September 05th 2008 12:00:33 PM
Just the highlights, from National Post:
On Tuesday, the European Union’s Javier Solana called upon Russia to do what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) didn’t do nine years ago: Respect another country’s territorial integrity. Instead of replying: “We’ll respect Georgia’s territorial integrity as much as the Western powers respected Serbia’s territorial integrity in 1999,” the Russians responded politely. According to a news agency report, President Dmitry Medvedev “in a telephone conversation confirmed to Mr. Solana he has given the order to stop military operations.”
U.S. President George W. Bush’s televised remark…from the White House: “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighbouring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.”
One wishes. The words lose much of their ring coming from a President who has just given despotic China the seal of good housekeeping by his benign presence at the Olympics, and whose own country has bombed and invaded sovereign countries, not only potential threats like Iraq or Afghanistan, but countries that couldn’t threaten America or its allies by any stretch of the imagination — such, for instance, as Serbia.
We’re seeing a replay of Kosovo, except in a more dangerous setting…Look at the parallels. The world community recognizes South Ossetia as being part of Georgia, just as it recognized Kosovo as being part of Serbia. The Ossetian majority in South Ossetia wants to secede from Georgia to become independent, or join North Ossetia (in other words, Russia) just as a majority in Kosovo wanted the break away from Serbia, as it eventually did, to become independent or join Muslim Albania. So far, the conflicts seem identical.
Will Saakashvili end up before an international tribunal as an accused war criminal for resisting the disintegration of his country by sending troops into rebellious South Ossetia? I doubt it. Should he? No, not if you ask me — I’m just not sure why, if Milosevic did.
Is sending troops into South Ossetia to prevent its secession from Georgia, which is what Saakashvili did, different from sending troops into Kosovo to prevent its secession from Serbia, which is what Milosevic tried to do? Why? And how does bombing Georgia to get rid of Saakashvili’s troops in South Ossetia, as Putin has been doing, differ from bombing Serbia, as NATO did between March and June in 1999, to get rid of Milosevic’s troops in Kosovo?
To prevent the ethnic cleansings of Albanians in Kosovo, NATO presided over the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs. Is Putin to be condemned for preventing Georgia from defending its territorial integrity when Clinton and Blair escape censure for preventing Serbia’s defence of its territorial integrity? Again, why? They’re either both war crimes or neither is.
When Hitler dismembered Czechoslovakia in 1938, an act subsequently treated as a war crime at the Nuremberg Trials, in addition to his own ambitions, he was responding to the desire of the ethnic German inhabitants of the Sudetenland to unite their region with the German Reich. It may have been a war crime all right, but it was also an attempt to give effect to the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination. Putin seems ready to pull a Sudetenland in Georgia. I’m afraid NATO may have empowered him by pulling one in 1999 in Kosovo.