Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia To Form Yet Another Anti-NATO
South Ossetia is poised to join a "unified defense space" along with Russia and Abkhazia, further extending Russia's military presence into what is still legally Georgian territory. This budding alliance will both "follow the example of and oppose NATO," South Ossetia's ambassador to Abkhazia told the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin met the newly elected de facto president of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba, and one of the things they discussed was the creation of a unified defense space, i.e. the Russian military taking joint control of security in Abkhazia along with the Abkhazian security forces. Fellow Georgian breakaway republic South Ossetia is going to be part of that process as well, the ambassador, Oleg Botsiev, told Izvestia.
"Currently our side is working out the possibility with the Abkhazian side of concluding an agreement with Russia on joining South Ossetia to the single defense contour," Botsiev said, adding that it wasn't yet clear whether the agreement would be trilateral or if South Ossetia's agreement with Russia would be separate.
And he said South Ossetia's agreement with Russia would differ from Abkhazia's (though his explanation of how wasn't entirely clear): "Its creation is still being discussed, though it's already clear that included in it will be first of all a military component, and then the conditions for economic and information security of our region will be drawn up."
The name of this anti-NATO has apparently yet to be decided, but it will occupy yet another niche in the continually expanding space of post-Soviet security blocs. Interestingly, the Izvestia article frames the creation of this Abkhazia-Russia-South Ossetia grouping as a response to the fact that other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization -- Russia's favored security bloc -- don't recognize Abkhazia or South Ossetia.
In addition, the CSTO apparently doesn't suit all the goals that Russia has in the Caucasus. Writes Izvestia: "The signing of the agreement with Abkhazia may suggest that the instruments created by the CSTO for resolution of its problems in the Caucasus aren't sufficient for Russia, says military analyst Vladislav Shurygin. 'Russia has its own interests, which differ from those of the CSTO which are effective only in the prevention of drug trafficking,' Shurygin emphasized."
Meanwhile, while this anti-NATO bloc forms, the original NATO is meeting this week in Wales, and the heads of state there are expected to sign off on an agreement which aims to expand Georgia's role in the alliance. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ahead of the summit that the measures would include conducting NATO exercises in Georgia and creating a NATO training center in Georgia.
"We think that signing this trilateral agreement will be a healthy response to the steps of NATO and its partner, Georgia," Abkhazia's de facto vice president Vitaliy Gabinya told Izvestia.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.
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