The Bubble of Russian power, that hit a post-1989 high during the first stages of the Olympic War, is crashing hard. The credit crisis has hurt Russia (a Gap country with a shallow facade of connectedness) hard, the Russian stock market is repeatedly suspended for days at a time, oil prices have fallen nearly 50% since Russia’s attack on the Southern Energy Corridor, and Putin’s acts of self-sabotage have driven away the investment income that once threatened to make Russia a powerful country.
A symbolic area of conflict for the Russian state are international recognition for Kosovo (carved from her former satellite, Serbia) and Abkhazia (carved from her enemy, Georgia). On 9/11/08, I wrote that Abkhazia was currently recognized by the “feared Russian-Nicaraguan Axis“…
.. though Belarus has toyed with recognizing the statelet.
A month later, Abkhazia is recognized by her allies Russia and Nicaragua, and hopes for Belarus to join too.
Countries on every continent have recognized Kosovo. 22 of 27 European Union states have recognized Kosovo. 22 of 26 NATO countries have recognized Kosovo. 4 of the 6 former constiuent republics of Yugoslavia recognize Kosovo. 4 of Kosovo’s 5 neighbors recognize it.
Abkhazia has been recognized by Russia, and Nicaragua, and that’s it. Though one day soon, mighty Belarus may join, too.
Heck, a Finnish President who oversaw the UN process that Serbia rejected (and thus led to the recognition of Kosovo) is now a Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
Of course, recognition is a symbolic act, like cocking a gun is a symbolic act. More substantial acts are those which makes it hard for Russians to invest directly in the west, makes it risky for western countries to invest directly in Russia, encouraging investment in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, and so on.
Still, it’s important not to blow Russia out of important. Russia is a threat to its smaller neighbors, but to us it’s just a belligerent version of Portugal. Moscow is a problem to be managed, and a bad actor to deter and contain. It’s not a country to fight a Cold War (or, for that matter, insist on detente) with.