When the independence of Kosovo was rammed through by the U.S. government, those of us not blinded by the ubiquitous anti-Serb propaganda in the media recognized the dangerous precedent that was being set. There are numerous peoples across the globe with at least as great a claim to autonomy and nationhood as Kosovo, and it was inevitable that the precedent would return to haunt us. If Kosovo can be carved out of the territory of a sovereign state and member of the United Nations — against that country’s wishes — how can high-minded people in the West speak with a straight face about “the inviolability of internationally-recognized borders”?
The bullets fired into the air by jubilant Kosovars had barely returned to Earth when Russia’s incursion into South Ossetia invoked the “Kosovo precedent”. The Finnish author Iivi Anna Masso has written an essay on this and related topics. KGS of Tundra Tabloids has translated it into English, and excerpts from the article are reproduced below.
First, an introduction from KGS:
Iivi Anna Masso, a European political analyst and writer based in Helsinki, wrote the following essay on the dilemma created by Europe’s recognition of Kosovo, the subsequent Russian invasion of Georgia, and the possible ramifications if the Russian government decides to recognize the independence of the two run-away Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia, since the publication of the article (15.09.08), has done just that, it has already claimed independence for the provinces, and the West doesn’t know what to do about it. Though the various Western governments haven’t offered the “right-to-independence” rhetoric that Masso warns about in the article, they don’t really claim Georgia’s integrity very assertively either.
And now Iivi Anna Masso’s essay:
The Dilemma of Independence For All Comes at a Price…
The leaders of the Georgian areas of South Ossetian and Abkhazia announced Monday that they soon intend to demand international recognition of their provinces’ independence. Russia, in the aftermath of the Georgian-Russian conflict, has also begun to once again demand “independence” for those provinces.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia had already declared their independence early in the 1990s, but no other state has recognized them. There is little likelihood that the West recognizes their autonomy even now. Many people, however, believe that in this situation we can no longer expect the Georgians and Ossetians to be able to live together in the same country.
Russia appeals to the Kosovo precedent, while it remains comfortably silent about Chechnya. As the West supported the creation of a second Albanian state in Kosovo, Russia already hinted that the separatist regions in Georgian also needed full “sovereignty”. In fact, Russia couldn’t care less about the tiny national groups’ autonomy. Otherwise, they would support the independence of the Caucasus states within Russia, Chechnya and North Ossetia (with its half a million population, ten times as big as in South Ossetia ), as well as the Ingush, Dagestan and the Balkar.
It will be interesting to see how the West reacts to the Georgian regions’ claims of “independence”. In the case of Kosovo, the West assured it was an exception, and would not set a precedent.
Now opposed to each other are one the hand, Georgia’s territorial integrity and on the other hand Russia’s strong support to the separatist regions, but also a background of years of violent conflict and the West’s mistrust of the ability of the ethnic groups of the region to coexist peacefully.
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If the EU accepts the idea that even the smallest ethnic groups in Europe’s periphery, like in the Balkans and the Caucasus, need a separate state in order to be able to live in peace, it pulls the mat from under its own official multiculturalism teachings.
In the light of the current trend, it no longer feels such a far-fetched idea that at some point minorities could be claiming independence within the EU as well — not only the native ethnic minorities, such as the Basques, Flemings and the Catalans, but also some relatively new minorities like the Russians of North-East Estonia or perhaps the Arab speakers of southern Sweden. What will be the EU’s response then?
It is possible that Western countries for now will stand behind Georgia’s territorial integrity, as the inclusion of such a point in President Sarkozy’s peace plan allows us to hope. In that regard, the above considerations are just speculations this far.
But the selectivity in understanding the aspirations for independence still seems to be the trend of the moment. The criterion for understanding is not so much the capacity of the irredentist groups to actually function as a state, as realpolitik speculations and the presence of violence or the threat of it. This trend is not encouraging for small nations — not even for Finland.
Read the rest of Ms. Masso’s essay at Tundra Tabloids.