South Ossetia Demands Recognition of its Independence, Cites The "Kosovo Precedent"

When Kosovo declared independence on the 17th of February, Georgia and Russia agreed on something for perhaps the first time since the Rose Revolution, their condemnation of the US for supporting Kosovo. The reason for this is simple. Since the break up of the Soviet Union, two regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have strived to become independent of Georgia, and Georgia fears that support for Kosovar independence will bring legitimacy to these claims.

Just about every country that has a minority population calling for more autonomy or independence has condemned the recognition of Kosovo by the US and several major EU countries. Spain, a close ally of the US and a member of the EU was one of the more outspoken as they struggle with a long standing conflict with Basque separatists.

The US and its supporters insists that Kosovo is a special case and sets no precedent, and the EU countries who have a problem with Kosovo should accept that. Kosovo’s independence was only successful because it had the backing of several major powers who had troops on the ground. The US, Britain, France, and Germany are unlikely to support other separatist movements or to invade northern Spain any time soon and so these countries should calm down. But in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, there is the possibility of real problems. These areas are strongly pro Russian, are being financially and militarily supported by Russia, and have Russian peacekeepers in the country under the guise of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). South Ossetia yesterday called on the world to recognize their independence citing the “Kosovo Precedent” and Abkhazia is expected to do the same next week.

What Russia will do is anyone’s guess. They have recently been backing away from reassurances made previously that they would not recognize these two regions. However they have their own problems in Cechnia that they will not want to inflame and it would look hypocritical of them to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, given the fuss they have made about Kosovo.

If South Ossetia and Abkhazia do succeed in their independence bids, the West could easily lose a major ally in the region. Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia has staked a lot on his pro Western outlook and the dismemberment of Georgia, in part provoked by a Western act could seriously damage him. Without going to the brink of war, there would be little the West could do for Georgia.

Although the US has tried to make the argument that independence for Kosovo brings an end to the conflict and stability to the region, it may also bring new beginnings to other conflicts and instability to their regions. Unfortunately, we may just have to accept the loss of this ally as a consequence of our support for Kosovo, and hope that the fallout from Kosovo’s independence ends there.

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