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Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Russia's other humiliation

From Transitions Online:

Vladimir Putin’s defeat in Ukraine may have been much more significant, but there can be little more humiliating for Russia than its failure to win the vote in Abkhazia, tiny, weak, and already in effect a protectorate. The debacle in Abkhazia was a chronic failure of Russian intelligence, probably in both senses, and a colossal error of judgment that can only have heartened the Ukrainian opposition. It was, of course, also a defeat for a foreign policy that seems to view Russia’s “near-abroad”--places like Ukraine and Abkhazia--as something akin to Russian republics such as Tatarstan and Sakha: ethnically different maybe, but irrevocably tied to Russia historically, geographically, politically, and economically.

Putin has just tripped up in Ukraine and lost face in Abkhazia. He could soon suffer a further reverse in Moldova, which goes to the polls in February. Though the political landscape in Moldova is changing fast and unpredictably (with the once pro-Moscow president leaning to the West and the formerly pro-Western opposition looking to Moscow), Moldova’s elections and Yushchenko’s victory could also have some impact on the frozen conflict in Transdniester, a sliver of land sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. In short, the tide has been running against Putin and it could continue to run against him. In the meantime, Saakashvili and his team will use their unusually good access to decision makers in Washington to try and lift the issue of the unresolved conflicts in Russia’s back yard up the geopolitical agenda.

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