August 9, 2008
Georgia launched a major military offensive against South Ossetia on Friday in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province. The attack started few hours after declared ceasefire, just before opening Day of Olympics. It’s been confirmed that some Russian peacekeepers working in the region have been killed in the fighting, although exact figures have not yet been released the death toll can already be as high as 1400.
Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last February played a key role in these developments. There may be endless disputes over whether this has created a legal precedent or not, but realpolitik takes its course regardless. The claim of Great (western) powers that Kosovo is an absolutely unique case was shown to be a joke almost immediately when UDI based to their orchestration opened the Pandora box.
Moscow and quite a few other capitals considered the move a serious step toward the degradation of international law and the triumph of arbitrary approaches to the resolution of global problems. Nonetheless, Russia has chosen a course of compromise. Russia’s leaders could not ignore what happened in the Balkans, but they chose not respond by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, even though they believe that after Kosovo was proclaimed independent they had every right to do so.
Pandora box starts to open
- Armenian political expert Stepan Grigoryan says that Yerevan should recognize Serbia’s Kosovo province as a precedent for its recognition of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh.
- The Silesian Autonomy Movement has sent a petition to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asking him to allow all regional communities to gain autonomy status. If he does not agree, the Silesians say they are ready to raise the issue of separation, according to media reports. The movement officially declares its support for the autonomy of Silesia. The association was founded in 1991 and is based mainly in the Polish part of Upper Silesia.
- On May 4, the oil-rich department (province) of Santa Cruz held a vote on autonomy - that is, declaring its independence from the rest of Bolivia. Bolivian government calls the actions of separatist movement as the Kosovo strategy - an American attempt to destabilize a national government it cannot control.
- The potentially destabilizing consequences of this precedent have been much discussed with reference to other unhappy portions of other internationally recognized sovereign states with strong separatist movements practicing precarious but effective self-rule, such as Transniestria, Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Kashmir, Tibet and Kurdistan.
The root of the problem is that the international community cannot agree on rules for the independence of small regions. Russia said that granting independence to Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent. I agree with those who said, that Kosovo status - as well other conflicts - can be determine only by negotiations, not by imposition.
From my point of view the best exit strategy from Pandora box is to return to Kosovo case from where all today’s development started. The steps forward could be following:
- Starting real negotiations between local stakeholders with support interested Great Powers and without determined outcome (which was not the case with Status Talks lead by Ahtisaari nor Troika).
- Accepting the deal made by local partners be it anything they can agree.
- The international community (and donors) should then support implementation of this deal made by negotiations.
Similar steps could be applied other conflicts also. The possible outcome can be based e.g. to Westphalian order (Westphalian sovereignty is the concept of nation state sovereignty based on two principles: territoriality and the exclusion of external actors from domestic authority structures).
Results can vary from case to case. The form of deal can be e.g. independence with or without partition, federation, confederation, some of autonomy models such as Aland (Province of Finland) or Hong Kong model. At its best the solution can be like”velvet divorce” of the Czechs and Slovaks. And also the worst scenario probably is better than situation today.