16 September 2011

Russia in Ossetia and America in Kosovo: Not Quite the Same

Lines of control in South Ossetia 1992-2008

Russian patronage of independence of South Ossetia and Western patronage of independence of the Albanian state in Kosovo are two relationships which are often compared. Sometimes they are compared by Western interventionists who are looking for a way to show that the two relationships have nothing in common (for example here and here). And at other times they are compared by opponents of Western interventionism who insist that the two are analogous (for example here).

Opponents of the Empire are right to point out that having done its utmost to detach Kosovo from Serbia the West has no grounds to complain about anything that Russia does in regard to South Ossetia. Western interventionists, however, are right when they say that there are important differences between the two relationships, albeit they are wrong about what those differences are.

Whose protégé is independent?

The most important difference is that South Ossetia is de facto independent, but the Albanian state in Kosovo is not. This is not hyperbole. In Kosovo many of the functions normally performed by a national government are performed by officials from the UN or the EU. The Albanian state in Kosovo is not a sovereign state, it is an international protectorate.

Who intended to go against international law since the very beginning?

Another difference is that Russia had nothing to do with the South Ossetian declaration of independence from Georgia. When South Ossetia in the early 1990s declared its independence Russia refused to recognize it. For more than 15 years Russia maintained a principled position where it did not recognize any of the post-Soviet breakaway states. Had Georgia not launched a military invasion of South Ossetia that killed Russian soldiers that would still be the case.

This is a far cry from Western attitude to independence for Albanians in Kosovo. In 2008 when the Albanian government in Priština declared independence, it did so in coordination with the United States and its major allies, who had been laying the groundwork for this move since the onset of their occupation of Kosovo in 1999.

Who waged war to change the status quo and who meddled to establish a truce based on existing lines of control?

Another difference is that Ossetian control of South Ossetia did not come about because Russia had waged a war against Georgia. Serbia relinquished control of Kosovo because the United States waged a war against it, but Russia was not a belligerent in the 1991-92 South Ossetia War.

Russian pressure was a factor in Georgia signing the cease fire agreement that ended the 1991-92 war, but it was not the main reason Georgia did so. The most important reason why Tbilisi agreed to sign was that at the time it wanted to turn inward seeing that what would become the Georgian Civil War was beginning to flare up.

Now, Russia did not have any business involving itself in the Ossetian-Georgian conflict in this way or in any other way. (What it should have done is offer North Ossetians to exit the Russian Federation and if they then wanted to involve themselves, that would be their business.) However there is a qualitative difference between what Russia did in the South Ossetia War and what America did in the Kosovo War.

Russia arranged for a cease fire that had each of the two sides remain in control of the parts of South Ossetia they held before the truce. America on the other hand subjected Serbia to 78 days of bombing (not diplomatic pressure) to force it to abandon Kosovo, just about all of which had been under its control beforehand.

Who showed more hypocrisy and malice?

I will let you answer this for yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment