The Kosovo resolution and the Caucasian connection
February 2007 will be a crucial year in relation to the long-standing Kosovo status. It seems likely that this Serbian Province, mainly populated with Albanians will achieve some sort of independence status, or break its ties from the Serbian state and remain into international custody, until an appropriate solution is found. Nevertheless the Kosovo issue is interrelated with the Russian ambitions in the Eastern Black Sea shores, namely the Caucasian Republics.
Abkhazia, Osetia, Nagorno-Karabakh are three disputed regions that are mostly populated by Russian-leaning populations seeking to break away from the states of Georgia and Azerbaijan and according to the Russian side, they have the exact same concern for the international community, as the Kosovo area. President Putin has stated that in the event of a Kosovo independence move, and then these three disputed regions could follow the same path. The Russian foreign policy has clearly understood how to use a pressure level against the West in order to gain as much as possible in what most pundits call “The Great Game”, which in essence is the control and influence over the oil rich and strategically vital area stretching from the Black Sea and into the heartland of Central Asia.
In Southern Caucasus between the Russian Federation and the state of Georgia, lies the de facto autonomous Province of Abkhazia. The local populous is aiming towards full-fledged independence and the role of the Russian policy is to assist them in pursuing that aim. The situation is more complicated though, since Moscow is keen in establishing closer relations with Georgia, should the latter decide to cut-loose its cooperation with the West. The recent crisis that led four Russian officers arrested and subsequently expelled from Tbilisi has been remarkably mended. The Russian Ambassador Kovalenko returned last week to Georgia after his hasty flight on October 2006 and it is likely that a series of negotiations will soon start in order to accommodate Russian aspirations and Georgian preoccupations for the Abkhazia issue. It has to be noted that in case of independence declaration by the Province the result will be disastrous for Georgia that will have to accept the loose of a half of its access to the Black Sea along with the important Sokhumi port.
In the early 90’s the Osetians broke away from Georgia and nowadays they administer the largest part of Southern Osetia, the “Sister” province of Northern Osetia, already a member of the Russian Federation. The conflict between the rebels and the state forces is still simmering and has resulted in numerous deaths and a significant refugee issue. A decade ago the citizens of Osetia numbered some 100,000 whilst today just 35,000 Osetians and 25,000 Georgians reside there, albeit under meager and stressful conditions. Both Abkhazia and Southern Osetia feverously campaign for independence and have two definite arguments for their case. They are de facto independent and in case of a similar Kosovo declaration they will claim this as precedence for their cause. Finally it all comes down to the Russian calculations that will examine how advantageous would be to pursue assistance towards the independence of those Provinces that will most surely disintegrate the whole of the Georgian state. In light of the Chechen affair just a few Kilometers further North and the numerous other minorities residing in the Russian Federation, it will an extreme task by Moscow’s side to be able to satisfy the independence goals of some minorities outside its borders and not those in its own territory.
The Kosovo impeding resolution, most surely affects this long disputer terrain in between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A vicious war erupted among these states during 1988 to 1994 that resulted to 30,000 victims and over a million refugees. Currently the conflict for Nagorno – Karabakh is revolving in the long lasting proposals and counter-arguments by each side. The Armenians are willing to accept a partial loss of the Nagorno territory towards the Azeri side, whilst the latter reject any kind of compromise for the time being.
Since August 1993 the National Parliament of Armenia in Yerevan has adopted a declaration for the unification of the Karabakh entity with Armenia. Nowadays 95% of the region’s residents are ethnic Armenians whereas in 1989 there were 70% percent Armenian – descent citizens and a sizeable minority of 25% Azeri, which now has almost completely fled to Azerbaijan.
On overall the future developments in Kosovo will have their ramifications in the Caucasus area and the local aspirations of the minorities that drive towards independence from their states. The Russian policy will prove of a critical value in relation to the future of Caucasus. In any case, Moscow is carefully planning its next moves that will be unfolded as soon as the Kosovo plan is formally announced to the international community.
What is more than certain is that Kosovo might prove to become a precedent for all minorities that seek independence across Eurasia, a prospect that can be frightening for the years to come, judging from the multitude of ethnic groups residing in many nations such as Spain (Basque country), France (Corsica), Rumania (Hungarian minority), Bulgaria (Muslim minority), FYROM (Albanian minority), Turkey (Kurdish minority), Russia (Chechen country), Baltic states (Russian minorities), China (Huigour Muslim minorities), Iran (Kurds) and other noticeable ethnic rivalries. The Caucasus terrain seems to be the first that will endeavor confirmation of the Kosovo paradigm thus casting another episode in the ages old “Great Game” of Central Eurasia.