on the silk road

Outside View: Kosovo spark, Ossetia fire
By OBRAD KESIC (UPI Outside View Commentator)
It is obvious that the current conflict in Georgia has been greatly influenced by the United States’ and the European Union’s decision to initiate, support and recognize Kosovo’s independence. Over the last few days this connection has been made in newspapers from Spain to China. Prominent European statesmen such as Lech Walesa and Jiri Dienstbier also have linked the current violence in the Caucasus to the “irresponsible” decision to recognize Serbia’s breakaway province.Even the major protagonists in the current crisis have embraced this connection. The South Ossetians and Abkhazians have cited Kosovo’s independence as an argument for their own separatist ambitions; the Russians have referred to Kosovo to slash at the credibility and legitimacy of EU and American criticisms. Georgian leaders who had warned about the dangerous precedent of Kosovo’s independence and had refused to recognize it are now desperately attempting to find differences between the two situations in order to deny any possible legitimacy for the case for independence of its own separatist regions. 

There is now a striking similarity between the current Georgian crisis and the Kosovo issue. In 1999, arguing that a humanitarian intervention was needed to protect innocent civilians from a repressive and violent state, NATO bombed Serbia and effectively separated Kosovo from the rest of the country. Now it is Russia’s turn at humanitarian intervention. The Albanians in Kosovo claimed a right to self-determination and their own state, arguing that their rights would never fully be guaranteed in Serbia. This fundamental claim is now being made by Ossetians and Abkhazians as to why they need to be independent from Georgia.

Kosovo’s independence came about in large part through an arrogant and reckless attitude in Washington (primarily in the Department of State and Congress), as well as in some EU capitals, that the positions of Serbia and Russia could simply be ignored. The U.N. Security Council and international law could be bypassed simply by arguing that the Kosovo problem was “unique” and easily quarantined from other similar ethnically motivated disputes over territory. There was a mistaken belief that if American and EU diplomats, officials and leaders repeated the official mantra that “Kosovo is unique” and that “Kosovo is not a precedent” that this would suffice to contain any possible repercussions from a policy that was hastily endorsed as “the only possible” option. American and some European diplomats grew fond of saying that Serbia and Russia should accept “reality” and the “facts on the ground” in Kosovo.

Now it is Washington and Brussels who must accept the reality of their own policy blunder in Kosovo, if they are to have any chance at containing and ending the violence in Georgia. This ought to begin by acknowledging that Kosovo’s case for independence is no more or less unique than that of South Ossetia, Abkhazia or numerous others. It also should be realized that wishful thinking is no substitute for policy that is based on principles anchored in international law. If the United States and the European Union are not prepared to militarily intervene in the Georgian conflict, it leaves three options open.

The first is to refuse to assume any responsibility for the current mess and to continue the motions of diplomatic activity (shuttle diplomacy, rhetorical expressions of outrage and support for Georgia and self-serving media interviews) and hope that the Russians end their military intervention as soon as possible and that afterward there will be something left of a viable Georgian state.

The second option is to accept the results of their own policies in the Balkans by acknowledging directly or indirectly the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This could be justified in the same way as in the case of Kosovo: namely that by attempting to take back South Ossetia by military action (and the humanitarian tragedy this caused), Georgia has lost the right to govern these two regions where the overwhelming majority of the citizens will never again accept being governed by Tbilisi.

The third option is to admit the EU and U.S. policy on Kosovo was a mistake and attempt to manage the Georgian crisis in light of this. That would mean freezing Kosovo’s independence by returning complete authority over the province to the United Nations and by restarting negotiations between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians under U.N. sponsorship. For Georgia this would signify the only hope that Russia would lose its moral ground for further military escalation and that it could return to the status quo prior to its own military actions on Aug. 6. This would also allow for the United Nations to regain credibility and legitimacy for new peace talks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia and for any possible peacekeeping role.

If American and EU officials continue to ignore the new international reality that they have helped create by backing Kosovo’s independence, they will have chosen a road that will lead to new separatist conflicts well beyond the Balkans and the Caucasus.

With their policies they have smashed an international order that had for the most part balanced for hundreds of years the demands for self-determination with the need to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of international borders. One way or another, they must now pay for it.

(Obrad Kesic is a senior partner with TSM Global Consultants LLC.)

(United Press International’s “Outside View” commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)



1 Comment so far
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Kosovo also set the precendent for Aztlan, when
the USA becomes a Bamana Republic under Brzezinski.

Comment by Nikos Tanrousses

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