Monday, August 11, 2008

B92: "South Ossetia, payback for Kosovo"

10 August 2008 | 13:38 | Source: Beta
Polish analysts and a part of the political scene are linking the South Ossetia crisis to that in Kosovo, Beta says.

The current armed conflict in the breakaway Georgian region is seen as the Russian answer to the western recognition of Kosovo Albanians' unilateral declaration of independence, the Polish media are saying.

"This is the Russian answer to the recognition of Kosovo. That recognition was in fact a gift to Russia," Polish People's Party European MP Janusz Wojciechowski told TVN24.

Wojciechowski, whose party is a partner in Donald Tusk's cabinet, warned that the case of Kosovo, where a part of the international community accepted the declaration of secession, "shows that it cannot be counted on double standards to pass".

"Russia is using it now", he concluded.

Warnings that the recognition of Kosovo will serve to the detriment of Georgia were heard in Poland as early as February this year.

Bearing in mind the risks for Poland's allies in the Caucasus, Georgia above all, Warsaw's recognition of the Kosovo Albanians' secession was described as an irresponsible move by the legendary anti-communist leader and former Polish president, Lech Walesa.

"Recognizing Kosovo will bring nothing but trouble. No one can be denied the right to self-determination, but only within the bounds of common sense," he was quoted as saying at the time.

Walesa stressed in his statements to the Polish media that Kosovo was "with its irresponsible behavior, causing new divisions in Europe and globally and undermining international relations".


Roland Hulme said...

I think it's a fair observation that many of the rules about 'breakaway provinces' have changed because of Kosovo.

But given how opposed Russia was to Kosovo's independence, it's hypocritical of them to take to their high horse over Georgia.

It's clear they're just going to use this as an excuse to annex the provinces.

The interesting question you've raised is: Would this have happened if Kosovo was not given independence?

Knowing Russia, I'd imagine the answer to be 'yes.' said...

Interesting, Roland, because my answer re Russian behavior in Georgia would be closer to "maybe or maybe not".

I am not sure that most Westerners realize just how humiliating the entire "Kosovo episode" -- from the 1999 NATO Bombing, to Bush's ultimate declaration of of Kosovo independence nine years later -- was for Russia. And that is even absent the legal sovereignty issue.

Back in the early 1990's, we in the West had won the Cold War, but we were far less than gracious winners. As a matter of fact, during the Yeltsin era, we made the old drunk jump through every hoop that we set for him, just for the fun of it. And in 1999, we took great joy in "kicking (raping) Russia in the Serbia", while a helpless Russia could do nothing but watch and dream of their former days of Soviet power when they might have stopped it. I believe that this Russian sense of helplessness over Kosovo is what brought Putin to power, much as 9/11 won Bush a second term.

Nine years later, Bush once more ignored Russian objections to Kosovo independence for some very valid legal and moral reasons and again, neocon sadism won over both international law and common sense. Unlike many, I don't think that "Kosovo independence" had anything to do with any positive feelings towards Albanians -- Kosovo independence was just a matter of securing another potential energy pipeline route -- AMBO-- and the bonus was a middle finger raised at Russia.

What the US was telling Russia now was that the old old ideas of "international law" and rules of civilized behavior, were no longer valid. Only raw power mattered, and Russia didn't have it -- the rest was window-dressing and PR, which America had in spades.

Does anyone really realize just how much cheek Bush has to be lecturing Russia on "Georgian sovereignty" after Kosovo? Or even better, that Bush has to find (create) a dispute on the Russian/Georgian border, 5,000 miles from the US, to start criticizing Russia for "imperialism"? If it weren't so sad for America, it would almost be funny.

When hundreds of years of international law get thrown out the window in one fell swoop by someone that even I as an American regard as "a cowboy" (only if "cowboys" were former-drunk, Messianic morons), then anything is now possible -- and with the right PR firm and friends, anything is now also politically "permissible".

So Russia is having her first, post-Soviet foray to test what the limits of this new political "game" is. Does it surprise me? No. But Russia is still suffering from the illusion that substance matters more than appearances -- and it is for this very reason that Russia must lose.