Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kosovo commentary

For this week's Russia Profile Experts' Group:

Because every great power has its “favorites” among both the separatists and among the central governments, there is no possibility of settling any of these conflicts along “universal” lines. The United States insists that Kosovo must be an absolutely “unique” case because otherwise it is difficult to argue why Kosovo should be granted independence but this status denied to Abkhazia or Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, for its part, wants to “swap” independence for Kosovo for recognition of the breakaway statelets in Trans-Dnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but it is difficult to see how Moscow would accept the universalization of the Kosovo precedent to encompass Chechnya or Taiwan. Javier Solana may wax eloquently about a European path for an independence Kosovo but I doubt he would endorse the break-up of Spain to permit separate Basque and Catalonian republics from emerging.

So let’s set aside any appeals to morality or justice and recognize that final settlements are going to be based on realpolitik assessments, just as the Congress of Vienna redrew boundaries after the Napoleonic wars. The best way forward is for diplomats to drop the rhetoric about self-determination and territorial integrity and start the bargaining for final settlements that are likely to endure and promote stability.

In this briefing which is circulating among U.S. armed forces:

the suggestion is made that Russia (or elements of the Russian power structure) believe that it is in Russia's interest to ally with Iran. Any thoughts from the in-house Russia experts on the validity of this claim?
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