Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The outworking of unheeded warnings

Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has recognised unilateral declarations of independence by both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, some 15 years after the republics broke away from Georgia. Very clearly it is a deplorable thing when the internationally recognised territorial integrity of a state is disregarded. The dismemberment of a state, or the attempted dismemberment of a state, cannot be applauded.

However, whilst two wrongs do not make a right, it has been pointed out several times on this site that Kosovo formed a precedent which would encourage separatist regions to declare independence, and, specifically in the cases of several frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union, would encourage Russia to respond by affording recognition of its own. Saakishvili’s attempt to bombard South Ossetians into accepting his government’s sovereignty provided a pretext for Russia to harden its support for independence in the two regions.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are illegal states which should not gain recognition. Equally Kosovo is an integral part of the sovereign state of Serbia and its recognition is illegal. Excellent columnist Jonathan Steele, in examining ‘lies and hysteria’ surrounding the South Ossetian war, draws the analogy further to examine just how hypocritical outrage from NATO members (and the US in particular) has been.

“Suppose Serbia's leaders were suddenly to kill US peacekeepers, fire rockets at civilian houses in Pristina and storm the town, wouldn't the Americans be expected to expel the invaders, even if the UN still recognises Kosovo as legally part of Serbia?”

Russia’s recognition of the breakaway republics is wrong and should be condemned. To couch this condemnation in hysterical terms, or to use either recognition or the war as a pretext for punitive measures against Russia, would be both deeply unjust and entirely counterproductive. The war and its aftermath should be a timely reminder that Russia too has strategic interests and cannot be indefinitely disrespected and ignored.

It is worth quoting Steele’s conclusion in full.

“Nato and Russia are boycotting each other for the moment. But business will soon resume as western leaders see this was a manufactured crisis rather than the start of a new cold war or some cataclysmic shift in international relations. When Nato's foreign ministers met last week, France and Germany made that point. The alliance promised reconstruction aid to Georgia but no support for rushing it into Nato. Earlier this year, France and Germany had the courage to defy Washington and say it was too early to invite Georgia. They were right then, and are even more so now.”

No comments: