has refreshed the agenda of the late 2000s.
In 2008-2009, after the war in South Ossetia, six states recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Two of them changed their minds later. The biggest state to have recognized the republics is Venezuela.
In the late 2000s, recognition or non-recognition of de facto existing republics was one of the key topics on global agenda. Though mostly ideological and symbolic – rather than legislative – that issue was in the spotlight in the times preceding “Crimea” and the “sanctions.”
The major players of those times used it for creating new international realities. Some of them recognized Kosovo, the others Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But at the end of the 2000s, that process stopped and it seemed that it stopped forever. Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria “missed that train” and have had no chances to be recognized ever since.
Since the war in South Ossetia, the antagonism between Russia and the West has been steadily growing. Today the sides are playing for very high stakes, like money and effects created by mutual sanctions. This is a game where symbols no longer matter.
For Europe, the problem of recognition or non-recognition of one or another unrecognized republic is no longer topical. Immigration from the Middle East and North Africa has become a serious challenge for the culture and political and social stability of the Europeans, a problem that has overshadowed their interest in the South Caucasus.
Russia’s firmness in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia and opening military bases in their territories was a signal for other external players to become less active in the region.
Some people then believed that recognition was enough for putting an end to a conflict – as if a paper with a couple of signatures can stop centuries-long contradictions!
But their hopes that the first recognitions would serve as precedents for a wider - UN-level - process proved to be futile.
In the late 2000s, people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were 100% sure that recognition by Russia was a guarantee of welfare for them, but they were mistaken, at least, as far as economy is concerned.
Today, a decade later, they have been recognized by Syria. But this does not mean a new trend. It was a symbolic act, but it will certainly be noticed by the world community.
The new thing about Syria’s decision is that it is not a product of geopolitics but a “thank you” to Russia.
This move is really important for three sides: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia. The Georgians have missed a goal and will certainly try to come back. They have certain instruments for that. First of all, they may block the foreign economic activities and the cultural contacts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Even though Syria’s step will hardly become a precedent – as was the case with Kosovo – it will certainly strengthen the international positions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Anton Krivenyuk, specially for EADaily