A Way Out in the Caucasus

Alex Cooley in the Wall Street Journal:

By upholding the sanctity of Georgia’s territorial integrity, the European Union and the United States signal to Abkhazia’s de facto government that Moscow remains its only reliable partner and security guarantor. Conversely, Moscow’s recognition of the two breakaway regions — which Russia insists must fully participate in the negotiations — sets an unacceptable legal precedent and intends to reward Russian military actions in Georgia.

Yet there is an intermediary sovereign formula that could bridge the two absolutist positions. While neither restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity nor recognizing Abkhazia’s independence is acceptable to all sides at the moment, Abkhazia could be placed under an international system of trusteeship or supervised administration. Similar to the processes in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, the United Nations would authorize international organizations to work with Abkhaz authorities to improve the territory’s economic and governing capacity and democratic institutions. By placing Abkhazia under international administration for an initial period of, say, 10 years, the status issue could be deferred until the parties may be better prepared to resume peaceful talks.