Russia's Recognition of the Independence of Abkh

Analysis of a Deviant Case in Moscow's Foreign Policy Behavior

Russia's Recognition of the Independence of Abkh
Nikoloz Samkharadze, Neil Macfarlane
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The Russian Federations official acknowledgement of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008 has since been undermining both overall political stability in the Southern Caucasus in general and future perspectives of Georgias development in particular. Such recognition of new quasi-legal entities without consent of the parent state and a subsequent erosion of the principle of territorial integrity are pressing challenges in current world affairs. The Kremlins controversial 2008 decision continues to be an important bone of contention in Russian-Western relations. This study explores the emergence and recent transformation of modern norms of recognition, secession, and self-determination in international law. It traces the evolution of Soviet and Russian perspectives on the recognition of new states, and discusses overall Georgia-Russia relations in order to answer the question: Why did the Kremlin recognize Georgias two breakaway entities in contradiction to traditional Russian approaches to recognition? The author argues that Moscows deviant behavior vis-a-vis Tbilisi was caused by three major reasons, namely: the earlier recognition of Kosovo by many Western nations in disregard of Russias stance, the intention to prevent Georgias accession to NATO, and the necessity to legitimize a continued presence of Russian armed forces in Georgias two breakaway provinces.
Dr Samkharadze is to be congratulated for his analysis of the Russian recognition of Abkhazia and, by extension, South Ossetia. The recognition is a departure from Russias previous practices on recognition and poses interesting questions regarding the handling of secession, self-determination, and sovereignty in international law and practice. His perspective is a refreshing and valuable contribution to the literature. -- Dr Neil MacFarlane, Lester B Pearson Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford
Dr Nikoloz Samkharadze studied European affairs and international relations at Tbilisi and Hanover, Germany. He heads the Masters Program in Defence Analysis at the National Defence Academy of Georgia and is Associate Professor of International Relations at Tbilisi State University. Samkharadze previously worked at the Parliament of Georgia, with the UNDP, for the EU, and the National Security Council of Georgia. He is also a former fellow of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, United States Information Service, RAND Corporation, and Open Society Institute. Dr Neil MacFarlane is Lester B Pearson Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford.