A Counterproductive Disdain

Alexander Cooley and Lincoln Mitchell in the New York Times:

_45840292_abkazia226 Last Friday, voters in the Georgian breakaway territory of Abkhazia went to the polls in a presidential election that was broadly ignored by the United States and its European allies.

There were no international observers, no stern warnings to Abkhaz leaders about the rule of law, no Western congratulations to the winner — Alexander Ankvab, who had been acting president since Sergei Bagapsh, the twice-elected Abkhaz president, died suddenly in May.

In fact, many Western organizations, urged by Tbilisi, condemned the polling. Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said the E.U. “does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place,” while NATO declared that the alliance “does not recognize the elections.”

The main reason for these reactions is that while the people of Abkhazia view themselves as an independent state, the world’s governments, with only a very few exceptions, consider the territory as an integral part of Georgia. Only a few weeks ago the U.S. Senate passed a resolution describing Abkhazia as “occupied” by Russia.

Still, condemning political processes in the breakaway territory damages Western credibility and influence in the South Caucasus in a number of ways.

More here.