Keep Your Eyes on Moldova and Georgia Today

by Chris Borgen

In the case of Moldova, the question will be whether the protests continue and, if so, their size. While Moldova’s President Voronin is term-limited out of office, based on the recent parliamentary elections, the ruling Communist Party (headed by Voronin) will stay in power. The question is whether the protests will up-end the the political status quo. I’ll write a longer analysis on the situation Moldova in the near future.

As for Georgia, Stratfor has published this alert of a possible attempt to oust President Saakashvili. Their report begins:

Georgian opposition movements have planned mass protests for April 9, mostly in Tbilisi but also around the country. These protests could spell trouble for President Mikhail Saakashvili. The Western-leaning president has faced protests before, but this time the opposition is more consolidated than in the past. Furthermore, some members of the government are expected to join in the protests, and Russia has stepped up its efforts to oust Saakashvili.

 Stay tuned.

Imagining Sovereignty, Managing Secession (and Fourth Generation Warfare)

by Chris Borgen

I have posted to SSRN an article I recently published in the Oregon Review of International Law, entitled Imagining Sovereignty, Managing Secession:The Legal Geography of Eurasia’s “Frozen Conflicts.”

This article was written for a symposium on law and geography at the University of Oregon Law School that was organized by Hari Osofsky (of IntLawGrrls). I use my article to argue that the techniques of political geography try to “imagine sovereignty,” that is provide (literally) a picture for the very difficult and abstract concept of what is “sovereign,” while the rules of international law pick up some ideas from geography in its attempts to “manage secession,” in other words make it difficult for subnational actors to separate from existing states and achieve sovereignty themselves. I use the example of the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova as my main case and, in part, view it through the optic of the controversy over Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Bringing together concepts from international law and geography, I define what I call the “legal geography” of secessionist enclaves (as opposed their political geography or physical geography).

In my closing section, I return to some broader questions of the Westphalian system’s evolution and even how all this relates to “fourth generation” or “networked” warfare.

Yes, I know I am smashing a whole bunch of ideas together like old Fords at a demolition derby but that is the fun of interdisciplinary scholarship. And I actually think bringing this stuff together is relevant. As I am working through some of these ideas in forthcoming pieces, comments are welcome.

And, Lest We Forget Moldova…

by Chris Borgen

Even though my recent posts on the “frozen conflicts” have actually been on the not-so-frozen conflict in South Ossetia, we should not forget the ongoing situation in Moldova. In fact, the new issue of The Economist has a short piece reminding its readers of the ongoing Transnistrian separatist dispute. The quick update is this: while not as heated as the South Ossetian crisis, the conflict over Transnistria is mired in irresolution. However, the situation in Moldova may play an important part in stability in the region spanning from the Western shores of the Black Sea to the shores of the Caspian.

Regarding the current situation in Moldova, the Economist article begins…

Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia

by Kenneth Anderson

(Welcome Instapunditeers and Volokh Conspirators and others; thanks Glenn and Eugene for the links!)

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my experiences in Georgia in the early 1990s, monitoring the various conflicts – Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the then-Georgian civil war in Tbilisi – and noting that the secessionist conflicts were marked on each side by ethnic cleansing as extreme as anything I saw in the Yugloslav wars, a country which I also monitored for Human Rights Watch, during the mid-1980s on through the early years of those wars.  The reasons why the two resembled each other seemed to me pretty obvious – the motivations (to clear ground and homogenize populations) were similar, the militia armies similar, the armaments similar …  

Well.  I declined in that post to say anything about the current situation, although I have been pressed by a couple of friends since to say something about it.  I have hesitated because I have only been in Tbilisi a couple of times since those days and I have not spent time focusing on the political situation there and the development of its democracy or the US role.  Anything I have to say can and should reasonably be discounted as unwarrantedly fixed on the situation from fifteen years ago; at the same time, the wars of fifteen years ago are what the current situation is largely about, so it has advantages and disadvantages.  And I can’t say that many of the people with whom I’ve spoken about the situation today were either much aware of the conduct of those wars – unlike, by sharp contrast, their deep awareness of the conduct of the Yugoslav wars – or even appear to have had much contact with the secessionist territories.  

All that said, here are my basic concerns; take them for what you think they are worth, and I fully understand that many will disagree:

Interesting Quote on Russian Invasion of Georgia

by Chris Borgen

Take a look at this commentary about Russia invading Georgia:

In order to be able to deny the invasion of Russian troops, it was first stated that some villages on the Georgian frontier had revolted, embittered by the tyranny of the, Georgians…. Simultaneously, Abkhazia had risen in the extreme northwest, close to the Russian border.

It is a remarkable fact that the rebellions broke out precisely in those places, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Abkhazia, where large and constantly increasing masses of Russian troops had been quartered since November.

The inhabitants of some Armenian border villages are supposed to have insisted on advancing towards Tiflis (Tbilisi). The Russian Government stated it had endeavored, out of love of peace and benevolence, to help the threatened Georgian regime, and offered its mediation between the Georgians and the Armenians. It could not help it if Georgia contemptuously rejected this mediation.

It was written in 1921.

SecState Rice Announces New NATO-Georgia Commission and Discusses U.S.-Russia Relations

by Chris Borgen

For anyone following the situation in Georgia and US/ Russian relations, there was a very interesting statement and Q&A today from Secretary of State Rice, who is in Brussels for meetings at NATO. Among other things, she announced the creation of a new NATO-Georgia cooperative framework and also discussed the concerns about isolating Russia. Among other topics, she also answered questions about the decision by the OSCE to send 100 monitors into Georgia. 

