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What the Tagliavini Report Fails to Consider

By       Message Nicolai N. Petro     Permalink
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Having recently written about Russia's legal case for intervention in Georgia in the Fordham International Law Journal (volume 32, #5, May 2009), I would like to share some thoughts I have on the recently released Tagliavini Commission's report on last year's conflict in Georgia.

(1) "According to the overwhelmingly accepted uti possidetis principle, only former constituent republics such as Georgia but not territorial sub-units such as South Ossetia or Abkhazia are granted independence in case of dismemberment of a larger entity such as the former Soviet Union."

Russia did, in fact, apply this principle, in the face of multiple efforts by the regions of South Ossetia and Abkahzia to secede, as well as throughout the regional military conflicts that have lasted the better part of the past two decades. In 2004, then Russian president Putin certainly followed this principle when he helped the newly minted president Saakashvili peacefully reintegrate the rebellious region of Adjaria.

But, in light of the persistent demands by South Ossetia and Abkahzia for full independence, it behooves us to ask at what point we begin to take Georgian sovereignty seriously; i.e., when ute possidetis begins to apply to the rebellious provinces vis-Ã-vis Georgia, as the larger sovereign entity, rather than to the USSR, which has been defunct for nearly two decades?

(2) "Among major powers, Russia in particular has consistently and persistently objected to any justification of the NATO Kosovo intervention as a humanitarian intervention. It can therefore not rely on this putative title to justify its own intervention on Georgian territory. And as a directly neighboring state, Russia has important political and other interests of its own in South Ossetia and the region. In such a constellation, a humanitarian intervention is not recognized at all."

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Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department and as civic affairs advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. His books include: The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Harvard,1995), Russian Foreign Policy (Longman, 1997), and (more...)

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