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Friday, November 17, 2006

On Russian Double Standards Over Kosovo and Ossetia

Publius Pundit's Robert Mayer offers an excellent analysis of Russia's outrageous double standard where Ossetia's desire to break away from Georgia is concerned:

A much talked about concept (and concern) over the summer and autumn in EU foreign policy circles has been the birth of what is being called the “Kosovo double-standard,” by which the EU and United States support Kosovo’s independence from Serbia while declining to recognize the supposed self-determination of Georgian breakaway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The idea came about this year as talks began in February over Kosovo’s status, as well a vote this summer which allowed Montenegro to declare independence from Serbia. If last year was the year of democratic revolutions, then this is certainly the one of independence movements. Only, the EU fears that Kosovo and Montenegro will set a precedent for resolution to future conflicts, in a way that is not in line with their current foreign policy.

EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, interviewed with Radio Free Europe, explains:

BRUSSELS, October 4, 2006 (RFE/RL) — EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana today acknowledged that Kosovo’s campaign for independence could set a precedent for Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Solana also said the European Union could not meet a request made by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for peacekeepers, but that Brussels is actively trying to “build confidence” between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Solana told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels today that during a recent phone conversation, Saakashvili had confessed to “tremendous worry” about the possible consequences that ongoing UN-sponsored Kosovo status talks could have for Georgia.

The Serbian province is seeking independence for its 2 million citizens, over 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. Belgrade is staunchly opposed, but international negotiations — begun earlier this year — seem destined to end in eventual independence. Solana indicated that he, too, considers it possible that independence for Kosovo could have a negative effect on Georgia’s territorial integrity, acknowledging it would set a “precedent.” “We are trapped here,” he said. “President Saakashvili is trapped, all of us are trapped in a double mechanism that may have good consequences for one, but not for the other. It may not be a win-win situation — although we should be able to look [for] and find a win-win solution. But it will not be easy.”

The United States and the European Union both expect that Kosovo will achieve independence. Russia has warned that if Kosovo becomes independent, it will push for the secession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Tensions between Russia and Georgia are running high. Moscow has blocked all transportation and postal links between the two countries in a continuing dispute over Tbilisi’s arrest on September 27 of four Russian military officers on spying charges. Solana also said today he himself is worried about “the manner in which Saakashvili is concerned about” the issue, but did not elaborate.

Solana said the EU will continue to stand up for Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Unsurprisingly, Russia has latched on to the notion more than anyone else, accusing the European Union of fostering these double-standards in its own self-interest. Indeed, Serbia was a key ally of Russia in Europe and its disintegration has been a blow to Russia’s over-inflated ego / sphere of influence. With Kosovo prepared to declare independence unilaterally without any say from Serbia, Russia sees no reason why the same framework cannot be applied to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

This is exactly what happened on Sunday, when South Ossetia held a referendum of independence from Georgia, in which no one except for Russia recognized the results. Russia says that it is simply supporting the self-determination and democracy of the South Ossetian people, though the believe such a thing would naive in the least.

MOSCOW, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia supports the results of a referendum held in South Ossetia on Sunday, at which the breakaway region’s residents voted overwhelmingly for independence from Georgia, despite Western powers’ refusal to recognize the vote. The Foreign Ministry said the referendum was held in line with democratic principles. According to the official results of the referendum, held in conjunction with the self-declared republic’s presidential election, 99% of voters backed independence, while 96% voted for incumbent leader Eduard Kokoity. The ministry said in a statement released late Monday evening, “Whether people like it or not, we are dealing here with an expression of free will by the people of South Ossetia, expressed through democratic procedures.”

“No matter how Georgia or several other Western countries try to dismiss the importance of this event, it is nevertheless significant. To ignore this is, to say the least, short-sighted.”
Given a that respect for democracy by Russia’s current leadership falls a few feet too short, I am lead to believe that Russia is playing the double-standard card. Is it not reasonable to think that Russia considers its own self-interest as well, irrespective of the will of others? Of course not. So when the head of South Ossetia said that the province now intends to join Russia, bells of hypocrisy could be heard ringing in the distance as far away as America.

MOSCOW, November 14 (Itar-Tass) - Head of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity, in his remarks in a live broadcast of the Centre television network, has reaffirmed the republic’s striving to unite with North Ossetia and accede to the Russian Federation.
What Russia is doing is exactly what it accuses the EU of doing. It is playing to a double-standard. The only reason that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were able to split off from Georgia was because of support from thousands of Russian so-called peacekeepers. The Kremlin is therefore pushing for independence in these territories in order to both 1) weaken the Western-oriented Georgian government just as Serbia is weakened, and 2) strengthen Russia by incorporating South Ossetia into its territory.

This is just the beginning of Russia’s double-standard, though. One must also look at how the past and present leaderships of Russia have dealt with the separatist movement in Chechnya. When most Chechens wanted to legitimately secede from Russia and create their own independent republic, Russia immediately vowed to protect it sovereign territory, launching an all out war in which hundreds of thousands have died.

In Russia’s eyes, it can actively break the sovereignty of other nations so long as it serves Russia’s own national interest, but if similar separatist activity occurs in the Motherland — watch out! A city might get flattened. If anything, Russia is pursuing a double-standard. The EU must confront Russia over its expansionist policy and stop feeling as if it cannot act due to some perceived foreign relations hypocrisy. The fact is, the EU is not looking for Georgia to become a vassal state, but a partner. Yet Russia would prefer to see it as the former.

1 comment:

Hassan said...

A very reasoned analysis. Russian double-standards must be exposed and the Georgian situation is troubling indeed - Hassan Choudhury