Europe has different attitude to every country
This article represents an opinion of Vyacheslav Igrunov, the Director of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies.
Last week the ongoing Georgian confrontation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia entered a stage, which is unusual for such lingering conflicts. After Georgia introduced a state of emergency in the Ossetian conflict area, the President of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, and the President of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoita, declared that the two unrecognized republics would unite to fight for independence and are going to sign a pact of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, the latter including military support. Vyacheslav Igrunov, the Director of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies commented on the new diplomatic situation.
Igrunov thinks that Mikhail Saakashvili will continue his attempts to place Abkhazia and South Ossetia under Georgian command against the will of the unrecognized republics' population. Georgia uses simple tactics dealing with republics one at a time with South Ossetia being the easiest target. Igrunov emphasizes the tension around South Ossetia. This problem can be solved easily by force. And when South Ossetia is under Georgian control the same tension will probably surround Abkhazia and the whole Ossetian scenario will be repeated. Igrunov sees in this the main reason for stirring up democracy in Abkhazia and south Ossetia.
Saakashvili is not that popular in the West at the moment mainly because of using force in his internal politics. That is why it is hard to understand why Tbilisi complicates the situation. Vyacheslav Igrunov says that even taking into account the fact that Saakashvili is criticized widely in the US the West will approve of uniting the territories under Georgia's command, which is perfectly understood by Saakashvili. He also understands that Russia will not be able to provide effective assistance for unrecognized republics, as Russian forces are obliged to maintain neutral position in Abkhazia as well as in South Ossetia. According to Igrunov, Georgia succeeds in anti-Russian propaganda as well (he reminds of Georgia accusing Russia of initiating terror acts in Gori, for instance). “This disables Russia while South Ossetia and Abkhazia obviously feel like they have been abandoned by Russia”, Igrunov comments. “That is why it is important for the republics to be sure that Abkhazians are going to help Ossetins and vice versa.”
The question is whether pacts are making the republics stronger and what they are able to do against Georgia without any assistance of the European Union. Igrunov thinks that the unification does make Abkhazia and South Ossetia stronger and provides for their mutual assistance, material rather than just moral.
“The West”, says Igrunov, “considers everything that is going on democratic progress. Separatist regimes are seen by the West like a threat to democracy.” According to Igrunov, this explains why the West that is always protecting the minorities assists the Georgian national government. In this case the West considers Georgian rights to be violated by Russia.
Russia considers Europe to have double standards. Igrunov explains that Europe itself does not see any duality in its policy. The thing is that it has different information at its disposal and different view on the situation. Meantime, Russia is not able to formulate any clear opinion on the subject.
It turns out that even if Abkhazia and South Ossetia appeal to the West directly they will be simply ignored. Igrunov points to separatists from Ulster or Corsica whom Europe does not sympathizes with. When it comes to Russia, its assistance can hardly help separatists because of its negative image.
When asked why Europe is so die-hard in its attitude towards separatism, Mr. Igrunov says that it is not always that simple as it may seem. He recalls Europe's assistance in Eritrea and its role in Yugoslavia's collapse. Europe and NATO contributed to Kosovo's separation from Serbia.
“That is why it would be wrong to say that separatism is viewed in unique manner today. There's a strange ideological duality present in the West. Although I was trying to tone this down and to explain Europe's position in a reasonable way, I have to admit that to my mind Europe suffers from schizophrenia”, Igrunov says. “Europe has different attitude to every country: Serbians are bad because this dominating nation started genocide, whereas Georgians, who also suppressed their national minorities, are not so imperial-oriented as Serbians. And that is the point where Europe should be asked some serious questions.”