The list of countries who recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been increasing ever so slowly over the course of the last two years – at the rate of about one country every six months – so that the question arises: who’s next?
Belarus was long seen to be the country that came closest to deciding in favour of recognition, but its parliament has delayed discussing the matter so many times now that there is no way of telling when this might really happen.
Then last December Abkhazia submitted an official request for recognition to Ecuador, something which it would not do unless it had some hopes of it being accepted. But there are rumours according to which already in the autumn, Ecuador refused a Russian cash offer, and Raffael Correa may want to run an independent international course. Be that as it may, two months later Ecuador still hasn’t decided on the matter.
There are still more candidates. Qua foreign policy, Cuba seems perfectly positioned to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Perhaps it is still waiting to get a maximal reward from Russia. And just like it wasn’t very hard to convince Nauru to decide in favour of recognition, there are probably a whole number of countries in the Pacific (the Solomon Islands) and Africa (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) who would be willing to follow suit, given the proper financial incentives. Perhaps Russia is hoping to get countries for its money that play a somewhat larger role in international politics than these.
The fact of the matter is that Russia cannot afford the recognition process to stagnate. It is uncertain whether Daniel Ortega will even be allowed to stand in the 2011 Nicaraguan Presidential election, and if so, whether he would win, given that he won the last election only with a 38% plurality. And a new President may very well discontinue Nicaragua’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if it is as controversial at that point in time as it is now – which would be very damaging to the entire recognition process. Venezuela’s recognition seems equally dependent on Hugo Chavez’s Presidency.
Of course what Abkhazia and South Ossetia really want is for a major international heavy weight to recognise them. Turkey, India and China are the most plausible options, perhaps South Africa. But that won’t happen in the short term, not with these particular countries. Instead – perhaps somewhat unexpectedly – the next country might very well be the Ukraine, which would almost be as good.
It now looks very likely that today’s Presidential election was won by Viktor Yanukovych. His party has in the past expressed its support for recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Russia will surely do its best to get this done. It depends on whether Yanukovych has the authority as President to make this decision himself, and if not, whether he can muster enough support in Parliament. But things look promising for Abkhazia and South Ossetia – even more so because Ukraine’s recognition would be so influential that it could pave the way for other countries from the former Soviet Union to follow, like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or Armenia. Who knows, perhaps even Belarus.