Monday, March 24, 2008

Catching Up

I take a few days off, think I'm leaving on a high note, as expressed in Some Good News and come back to find:

Duma Backs Georgia's Two Separatist Republics
By Steve Gutterman, The Associated Press

The State Duma has urged the Kremlin to consider recognizing the independence of Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, stepping up the government campaign to keep Georgia out of NATO.

The Duma, which overwhelmingly adopted the nonbinding declaration Friday, is dominated by United Russia. The measure would not have passed had the Kremlin opposed it.

Georgia's state minister for reintegration, Temuri Yakobashvili, dismissed the Duma declaration as "a propaganda step," Itar-Tass reported.

The Duma said the government must protect the residents of Abhkazia and South Ossetia -- most of whom have Russian citizenship -- against Georgia's push for NATO membership. It suggested that Western recognition of Kosovo's Feb. 19 declaration of independence from Serbia gave Moscow more flexibility in its approach to the breakaway regions, which it said have "far greater grounds to seek international recognition than Kosovo does..."

We'll see if they take it further. If Russia does decide to take it from a "non-binding resolution" to something more significant, then we can expect a significant confrontation, especially if the BTC Pipeline is threatened.

What to watch for: If our Russian friends want to send a strong message over the issue of Kosovo being sheared off from Serbia, then expect pressure on Georgia, via Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, the first, and possibly strongest, moves will probably be made against Bosnia -Herzegovina with the agitation by Serbian political elites in Republika Srpska to formally break away from Bosnia and join up with their co-ethnics in Serbia.

I'm not sure this rises to a direct threat for you or your interests unless you live in Georgia or the Balkans, but if a conflict with Georgia were to get out of hand and the pipeline infrastructure were to become a target of Iraq-style violence, then this could destabilize oil markets for a time.

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