Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Some in Kremlin ‘Regret’ Recognizing Breakaway States, Belkovsky Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 29 – Even as Moscow has named its ambassadors to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Duma ratified the friendship treaties with those two breakaway republics, one Moscow analyst, who supports these moves, says that many Kremlin insiders think that the Russian government has made a mistake in doing so.
On the one hand, Stanislav Belkovsky, the head of the Moscow Institute of National Strategy told the Noviy Region news agency this week, “two thirds of the Kremlin influence groups do not see any profit [for the Russian Federation in the future] from these republics” (
And on the other, he continued, even those who think that Moscow may have gained something by these actions such as demonstrating Russia’s power on the post-Soviet space are now inclined to believe that this came at too high a price – the increasingly “negative” relations between Moscow and the West.
That does not mean that Moscow is about to change course – indeed, as Russian analysts have repeated, the Kremlin has crossed “a Rubicon” that it will not be willing or able to cross in the opposite direction – but it does mean that the Russian government is less united on this than many think and that there may be room for talks about aspects of this situation.
Although Belkovsky himself said that what Moscow had done was “the uniquely correct” action, he noted that “influential representatives of the ruling elites now regret the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and they will continue to regret this in the future.”
The way in which these elites are expressing their displeasure, he continued, was to talk about the way in which Abkhazia and South Ossetia are likely to become two new “hot spots” because of the certainty that there will be violent action supported by the Georgians or others there.
He acknowledged that they will be able to point to “individual terrorist acts” in both places, but such things “are possible in any place on the globe, including Moscow and New York. But no one is going to call Moscow or New York a hot spot.” To do so would be to drain theses words of all meaning.
While many in Moscow expected more countries to follow Moscow’s lead in recognizing the two breakaway republics, Belkovsky argued, they should not have and the failure of others to move so far does not represent even “a psychological blow” for the Russian Federation. Instead, it conforms to the experience of Turkey and Northern Cyprus.
And “if we [in Russia] start from the proposition that the legal and political bases for the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are similar to those on which Turkey recognized Northern Cyprus,” Belkovsky said, “then we must come to terms with the fact that the number of countries which will recognize these republics in the near future will be small.”
Intriguingly, the same day the Moscow news agency ran this interview, it also featured a report on a speech by Sergey Kurginyan who said that members of the Russian elite in 1991 were quite prepared to allow the disintegration of the Soviet Union if as a result a new Russia could enter the European Union and thus join the West (
And he added that at that time at least, some members of this group were quite willing to see the North Caucasus go its own way in order to remove one additional burden on Russia and make the Russian Federation’s integration into the West that much easier, a view and a hope that Kurginyan argued are still shared by some but of course hardly all of those in power in Russia.

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