Europe

Putin’s Hand In Spain – Foreign Minister Of Pro-Russia South Ossetia Travels To Catalonia To Establish ‘Embassy’

 

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Vladimir Putin (photo by kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons)

On August 7, 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia to assist separatist forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions that had declared their independence from the central government in Tbilisi. [1]

South Ossetia became an independent Republic and a de facto Russian protectorate. In 2012 the Kremlin installed as its president Leonid Tibilov, a former KGB officer. He was elected after a long campaign season, during which the former president-elect, Alla Dzhioeva, was divested of her office by the Supreme Court on fraud charges and injured during a raid carried out by riot police. [2]

On Monday Dmitriy Medoev, Foreign Minister of South Ossetia, visited Barcelona to establish ties with Catalonia, where the leaders of a separatist movement are pushing for the creation of an independent Republic.

According to El Pais, Medoev visited Catalonia on Monday and Tuesday in order to establish bilateral relations.

The website of South Ossetia’s Foreign Ministry expresses its government’s support for Catalonia’s independence referendum, which it describes as “the highest form of expression of the will of [the] people.”

In Barcelona Medoev met with local entrepreneurs and set up an “embassy”. He stressed the similarities between South Ossetia and Catalonia: “26 years ago the people of South Ossetia took the same decisive political steps towards the formation of our own state,” he was quoted as saying. Medoev’s trip appears to be part of a larger Kremlin-backed strategy to divide and weaken the European bloc.

Vladimir Putin has taken a keen interest in nationalist movements that could destabilize the West. Moscow has sought ties with various nationalist movements, many of which, such as Italy’s Lega Nord and Germany’s AfD, have an anti-establishment, euro-skeptic, xenophobic and populist ideology.


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Putin never forgave the US-led Western world for promoting instability and separatism both in Russia and in the former Soviet sphere of influence.

In a 2005 state of the nation address Putin famously told parliament that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

“Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory. The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia itself,” he said, referring to separatist movements such as Chechnya’s. Putin crushed Chechen separatism and installed a puppet government led by the loyal Kadyrov clan.

Kosovo’s unilateral independence declaration from Serbia in 2008, which many Western countries recognized, appears to have been a turning point for Vladimir Putin. The West’s disastrous strategy of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and destabilizing them alienated the Kremlin and probably strengthened Putin’s resolve to weaken the US and the EU.

On October 19 Putin compared Catalonia and Kosovo, openly suggesting that the political disintegration of Western Europe is the consequence of its own geopolitical mistakes.

“You [the EU] were so heedless in using this political situation and the desire to appease the big brother from Washington to support the separation of Kosovo so unanimously, provoking other such processes in other regions,” Putin said, adding that the EU has proven to have “double standards” in rejecting the independence of Catalonia.


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Notes

[1] Paul B. Rich, ed., Crisis in the Caucasus: Russia, Georgia and the West (London: Routledge, 2010), xiii.

[2] Ellen Barry, “New Leader of South Ossetia Was K.G.B. Man,” International Herald Tribune, April 1, 2012.

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