Aslan Bzhania: Aligning Abkhazia’s Future with Russia’s Strategic Interests

Aslan Georgievich Bzhania is an Abkhaz politician. He has served as the President of Abkhazia since 23 April 2020. Russia has been planning to develop a permanent naval base in the Ochamchire district of occupied Abkhazia for quite some time. The head of the separatist regime in Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, confirmed that agreement when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The designed base became more widely known after Bzhania spoke of it in a discussion with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, in which he also expressed that the “foreign policy [of Abkahzia] will be harmonised with the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.’

Moscow hopes to achieve three primary objectives with the proposed naval base. First, it wants to indicate that it will not soon leave the South Caucasus. Second, the Kremlin aims to retain its dominant position in the Black Sea. Third, the agreement transmits a message of calm to the puppet regime in Abkhazia, which has become extremely nervous about Russia’s weakening position in the area against the backdrop of mounting military losses in Ukraine and the recent military operation in Karabakh.

The original contract for the base was received rather negatively in Georgia. In recent years, the Georgian Dream government has been seeking a more pro-Russian course. It has explained such policies founded on the desire for lasting peace and the case of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Russia’s latest actions, nevertheless, demonstrate that the Kremlin does not plan to make any concessions to Tbilisi. The more the Georgian government recognises the more Moscow seems to demand from it.

The decision to make the Russian base coincided with the news that Moscow started to withdraw its Black Sea Fleet from Crimea. Russian vessels have been under continuous attack from Ukraine’s long-range strikes and expanding fleet of drones. As a result, some foreign observers began to suggest that Russia needed a new naval base in Abkhazia to station a part of the Black Sea Fleet. The political resistance in Georgia warned that Russia might begin launching missile attacks on Ukrainian targets from Abkhazia (Georgian territory), which would sketch Georgia into the war.

The deal between Moscow and the separatist regime in Abkhazia points to the fact that the Georgian Dream government’s policy of warming ties with the Kremlin is failing. Georgian officials generally bypassed blaming the Kremlin, but the decision on the new naval base forced them to make a formal statement. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili called the agreement “an illegal decision and a continuance of Russia’s occupation” of Georgia. The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the plans “to include Abkhazia in the integration processes created by Russia” and called for Moscow to “stop its illegal occupation of the indivisible regions of Georgia”. 

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