Dec 23, 2008

Abkhazia: OSCE Forced to Conclude Mission

Sample ImageRussia blocked the extension of the OSCE mission in Georgia, as recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were prerequisites not met.


Below is an article written by Ellen Barry published by the International Herald Tribune:

[…] The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe must end its 16-year mission in Georgia early next year [2009] because it is unable to resolve a deadlock with Russia, one of its member states, over whether to treat the separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign nations.

At a meeting Monday [22 December 2008] at OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Russia's envoy to the organization refused to extend the Georgia mission, which expires Dec. 31 [2008], unless members agreed that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were separate countries. Though Russia is the only one of the organization's 56 member states that has formally recognized the enclaves, the organization works by consensus.

In an interview, the Russian ambassador to the organization, Anvar Azimov, called his counterparts in the OSCE "inflexible and unconstructive" for refusing to join Russia in recognizing the enclaves.

"In my opinion, my colleagues do not want to recognize an evident fact," he said. "Sooner or later, they will understand that this is the reality. The train has gone, and the process is irreversible."

The decision prompted furious reactions from fellow diplomats and the Georgian authorities. Since 1992, the organization has operated a mission focused on the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, and its staff has grown to around 200. For years, the mission oversaw negotiations […] in South Ossetia, and it now includes 28 trained military monitors and sponsors various human rights and democracy-building programs.

Julie Finley, the U.S. envoy to the group, said the move would undermine stability throughout the Caucasus, a region where multiple ethnic conflicts risk erupting into all-out war.


After war broke out in South Ossetia in August [2008], the OSCE's military monitors were barred by Russian and Ossetian authorities from working inside South Ossetia. Instead, they have patrolled outside its boundaries, together with 200 unarmed civilian monitors from the European Union, […].

In an attempt to bridge the diplomatic gap, Finland proposed parallel, independent Georgian field offices in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, and Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, but Russia could not accept the linkage. Azimov said that Russia had put forward its own compromise - a three-month extension of the mandate that made it clear South Ossetia and Abkhazia were not part of Georgia - but that Western governments had rejected the idea.

Aleksi Harkonen, the Finnish ambassador to the group and head of Finland's OSCE chairmanship task force, said the closure of the mission would leave the EU - in which Russia has no voice - as the primary international body monitoring the cease-fire.


The mission will begin the closure process in January [2009] against the protests of Georgian authorities, who say an international presence is important to preventing further conflict.

"This action is just another illustration of Russia's challenge to Georgia's sovereignty and challenge to international institutions and international law and order" said Giga Bokeria, deputy foreign minister of Georgia. "They basically just don't want to have an international presence on the ground. They don't want anyone outside to monitor their activities."


Russia plans arms buildup


Russia plans a huge increase in its weapons procurement for three years beginning in 2009, with 300 tanks, 14 warships and almost 50 airplanes, a senior government official said Monday [22 December 2008], Reuters reported from Moscow.

The official, Vladislav Putilin, deputy head of the military-industrial commission, said after a cabinet meeting that the government planned to allocate 4 trillion rubles, or about $142 billion, to bankroll equipment purchases to modernize its armed forces.

The move comes after Russia's five-day war with Georgia in August [2008]. Russia won, but the conflict exposed a Soviet-style army with obsolete equipment, poorly coordinated command, outdated communications and a lack of spy drones and high-precision bombs.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov afterward touted a military overhaul […] aiming to turn the army into a smaller, but more mobile and better-equipped force.