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More Facts, More Ground

If the Georgian-Russian ceasefire takes hold — and CNN, WSJ and others are reporting right now that Russian troops continue to advance within Georgia proper — resolving who actually keeps the peace will be a challenging issue. Barack Obama called yesterday for “a genuine international peacekeeping force.” This would clearly be a step in the right direction, since the presence of Russian “peacekeepers” in South Ossetia over the past 16 years has been more an instrument of Russian occupation than a neutral, unbiased buffer.

The danger here is that Russia has adopted a flexible definition of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as seen in Medvedev's comments at his press conference yesterday with French President Sarkozy:

…No doubt we recognize the sovereignty of Georgia and the independence of the Georgian authorities and other countries, as well. But, this does not mean that sovereign state has or should have the possibility to do whatever it wants, even sovereign countries have to answer for their actions.

Now, with regard to territorial integrity, that is one concept. And if sovereignty is based on the will of the people and on the constitution, then territorial integrity as a rule can be demonstrated by the actual facts on the ground. And despite the fact that on paper it may look fine, life is much more complicated. And the question of territorial integrity is a very difficult and complicated question which cannot be solved in any demonstrations or in parliament even, or in meetings among leaders…

If Russian troops continue to occupy any part of Georgia, prospects for a fair rendering of the “will of the people” of South Ossetia or Abkhazia are slim. In the six-point ceasefire agreement, Georgia promises to return its military forces to “their normal bases,” while Russian troops must only withdraw to “[their] lines prior to the start of hostilities.” Further, the agreement states that, “while awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures on a temporary basis.”

The longer it takes to establish an “international mechanism,” the more likely it is that Russia's “temporary” added security measures will prove to be a further extended occupation, changing even more facts on the ground.

 

Author

Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy

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