- "The issue of self-determination of South Ossetians and Abkhaz as well as their right to unilateral secession from Georgia are two legal issues related to the conflict. Both South Ossetians and Abkhaz consider their right to self-determination as the legal basis for their quest for sovereignty and independence of the respective territories. However, international law does not recognise a right to unilaterally create a new state based on the principle of self-determination outside the colonial context and apartheid. An extraordinary acceptance to secede under extreme conditions such as genocide has so far not found general acceptance." And the report then says genocide didn't occur. Not surprising. And, thus, Russian behavior is then contrary to international law. Not clear yet how the EU squares that with Kosovo (unless Serbia was viewed as genocidal) .
- The report is critical of Russian "passportization"--giving folks passports in the former Soviet territory outside of Russia. Such citizenship can only be confirmed with the consent of the other country. "The mass conferral of Russian citizenship to Georgian nationals and the provision of passports on a massive scale on Georgian territory, including its breakaway provinces, without the consent of the Georgian Government runsagainst the principles of good neighbourliness and constitutes an open challenge to Georgian sovereignty and an interference in the internal affairs of Georgia." Indeed, Russian behavior here makes Hungary's famous "Status Law" look entirely trivial by comparison. This finding is quite reasonable and does not require any kind of revisionist view of Kosovo.
- "Open hostilities began with a large-scale Georgian military operation against the
town of Tskhinvali and the surrounding areas, launched in the night of 7 to 8 August 2008." The report does not find conclusive evidence of large-scale Russian incursions prior to this attack, but does suggest that Russia was sending equipment and volunteers into South Ossetia prior to the outbreak of large-scale violence. So, this one goes for Russia and against Georgia.
- But the report does not buy the Russian justification for its disproportionate response--that there was no genocide or threat of it.
- And the report is critical of Russian aggression after the Georgians try to have a ceasefire.
- "There is the question of whether the use of force by Georgia in South Ossetia,
beginning with the shelling of Tskhinvali during the night of 7/8 August 2008, was
justifiable under international law. It was not." Well, EU gets pretty definitive. Yikes. South Ossetians could defend themselves, but they went beyond that, the report finds.
- Russia was ok in defending the peacekeepers once the Georgians started the attack, but: "Although it should be admitted that it is not easy to decide where the line must be drawn, it seems, however, that much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defence." Thus, "In a matter of a very few days, the pattern of legitimate and illegitimate military action had thus turned around between the two main actors Georgia and Russia." Now, Georgia was right in defending itself against Russian aggression.
- The EU then hoists Russia on its own petard: "Among major powers, Russia in particular has consistently and persistently objected to any justification of the NATO Kosovo intervention as a humanitarian intervention. It can therefore not rely on this putative title to justify its own intervention on Georgian territory."
- Russia's use of force in support of the Abhkaz at this time also is ruled as out of bounds.
- "Allegations of genocide committedby the Georgian side in the context of the August 2008 conflict and its aftermath are neither founded in law nor substantiated by factual evidence." Thus, most of Russia's behavior is illegitimate.
- "several elements suggest the conclusion that ethnic cleansing was indeed practised against ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia both during and after the August 2008 conflict." So, South Ossetians/Russians are, ahem, bad guys.
- Georgia clearly used weapons indiscriminately in areas with civilian concentrations (multiple rocket launchers, cluster munitions), Russia probably did as well.
- Could this be avoided: "one of weaknesses of the peace processes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 1992 - 2006 seemed to be the fact that the Georgian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides concentrated heavily on external aspects and players without paying sufficient attention to building mutual trust and promoting reconciliation." Kind of sounds like International Relations causing a civil war.
- "As a power with traditionally strong links to the region and understandably enough,
important political, economic and security interests there, Russia was given the role of
facilitator in the Georgian-Abkhaz and the Georgian-Ossetian negotiation processes, and
that of a provider of peacekeeping forces. This formula, while seemingly in line with the
rules of Realpolitik, seriously affected the existing political equilibrium in the region." So, Russia was going to play a role--that is just the power politics of it, but it was not going to be a stabilizing one.
- "The lack of timely and sufficiently determined action by the international community, and to some degree the non-innovative approach to the peace process adopted by international organisations, contributed to the unfolding crisis. Thus a series of mistakes, misperceptions and missed opportunities on all sides accumulated up to a point where the danger of an explosion of violence became real." EU blames NATO and rightly so, not so much for the Kosovo recognition, but for starting admissions process for Georgia, which encouraged Georgia and annoyed Russia. And did not guarantee anyone's security.
- "While it is possible to identify the authorship of some important events and decisions marking its course, there is no way to assign overall responsibility for the conflict to one side alone." Cop out? Or recognition of a complex reality? Somewhere in between I guess. Georgia behaved badly, but had been provoked again and again by Russia directly and indirectly. I think a tie goes to the weaker actor. Russia could have refrained entirely, Georgia was embedded in a difficult situation.
- "Finally, it must be noted that there are no winners in this conflict." Um. It would be nice to think so, but so wrong. Arms dealers always win. The Abkhaz won as they faced few costs and now Georgia is handcuffed. The South Ossetians probably win, since Georgia cannot doing anything. Russia wins because Georgia lost. NATO did lose some credibility here, but might win in the long run if it slows the pace of dubious membership (Ukraine, Georgia, etc.) And the criminals win, since South Ossetia has become a haven for organized crime.
- Under observations: "It has also become apparent that the effectiveness of monitoring, peacekeeping and other stabilising institutions and arrangements depends to a large extent on the trust and confidence in which they are being held by the parties to the conflict. This is in most cases directly related to the impartiality which the parties attribute to them, and this in turn is immediately linked to their country of origin or to the country thought to be in control." Duh!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Russia vs Georgia Review
The EU has published the findings of its fact-finding mission. Some highlights and my thoughts: