Saturday, January 15, 2022

Abkhazian Resistance to Moscow Demands Highlights Limits of Russian Influence

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 26 – Despite massive assistance to the breakaway Abkhaz Republic, Moscow has not been able to compel that largely unrecognized entity to fulfill its promises for closer integration with Russia. Instead, Andrey Nikolayev says, Abkhazia takes the Russian money, does what it wants, and assumes Moscow has no choice but to continue funding it.

            The Rosbalt commentator points out that Abkhazia has not fulfilled a single one of the 45 promises it made to Russia a year ago to integrate its social and political space with Russia. But despite that, Moscow continues to fund the place apparently because it has no choice given its military base there and image concerns (

            Moscow is not happy about this situation, in particular about Abkhazia’s failure to make it easier for Russians to purchase land there. But the Abkhazians while giving lip service to the idea that they will move in that direction have done nothing, largely because the population does not want foreigners in general and Russians in particular to buy up their country.

            “The opinion of almost all Abkhazians without any exaggeration,” Nikolayev says, “is that ‘we did not fight with the Georgians for so many years in order to be united with Russia.’” We fought for independence; and while we welcome Russian help of more than 45 billion rubles (6.5 billion US dollars), we don’t want Moscow’s diktat, they say.

            Moreover, the Russian analyst continues, if the Abkhaz government were to change course under pressure from Moscow and seek to implement its demands, the population would rise in revolt as it has so often in the past and overthrow that regime. That prospect too means that Moscow has every reason not to push too hard and also to continue to send money.

            The broader message of all this is that Moscow’s ability to influence its neighbors is not as all-embracing as many in the Russian capital or elsewhere believe. As other countries have discovered, client states can be expensive and nominal allies; but they have resources to resist the demands of their patrons and are not shy about using them.   


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