The Crimean Parliament voted today 79-8 to press the Ukrainian government to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It seems highly unlikely that the Ukrainian government will act on the call given the collapse of its coalition government and the strongly anti-Russian sentiment of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
The move would also have serious ramifications within the Crimea, which enjoys a large measure of independence already and might be seen to move in the direction of separation in light of its large Russian population and the Ukrainian government’s stated desire to expel the Russian Navy from a base rented in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
And even though the vote is non-binding it does add to the credibility of the independence of the enclaves, which formally separated themselves from Georgia after the brief Georgia-Russia war in August. Russia is the only power in the region to recognize the move, and the United States has promised to use its status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to ensure that the enclaves are forever seen as Georgian provinces in the eyes of the world.
The status of the enclaves is a major bone of contention in Russia’s increasingly tense relationship with the West. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to return the regions to Georgian control. This seems increasingly unlikely however, as today Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed formal treaties with both enclaves promising to defend them from any future attack.
NATO has supported Georgia’s position on the lost territories, and publicly denounced a EU-brokered peace deal which would allow Russia to keep troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a hedge against future Georgian attacks. They also are moving cautiously toward offering Georgia membership, though questions about President Saakashvili’s penchant for anti-opposition crackdowns has delayed any formal offer to join. Russia has criticized NATO for its “Cold War-era reflexes“.