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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Abkhazia and South Ossetia just scored another point in global recognition of their independence, as Nauru, the world’s smallest nation, has jumped on the little red bandwagon with Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia, raising the number of countries that recognize the separatists' sovereignty to four.

A couple weeks ago, Abkhaz Foreign Minister, Sergei Shamba, said they were looking to get recognition from nations uninfluenced by the Big Powers. While you gotta admire his “we look at things as they can be” attitude, the fact is Abkhazia has to take whatever it can get, even if it is an 8 square mile chunk of disappearing bird shit in the South Pacific.

As far as countries go, Nauru is quite simply a cheap whore. Blame it on a troubled childhood. Europeans first started exploiting Nauru’s phosphate - fossilized bird shit – for fertilizer in the early 19th century. After getting tossed around between Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the UN, Nauru eventually got control of its own bird shit in 1967. Soon, the island of some 10,000 people had a per capita income second to Saudia Arabia. The problem is fossilized bird shit is not a renewable product. Much like the inhabitants of Easter Island extincted themselves by raping their environment, the Nauruans laid waste to their piece of the rock and when the shit disappeared, everything else did too. Nauru became a barren ecological wasteland with a 90% rate of unemployment by the turn of the century.

The Nauruans blamed the Europeans for the disaster and sued in international court for damages inflicted by over 100 years of strip mining. Australia, NZ and GB all kicked some annual guilt settlement in the pot, but it wasn’t enough to keep the country from going bankrupt by 2000. One way out of the mess was by providing a friendly climate for money laundering. Another was by investing in a musical, "Love, Lennie da Vinci and Me," which failed miserably. For a while, steady income came by housing refugees yanked out of waters headed for Australia in bleak, unsanitary refugee camps. The Aussies paid over $100 million for the service until a change in government closed the camps in 2008.

In the meantime, Nauru was building a reputation of being a wishy-washy global political player. After a formal 22-year relationship, Taiwan severed ties with Nauru after the little island took $130 million from China to unrecognize Taiwan’s independence. A couple years later, Nauru re-recognized Taiwan for a nice sum. Can you blame them? The country has zero exports and is entirely dependent on imported goods, including water. Nauru's only asset is its willingness to recognize separatist nations. Russia paid $50 million for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Merry Christmas guys.

Four countries is two more countries than last year, is one way of looking at it. While we snicker at Nauru and its remarkable 80% obesity level (highest in the world), Abkhazia is lobbying Ecuador and making contacts in the Middle East, including Iran, which Shamba says is only logical, as the country is a big neighbor. To Abkhazia, a flag is a flag is a flag and they will wait as they have waited for the past 18 years, one flag at a time, whether Russia pays for it or not.

* Nobody can agree on the number of countries in the word. The US says 194, the UN has 192 members and most world almanacs have 193.

King Aweida and his posse circa 1921, lifted off
Thomas J McMahon and islanders in 1916, lifted off
The island /