Abkhazia Briefing: Alexander Cooley and Lincoln Mitchell Urge the West to Change Its Policy

The Harriman Institute

“The  United  States  needs  to  change  its  policy toward  Abkhazia,”  stated  Professor  Alexander Cooley at the Harriman Institute on Monday April 26,  2010.  “While  we  should  continue  to make  it clear  that we will  not  recognize  its  statehood, we must also engage  the region. Otherwise  it will  just drift  further  into  Russia.”  Cooley,  along  with Professor Lincoln Mitchell, has  just returned from Abkhazia—the  two  scholars  are  working  on  a Harriman-sponsored  project  about  U.S.-Georgia relations.  In  April,  they  published  an  “Action Memorandum”  in  The  American  Interest  addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of  Defense  Robert  Gates,  urging  the  officials  to change  the  current U.S. policy of  isolation  to one of “engagement without recognition.”

Four  states  recognize  Abkhazia  and  South Ossetia—Nicaragua, Venezuela, Russia and Nauru. Mitchell acknowledged that this number is unlikely to  rise  significantly;  however,  with  each  new country  that  recognizes  Abkhazia,  it  will  become more difficult to reverse the region’s  identification as  a  sovereign  state.    “Right  now  there  is  no discussion  in  Abkhazia,  or  in Moscow,  about  its statehood,  it’s a given. That could change, but  it’s going  to  get  harder  and  harder  to  change  every year,  every  month  that  goes  by  and  with  every country that signs on to that proposition,” asserted Mitchell.

Cooley and Mitchell also visited Abkhazia two years  ago,  right before  the war with Russia.  “The absence of population remains striking,” conveyed Mitchell.  He  showed  a  slide  show  of  deserted roads  and  abandoned  buildings.  There  was  only one  slide  depicting  a  car,  people were  pushing  it. He  described  Abkhazia  as  a  “strange,  parallel universe.” Not only because of  its  emptiness, but because  of  the  difference  in  perception  and  rhetoric  between  Abkhazia  and  the  rest  of Georgia—the  Georgians  are  constantly  talking about  Abkhazia,  while  in  Abkhazia, Georgia  is  a virtually neglected topic.

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Source: The Harriman Institute




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