Russia's case on Georgia territories: Like Kosovo or not?
Tuesday, after invoking Kosovo to recognize two separatist republics, Russia changed its tack.
In the wake of Russia's recognition of two separatist Georgian republics Tuesday, Moscow is moving swiftly in another war – how to define and present its legal case to the world. One chief area of this battle is Kosovo, the Serbian province that declared its independence in February – something Moscow had long warned would "legitimize" the separation of territories such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet hours after Russia recognized the independence of those republics Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov turned the tables. Taking a new legal tack, he called any parallels between Kosovo and Georgia "irrelevant," and offered an interpretation of events that essentially makes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili a worse war criminal than former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.
Now, much of the world's media is explaining how Kosovo led to Russian tanks in Georgia. This week, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, something that took the West a nine-year process of careful negotiation, minority rights clauses, and statebuilding to do in Kosovo partly because of due diligence over Russian warnings about a "Kosovo precedent."
Russia looking for China's backing
Yet ahead of Thursday Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Tajikistan – where Moscow hopes to get Chinese acceptance of its acts in Georgia – it is trying to portray its intervention in Georgia as moderate and humane, and that of the West in Kosovo as brutal and "inhumane."
"Drawing parallels [between Kosovo and Georgia] is irrelevant," Mr. Lavrov said, "and the difference is evident between Belgrade's policy towards Kosovo and how Saakashvili's regime behaved towards South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
"The conflicts were halted in different ways – through the ruthless inhumane bombardment of Belgrade in the case of Kosovo, and without punishing Tbilisi for its attacks on Sukumi [Abkhazia's capital]," he said.