By Paul Goble
The leadership of South Ossetia, which with the assistance of the Russian military broke away from the Republic of Georgia in 2008, welcomes Russia’s decision to admit the DNR and LNR as federal subjects of the Russian Federation and hopes to do the same thing via a referendum possibly as early as May or June of this year.
Russian senators and Duma deputies welcome that appeal and say they’ll work to facilitate it (doshdu.com/prezident-juzhnoj-osetii-zajavil-o-vhozhdenii-v-sostav-rf/, eadaily.com/ru/news/2022/03/30/nuzhen-tolko-referendum-klimov-o-vhozhdenii-yuzhnoy-osetii-v-rossiyu and gumilev-center.ru/referendum-o-vkhozhdenii-yuzhnojj-osetii-v-sostav-rf-mozhet-projjti-v-mae-iyune/).
But many South Ossetians are anything but sure, including several hundred South Ossetian troops which were sent to Ukraine but returned home saying that the conflict there was “not their war” and that their absence from their homeland left the republic at risk of an attack by Georgia (trtrussian.com/magazine/voennye-iz-yuzhnoj-osetii-pokidayut-ukrainu-i-obeshayut-rasskazat-pravdu-8415034).
In addition, Georgia has taken a very tough line against the annexation of South Ossetia (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/374764/and semnasem.org/articles/2022/03/31/chto-pishut-v-socsetyah-o-vozmozhnom-prisoedinenie-yuzhnoj-osetii-k-rossii-i-reakcii-na-eto-gruzii), and Abkhazia, while supportive of South Ossetia, shows no interest in following suit, Russian experts on the region doubt that Moscow will agree to absorb South Ossetia (newcaucasus.com/news/21157-yuzhnaya-osetiya-za-vhozhdenie-v-sostav-rf-abhaziya-protiv.html).
Another Anschluss, this time in the Caucasus, would likely be a bridge too far for Moscow, the experts suggest, destabilizing the region and mobilizing the West to support Georgia possibly up to the point of offering Tbilisi a membership action plan to join NATO, exactly the opposite of what the Kremlin wants.