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