Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, that allows Russia to fully control the region. The pact with South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov, a former KGB agent, came on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The two leaders announced the Treaty of Alliance and Integration in January. It allows Moscow to control South Ossetia’s foreign policy, border, and security. Before he signed the treaty, Tibilov told reporters Russia is “the only guarantor for our people, for our republic.” He also thanked Putin “for everything.”
“A joint defence and security zone will be created between our two countries, our customs agencies will be integrated and border crossings for our citizens will become open,” announced Putin.
Russia gained control of South Ossetia after the fall of the Soviet Union and tightened its grip after the brief 2008 Russo-Georgia War, but the treaty will make everything official. The 2008 war drove out 192,000 people, and only 21,000 voted in an election in June. South Ossetia’s small population appears to approve of the development since two articles “stipulate that government salaries and pensions in South Ossetia will be raised to the level of those received in the Russian North Caucasus.” Some disapprove, but the government suppresses their voice. Quartz reported the opposition party’s website was blocked last year.
Putin signed a similar treaty with Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway region, last November. Thomas de Waal, a journalist and expert on the Caucasus, described it as “Russia swallowing South Ossetia.”
“Effective annexation is the word,” he explained. “Is there any way back? Never say never–if the border with Georgia opens again, it makes much more sense for S Ossetia to be part of the economic space of Georgia.”
Georgian officials lashed out against the treaty.
“This step made against the territorial integrity of a sovereign state further worsens the situation created as a result of the occupation and brings it to the level of an annexation,” claimed Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili. “It is outrageous that the Russian Federation responds with destructive actions to Georgia’s efforts to find meaningful ways to settle the existing problems.”
In June, former Georgian Prime Minister and representative to NATO Ambassador Grigol Mgaloblishvili told Breitbart News, “Russia intends to cripple much of Eastern Europe to maintain it in a state of ‘constant chaos’ [so] that it can control the region.” The constant hot air and no action against Russia only “emboldened” the government to continue. Moscow annexed Crimea without any real punishment; therefore, “it can keep moving.”