Wednesday, December 16, 2009

$50m and we're anyone's

Nauru has just recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  (Abkhaz story here) (S.O. story here)

Now I'm sure you all know this, but just in case you don't, Nauru is an island nation in the South Pacific.  For millenia migrating sea birds used the island as an enormous public toilet, depositing copious amounts of their faeces on top of the coral.  These deposits were rich in phosphates, and during the twentieth century were exported to farmers in Australia and New Zealand who used them as fertiliser.

On the basis of the fertiliser trade, Nauru became exceptionally wealthy, at one stage having significant property holdings in Melbourne, Australia.  The wealth was poorly managed, however, and has dwindled away.  What's more, the phosphate deposits have been used up.  These days Nauru is completely reliant on aid and on other windfalls (such as the rent the Australians paid to Nauru for several years to host a bunch of unwanted Afghan asylum seekers).

It seems that Nauru's latest ruse is charging money for recognising pseudo-states, including the likes of Taiwan and Kosovo.  Apparently in return for the recognition of Abkhazia the Russians are donating $50m to the cause.

Personally I don't think the Russians bargained hard enough.  For an extra $25m Nauru would have thrown in  Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria as well.  For the all-time low price of $100m they would have also recognised Russia's claims to the Kuriles and the Crimea.  Toss in an extra $10m and all 11,000 of them would have learned Russian, become citizens and taken up drinking Stolichnaya.

Seriously, if $50m is the going rate for recognition by a tiny island state, imagine how much the Russians will have to pay for the other 189 members of the UN still to recognise the breakaway territories?  They'd be better off just buying them from the Georgians.

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