Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Russia recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia

To the surprise of many - me included - Russia has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

During the fighting in Georgia Russia already regularly used Kosovo to denounce Western criticism of its role in the war in Georgia as hypocritical. Now it has taken the ultimate step.

On the short term it won't make much difference as few - if any - country will probably recognize it. I write "probably" because if Russian diplomacy would really devote attention to it they might be able to get some recognitions.

Some people will see this as just revenge for Kosovo. But I think that it mainly a warning to the other republics not to organize a Krajna-like ethnic cleansing with Russian citizens. For Russia with its many citizens who live as minority in other republics this is a major worry.

Another theory has it that the Russians are nostalgic for their empire and try to get it back. I don't see that. I see Russia rather like Turkey after the end of the Ottoman Empire and Serbia after the end of Yugoslavia. Both didn't care much about the lost areas on itself but were (and still are) very nervous about the treatment of "their" ethnic group in the new states. In that light I find the expansion of NATO in the former Soviet states ill-considered. If there comes a conflict it will very likely be about that state cleansing Russian citizens and NATO would be obliged to defend ethnic cleansers.

Regarding Kosovo the recognition will have some interesting consenquences for Serbia's effort to get an opinion from the ICJ:
- When the ICJ now will give an opinion over Kosovo it will implicitly be about Georgia too. Given that the ICJ sometimes is not above a bit pro-Western inconsistency (they declared Serbia UN member in the Bosnia genocide case but no UN member in Serbia's case against the Kosovo War) this will force them to more objectivity.
- Georgia now will have to consider whether to protest the Russian move at the ICJ. If it doesn't it weakens its claims on the territories. But if it does it means that the ICJ will give a verdict on a case that is very similar to Kosovo. If Serbia might not succeed in getting enough votes in the UN for asking amn ICJ opinion this would be some kind of alternative.
- it will also be interesting to see whether Russia will maintain its support for Serbia regarding Kosovo in the Security Council and with what arguments.

One can only hope that the West finally awakens and realises that its recognition of Kosovo is not the way these things should be done. A compromise and still is very well possible. The West's rather silly attitude in the Kosovo War was that one side was good and the other bad. Unfortunately this same attitude made and still makes Western diplomacy in this conflict a farce.

The Western "solution" for Kosovo and Russia's "solution" for Abkhazia and South-Ossetia have the same problems: one ethnic group is disadvantaged and ends up partially cleansed. Only really negotiations can bring a solution that helps both sides.

1 comment:

realist said...

"The West's rather silly attitude in the Kosovo War was that one side was good and the other bad."

It was no more silly than saying Nazis were bad in WW2 and Jews were good. The language used by Serbia (from the government to the church) was very genocidal toward the indiginous Kosovars.

The only mistake was is not recognizing Kosovo immediately when it broke free from colonial control, just as was properly done with Croatia and Bosnia.