Timing Is Everything

by Joshua Foust on 5/2/2008 · 7 comments

War seems to inch ever-closer in the Caucasus. The war of words is escalating over who will control Abkhazia—Georgia or Russia. Steve Levine—no stranger to Caucasian politics—sees this as an intricate dance of image building:

What is Russia’s move really all about? Surely it’s not concern over Abkhaz security — a Georgian military attack in order to bring the region back into the Georgian fold verges on ludicrous, mainly since Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili knows he would lose, either to the Abkhaz themselves or a predictable Russian counter-offensive.

Is Putin simply demonstrating yet again that Russia won’t be pushed around? Is he bestowing an image-building conflict on his successor, in the way that Chechnya built up Putin’s own nationalist credentials when he took power in 1999 with a popularity rating of 2%? Perhaps Putin simply couldn’t resist lest anyone forget what he has done for Russia’s feeling of well-being? According to Itar-Tass, he is leaving office with an almost 85% approval rating.

Indeed, one wonders just what is happening in the Kremlin. Medvedev takes office on Wednesday. Will that “solve” the current round of escalation? Or worsen it?

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Ron May 3, 2008 at 7:52 am

If Kosovo why not Akhazia? No double standards please! Let Akhazia become independent, if they want!

Joshua Foust May 3, 2008 at 9:14 am

I actually agree. I was opposed to the recognition of Kosovo for its ahistoricity and violation of Serbia’s territorial sovereignty; for similar reasons I’m unsympathetic toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Daniel Adams May 3, 2008 at 4:12 pm

I believe this was along the lines of my comment from this post:


Victoria May 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Let’s not overly simplify. Kosovo after all had ~90% Albanian population. Abkhazians constituted only 17% of Abkhazia’s population and drove (with Russian help) 250000 Georgians away (more than 40%). Today, again with the help of Russian “peacekeepers”, they categorically deny the right of Georgian refugees to return home. This is plain and simple ethnic cleansing. Granting independence to Abkhazia now amounts to an open approval of politics based on ethnic cleansing. Whatever can be said of Kosovo this is not the case there.

Michael Hancock May 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Good thing the Poles in Chicago don’t want to be independent, or the Irish in Boston, or the Mexicans in San Diego, or the Cubans in Miami… Democracy gives power to the people, but who was it that said a person’s power stops where it infringes on another person’s power?

anon May 4, 2008 at 7:51 am

Putin’s stormtroopers poising to invade Abkhazia

anon May 4, 2008 at 7:57 am

Caucasus – land much suffered from Russian Imperialism


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