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Abkhazia to act as Moscow's political trump in Black Sea region

Arnold Kammel kommentiert die russischen Pläne Teile der Schwarzmeer-Flotte von der Ukraine nach Abchasien zu verlegen.

Trend News (Baku) / E. Tariverdiyeva / 28.01.2009 / Voriger / Nächster Artikel

Originalartikel


Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 28 / Trend News , E.Tariverdiyeva / Abkhazia will not become a full substitute for Sevastopol to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, but will play the role of Moscow’s political trump in the Black Sea region.

“Russia almost certainly would prefer to retain its base in Crimea, but with Russian-Ukrainian relations so tense, Russia probably calculates that it needs a “backup plan” in case it is forced to leave Ukraine,” said U.S. expert on the Russia-Georgia conflict Henry Hale.

Moscow and Sukhumi have reached agreement to set in Abkhazia deployment points for Russian Black Sea Fleet ships, BBC Russian reported. Russia may start establishing a base in the Ochamchira Port as early as in 2009, Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh said on Jan. 28. According to observers, bases in Ochamchira will not be able to substitute the Black Sea Fleet’s Sevastopol base. The main base of the Black Sea Fleet is the Ukraine-owned Sevastopol. Moscow and Kiev are constantly disputing because Russian warships are deployed in Crimea. Ukrainian authorities have consistently insisted that the Russian fleet left Sevastopol after expiration of the Black Sea Agreement on May 28, 2017. It is impossible to establish a fleet base like the one in Sevastopol - it was being built for 300 years, says Russian expert, Doctor of Military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov. “The main base of the fleet is a city like Sevastopol. It is unrealistic to build it in Abkhazia in the coming two centuries,” Sivkov, Academy of Geopolitical Problems First Vice-President, told Trend News. At this stage, Russia, he said, will form simply a deployment point in Abkhazia – a fort with minimal infrastructure to host general class ships.

“Relocating the Black Sea Fleet could be seen as a Russian policy to avoid potential future confrontations with Ukraine or at least creating an alternative to Sevastopol in the case that Russia is conducting military operations that Ukraine might find against its interests,” Arnold Kammel, Academic at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, told Trend News via e-mail.

As regards rental costs, agreements can easier be found between Russia and Abkhazia in the framework of the cooperation agreements than with Ukraine, he said.

I would not go that far to say that Moscow provoked the events in Georgia just for this particular reason. Nevertheless, from a geostrategic point of view, an own access to the Black Sea is of major importance for Russia considering itself as a regional power. By recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and granting military support, Russia will strengthen its influence in the whole Black Sea region. Is it beneficial to Russia to relocate its Black Sea Fleet from Ukraine to Abkhazia? As very recent events have shown, relations between Russia and Ukraine remain quite unstable and tensions and mistrust still exist. Relocating the Black Sea Fleet could be seen as a Russian policy to avoid potential future confrontations with Ukraine or at least creating an alternative to Sevastopol in the case that Russia is conducting military operations that Ukraine might find against its interests. Abkhazia, for sure, will be easier to handle for Russia. Furthermore as regards rental costs, agreements can easier be found with Abkhazia in the framework of the cooperation agreements than with Ukraine as Ukraine could use the current situation for bargaining for their national interests (e.g. gas).

Experts tally with their opinions that deploying even a small military base in Abkhazia plays a political role for Moscow, rather than a strategic one.

“From a geostrategic point of view, an own access to the Black Sea is of major importance for Russia considering itself as a regional power,” Kammel said. “By recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and granting military support, Russia will strengthen its influence in the whole Black Sea region.”

Moscow understands that it has few sections to access the Black Sea which do not fit for a giant fleet due to a resort zone and small depth, Georgian Political Scientist Irakli Sesiashvili said. “Therefore, the Ochamchir Port was the most acceptable version for Russia,” Sesiashvili told Trend News.

As NATO’s military presence in the Black Sea tops Russia’s presence by several times, Moscow will attempt to balance forces and equip the fleet in Abkhazia with this purpose, the expert said.

Experts forecast that reaction of EU and U.S. will be rather observers’ reaction.

EU’s position on forming Russian military base in Abkhazia is explained with that any strengthening of military presence in ingenuous nearness of the conflict zone may create additional problems, EU Special Envoy on settling crisis in Caucasus Pier Morel said in his interview with the Russian Ekho Moskvi radio station on Jan. 28. “Of course, Russia makes its choice here and EU keeps freedom to assess the situation,” Morel said.

Generally, Europe will neutrally treat it, Sivkov said. U.S. will demonstrate the most negative reaction, because Russia’s strengthening in Abkhazia is a fearful blow for U.S. for its geopolitical interests and appetites, he said.

“First, the Georgian Government should achieve the UN Security Council to examine this issue and impose sanctions on Russia to prevent the latter to deploy its fleet in the Abkhazian territorial water area of Georgia,” Sesiashvili said.

“Of course, this will further complicate Russia’s relations with the West and probably with many CIS countries, so there will be costs to Russia that will diminish its net benefits,” Hale said.

Observers believe that even if Russia agrees with Georgia’s territorial claims, the base in Abkhazia will belong to Moscow.

Later, Russia can invest in Abkhazia as an object of bargaining, the Georgian expert said. “If an issue is aroused to return Abkhazia to Georgia, the Kremlin will agree it only instead of maintaining the fleet in this territory,” Sesiashvili said.

Moscow-based R.Agayev and Tbilisi-based N.Kirtskhalia contributed to the article.

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