Op-ed: Abkhazia finds itself in a new geopolitical reality

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Political scientist Astamur Tania, who, in different years worked as an assistant to the first president of Abkhazia Vladislav Ardzinba and head of the Presidential Administration Raul Khadzhimba, offers his own plan for the survival and development of Abkhazia amid the crisis caused by the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.

“Psychologically, it is necessary to prepare both ourselves and society for the fact that the crisis will be of a rather protracted nature.

Geopolitical processes that have just begun in the context of Ukraine, will have a fairly long historical inertia.

It cannot be otherwise. Even today, if hostilities stop and all sanctions are lifted, the recovery process will still take a long time.

So far, there is no close prospect of this. We see that in a fairly short period of time, Russia, with which we are most closely connected – both politically and economically – has experienced a break in trade and economic ties with the outside world.

Naturally, there will be a search for new connections, new logistics, new partners, with the help of which it will be possible to overcome the crisis which is inevitable. This will require non-standard approaches.

The traditional approach to making long-term decisions is completely inapplicable in this situation. We will have to quickly respond to the changing situation in the world. This applies to us too. Since our Russian partners have already told us that Abkhazia needs to strive for self-sufficiency.

Astamur Tania about Abkhazia during the crisis
Sukhum, photo: JAMnews

You have to understand that you need to say goodbye to the model that existed before, when there was direct funding from Moscow for all sorts of projects of a socio-economic nature.

Of course, some help will be provided to Abkhazia, but it will not be enough to maintain our usual standard of living. Therefore, it will be necessary to look for new solutions.

Of course, we must keep in mind that the crisis, in addition to problems, also creates opportunities for Abkhazia.

However, it is difficult to quickly adapt from familiar life to new realities. So far, we have not fully felt these realities, but they are inevitable. It is necessary for the adaptation period pass as quickly as possible. And then we need to think about how to develop our own economy. Now this crisis gives Abkhazia not only natural challenges, but also incentives. What could they be?

Naturally, a breakthrough in agriculture – it is necessary to develop commercial agricultural production in order to not only provide food for ourselves, but also to work for export. In the Russian market, our products have been in demand before, but now, in the conditions of the crisis, they will be double in demand.

There are various options for trade transit. The first thing that comes to mind is the Turkish direction. In addition, one way or another, some deliveries are made through the Georgian-Abkhazian border.

I think that this process will now develop even more but if it is not organised properly, it may become illegal.

Therefore, the state needs to think about how to streamline this process and extract dividends from it. Officially levying duties on goods coming from the territory of Georgia is an unpopular topic, however, now it is impossible to survive with the help of popular discourse.

I think there will be a growing need in Russia for Abkhazia to play such a transit role. Due to the fact that the system of international relations has collapsed, Russia will look for ways out in order to form some kind of regional cooperation schemes.

It could be Central Asia, it could be the South Caucasus. It can take years to develop new trade communications and logistics. And we need to fit into this system. To do this, our government needs to work in the mode of a crisis management.

We see that in the current geopolitical conflict, Turkey has taken a low profile. As I see it, such a position is partly agreed with the West, because it is impossible to cut off all channels of communication even with a hated enemy.

In addition, Turkey has always h ad a special position in the NATO alliance. Now, after the second war around Nagorno-Karabakh, the issue of opening communications in the eastern part of the South Caucasus has come to the fore.

And now we see that despite the fact that historically there are very difficult relations between Armenia and Turkey and Azerbaijan, based on pragmatic views, they are constructing a new communication scheme.

Naturally, without the participation of Russia in the South Caucasus, some strategic communication projects cannot be resolved. I think there will be interaction between these players Russia, Turkey and the states of the South Caucasus in order to use the entire network of communications in their own interests. In this regard, we must think about how to participate in this process, what our role will be in all this.

Now they offer a 3 + 3 format, but I am sure that it won’t be sufficient, other participants should be involved in the process, including Abkhazia. Old clichés related to recognition, sovereignty, etc. are loosing their former meaning.

A new system of international relations will be formed when the balance of forces is formed. So far, we are far from it. Now is a very dangerous period, but again, I emphasize that this is a period of new opportunities. When the formation of a new international system begins, there should be a place for Abkhazia as well.

To do this, we must, first of all, be successful economically. The value of direct financial assistance from Russia will decrease, but on the other hand, the interest of Russian and Turkish businesses in us will increase.

Due to sanctions, Russia’s external capabilities have been significantly reduced and we must think about how to build relationships with the business that will come to Abkhazia.

Due to the restrictions, including on movement, that apply to Russians, the flow of tourists to Abkhazia will be much greater.

We will have to face an acute issue of energy. We cannot do without additional supplies of energy resources from Russia. Therefore, it is natural that there will be an increase in tariffs for consumed energy.

It will be necessary to solve the issue of mining. Due to the sharp increase in the dollar exchange rate, and these cryptocurrencies are more related to the dollar exchange rate, the price of electricity, even taking into account its import from Russia, will be in rubles, the issue of creating separate sites for mining is being updated, but at the same time the state must earn a tangible return.

And not only in this project, but also in others. Since the social burden on the state will increase significantly.

Now in all spheres there will be new opportunities for Abkhazia. Many trends, including those in IT technologies, are at the stage of formation. Where they find a way, there they will flow. Therefore, we need to send part of these flows, financial, human, intellectual, creative, to Abkhazia.

A lot depends on the government. The authorities must daily give the right signals on how to behave in this changing world. They must manage this process. There should be more links between the state and society.

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