Does South Ossetia really want independence? According to an official of the breakaway Georgian province … no, not really. They believe that Russia will absorb them, and it sounds as though they look forward to the marriage:
Russia intends to eventually absorb Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia, a South Ossetian official said Friday, three days after Moscow recognized the region as independent in a move that drew criticism from the West.
South Ossetian parliamentary speaker Znaur Gassiyev said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the region’s leader, Eduard Kokoity, discussed the future of South Ossetia earlier this week in Moscow.
Gassiyev said Russia will absorb South Ossetia “in several years” or earlier. That position was “firmly stated by both leaders,” he said in Tskhinvali, the provincial capital.
I wonder whether Medvedev wanted this stated quite so baldly at this point in time. Western nations have accused the Russians of empire building with their invasion of Georgia, which Vladimir Putin and Medvedev have hotly denied. They claim that they interceded on behalf of an oppressed minority that deserves independence, and in fact pushed through a recognition of independence for both South Ossetia and Abhkazia last week in the Duma.
Gassiyev’s admission puts an entirely different light on Moscow’s motives. They want to annex the Caucasus provinces and put a tighter grip on energy exports from the region. Nothing would prevent them from provoking another ethnic crisis in Georgia itself and swallowing it whole in the next few months, and by advancing their borders to within a short drive of Tbilisi and Poti, Putin will have put himself in excellent position to do just that.
If the Russians want independence for South Ossetia for entirely noble purposes, they have a splendid way of demonstrating that: grant independence to North Ossetia at the same time and unite the two provinces. Ossetia for Ossetians. Maybe the UN ought to take that under consideration.