Russia's case on Georgia territories: Like Kosovo or not?
Tuesday, after invoking Kosovo to recognize two separatist republics, Russia changed its tack.
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Rather, what happened in Kosovo was part of a program engineered by Slobodan Milosevic to link up enclaves of Serbs from the former Yugoslavia into a new "Greater Serbia," which required the killing or removal of non-Serbs from their homes and towns. This took place for five years. Finally, as the elected Serbian dictator turned his operations and his paramilitary troops to Kosovo, NATO acted, after months of negotiations with Belgrade.Skip to next paragraph
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The otherwise passionate Russian legal arguments on Kosovo have ignored the genocide question. Indeed, Russia sided with Milosevic throughout the Balkans campaign, as did China, which has chastised Russia privately for using in Georgia its claim of a genocide as a rationale.
Human Rights Watch has found no evidence for the war toll of 2,000 in South Ossetia that Moscow initially claimed as a rationale for entering.
A typical view of Western diplomats involved in the Kosovo crisis is that of Marshall Harris, a former US diplomat.
In recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Mr. Harris says, "Moscow is acting with reckless malice, in contravention of international law.... It was alone among the major powers in opposing Kosovo's independence. With the exception of a few regimes of its ilk and in its orbit, Russia will be alone in trying to dismember Georgia – a sovereign democracy that can and should be entrusted with proper treatment of its ethnic Russian and other minority populations."
In a sense, Russia has used the Kosovo precedent in order to take action in Georgia, but now finds the argument against its interests, say Russian analysts interviewed for this article.
In the past year, Russian thinkers have argued that allowing "ethnic separatism" ill-serves a Russia with many restless minority groups.
Sergei Sorokin, a foreign affairs expert with the liberal Moscow daily Kommersant says, "This is not what Russian authorities would prefer to do, because they will be adopting a principle [ethnic separatism] that they have roundly condemned in the past, and which is not in Russia's long-term interests. The adoption of this position was driven by the dynamics of war, and all the accompanying emotions of war. It's very short-sighted, because we will effectively be multiplying the Kosovo precedent, and this will inevitably boost the dreams of independence-seeking minorities everywhere, including on Russian territory."
For Mr. Hooper, the differences are complex, but also simple: "What happened in Georgia was not a humanitarian intervention," he says. "What happened in Kosovo was."
• Fred Weir contributed from Moscow.