The Russian-Abkhaz Treaty

New Tensions in the South Caucasus

Dieter Boden
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung | 2014

The crisis developments in Ukraine have turned the spotlight also on the South Caucasus. It seems that Russia’s policy of a resolute pursuit of her own power interests in regions of the former Soviet Union is leading to new tensions there as well. A case in point is the treaty concluded on 24 November between Russia and breakaway Abkhazia on redesigning their strategic partnership.

This treaty will bind Abkhazia to Russia politically, militarily, economically and socially more than ever before. In a public debate which took place in Abkhazia before the treaty was signed complaints came to the fore which expressed concern about a substantial loss of sovereignty. In response Russia agreed to a number of amendments.

This will put further strain on the already fragile relations between Russia and Georgia. Georgia has called the treaty a step towards Russia’s de facto annexation of Abkhazia. Both the EU and the US have voiced sharp criticism.

Russia is responding to Georgia’s intensified pro-Western course, in particular to the conclusion of an Association and Free Trade Agreement with the EU last June. Russia should have tried first to reach a negotiated solution with all concerned parties – not least Georgia – for the still unresolved conflict with breakaway Abkhazia which to date has been recognized as an independent state by only three states. Instead, Russia set out on an opposite course which inevitably will prove a dead-end. Existing tensions and conflicts in the South Caucasus, far from being eased, might grow. The treaty is also a step backwards for any further democratic development inside Abkhazia.

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