Some of her statements are rather strongly worded but, of course, diplomatic announcements are one thing and actual actions are another. So the questions remain:  Is this NATO-Georgia commission an intermediate step towards a further expansion of NATO’s role in the region (thus possibly further angering Russia) or is it a signal to Russia (with a little face-saving on NATO’s part) that NATO has heard Russia loud and clear and it is putting aside plans of expansion into the Caucasus? Time will tell. For now, here’s Rice’s statement and the Q&A (with some highlighting on my part of passages that I think are especially worthy of note)…


UPDATE: See Russian and Georgian reactions (both negative) after the Rice Q&A

Statement from SecState Rice on Georgian Cease-Fire Agreement and Next Steps

by Chris Borgen

Following is a statement that Secretary of State Rice made today in Tbilisi regarding the sirtuation in Georgia, the cease-fire agreement, and next steps. I have also included an excerpt from her Q&A with reporters and highlighted throughout a few parts that I thought were particularly interesting…

Parsing the Georgian Cease-Fire Agreement

by Chris Borgen

The New York Times has posted online the (possibly fraying) cease-fire agreement concerning the conflict in Georgia.

At the time of its signing, President Sarkozy had said something to the effect that this is not a document for a lasting peace, but rather to just to stop the shooting.  Looking at the text, I can see why he wanted to make that clear.  In the various pieces I’ve written (either on this blog or in law journals) on the conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and the other frozen conflicts, I have tried to show that international law can play a useful role in conflict resolution. Peggy McGuinness introduced me to the phrase “negotiating in the shadow of international law” to describe the phenomenon I was writing about.

This agreement, though, seems more like the result of “negotiating in the shadow of an armored division.”

Here are a few points that I think worthy of note…

UPDATE: Secretary Rice speaks about the cease-fire agreement and next steps.

The Security Council and the Use of Force Post-Georgia War? Michael Glennon and ‘Desuetude’

by Kenneth Anderson

As events move, I fervently hope, to an end to fighting in Georgia, international law discussions of the war will inevitably return to perennial themes – the authority to use force, the role of the Security Council and the Charter, the rationales and precedents offered for and against each side’s use of force, and so on.  So let me introduce one of those perennial, yet unavoidable, discussions – the role of the Security Council in all of this.  But I want to use this post to pose the question in a particular way, drawing on the work of Michael Glennon, and his argument that whatever the Charter might say, the international legal rule on the necessary role of the Security Council in the use of force, if it ever was a rule, is no longer a rule, having fallen into “desuetude.”  What, if anything, does Russia’s intervention imply for the legal role of the Security Council?  I’d like to urge in the comments a specific focus on the legal role of the SC in the wake of the war, in order to distinguish this discussion from the many other issues at hand.

(Update if slightly OT.  I recommend highly Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus, by Charles King (OUP 2008), reviewed by distinguished University of London scholar Donald Rayfield this week in the Times Literary Supplement.  The book (which I read briefly on a plane ride when it appeared, before all the current stuff, a few months ago) and review are both very timely.)

South Ossetia and “the Will of the People”

by Chris Borgen

With the announcement of a six-point plan for a Georgian cease-fire, attention is shifting to how to construct a durable and equitable peace in the Caucasus. As the parties settle-in for some sort of negotiation, I find it interesting how the ideas about international law and norms are used in the statements of the parties.  Here are a couple of examples from a CNN report from this evening:

Sarkozy said he and Medvedev agreed Georgia is an independent country and Russia has no intention of annexing it. But Medvedev also said “sovereignty is based on the will of the people” and “territorial integrity can be demonstrated by the actual facts on the ground.”

Medvedev said, “I think that these are some very good principles in order to resolve the problem which has arisen from this very dramatic situation, and these principles can be used by Georgia and South Ossetia.”

The seemingly innocuous phrase “sovereignty is based on the will of the people” actually has some quite striking implications.  (I will leave aside the territorial integrity comment…)

First of all, the key question is “which people?”  This has been at the heart of debates over what it means for a “people” to have a right of self-determination. My guess is that Medvedev believes that “people” refers to “South Ossetians” and that Saakashvili would say that it refers to “all the people of Georgia.”

Unfortunately, international law has had a pretty hard time defining what a “people” is for the purposes of self-determination…

Georgia Taking Russia to Court? And Vice Versa?

by Chris Borgen

As the fighting winds down or escalates (depending on whom you believe), the legal battle that Ken discussed yesterday seems to be gearing up and getting more complex, with the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights now all being mentioned in news stories…

UPDATE: Be sure to see the new information and links from various commentors in the comments section. Thank you, all!

The Investigative Committee in Russia and Alleged Georgian Crimes?

by Kenneth Anderson

Military analyst at AEI Fred Kagan has offered a list of provocative possibilities for where the Georgian-Russian war goes next.  What interests me most here are two of Kagan’s comments on possible Russian investigations into alleged Georgian crimes in South Ossetia, presumably in the course of the Georgian push into South Ossetia, but perhaps not limited to that, apparently, according to Kagan, to be referred to a special organ of the Russian government called the Investigative Committee.  Presumably the Investigative Committee of the Russian Procuracy; a recent paper by American University’s Ethan Burger and NYU’s Mary Holland on SSRN describes it as having been created, however, for “corrupt political purposes.”