Apply Kosovo's model to South
By Walid Phares
August 10, 2008
The conflict over South Ossetia -and possibly over
Abkhazia's- regions is dangerous development in
international stability and particularly for the efforts
deployed worldwide in the campaign against Terror forces.
For this local ethnic and territorial confrontation,
involving now Georgia and the Russian Federation has the
potential of absorbing energies and resources, otherwise
needed and applied elsewhere in resisting Jihadi
offensives and networks.
Georgia is an important ally in the US-led coalition
overseeing the stabilization of Iraq and the containing
of Khomeinist offensive in that country. An escalation
over South Ossetia and Abkhazia will lead (and has
already significantly) to a full withdrawal of Georgia
from Iraq and eventually drawing US and other Western
diplomatic efforts and resources for the defense of
Georgia in the Caucuses. This will weaken the position
in Iraq, in the Middle East and open an unnecessary
front in a different region against a superpower, also
drawn into the conflict because of local conflicts.
Russia and the West have a series of disagreement on the
"War on Terror" so far. Moscow and Washington didn't see
eye to eye in Iraq and are not at ease on the issue of
anti-missiles systems in central Europe. It is not wise,
strategically to open a military front -via proxies-
against the Russian Federation in the Caucuses. While
many in Washington and Brussels are still in Cold War
mood, we need to realize that present day Russia is also
at war with the Jihadi-Wahabi networks. Beyond and above
the Chechen crisis, al Qaeda and the Salafi combat
movement -chief enemy of the West (US and Western Europe
combined) wants Russia down as much as they wish to see
liberal democracies defeated. Thus, it is not in the
interest of the US-led efforts against worldwide Jihadi
forces to engage in a strategic confrontation with
Russia, despite all the latter's negative behavior on
many issues worldwide. The West needs to rationalize
fully at this stage where the so-called "War on terror"
is not going extremely well.
Thus it is suggested to move forward and quickly with
two main parameters: On the one hand stand by Georgia as
a staunch ally of the West and make sure its sovereignty
and security are protected. On the other hand stop any
potential conflict with Russia in the Caucuses and find
a solution which would bring justice to the local
parties and encourage Moscow to divert its resources
from borders crisis to a world campaign against what is
more dangerous to all democracies -old ones and
transitional ones. This last effort may not be easy but
is crucial if we wish to keep the focus on the greater
conflict against Jihadist totalitarianism. Hence, it is
suggested to quickly apply in South Ossetia what
Americans and Europeans have applied in Kosovo so that
local wounds are healed and regional stability is
reaffirmed. Here is the model based on the Balkans
1. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are provinces (self
declared Republics) within a sovereign country, Georgia.
The populations of these two entities rose to obtain
separation based on their own perception of cultural
identity. They are the equivalent of Kosovo. An initial
confrontation in the early 1990s (1992-1994) led to
agreements allowing for local autonomy and deployment of
Russian (CIS) Peacekeepers.
2. Tensions related to the will of these provinces to
move forward to self determination led to a move by
Georgia to assert what it called "constitutional order."
In other words, a military initiative to seize back
South Ossetia. This in turn triggered a Russian military
counter attack to block and reverse the Georgian move.
Both parties claim they intervened as a response to a
perceived opposing field move. But reality is that
Georgian and Russian forces battled over South Ossetia.
3. A Kosovo-like model would be to bring the situation
to pre August 6 status quo and move rapidly from there
on to apply international law. This means practically
a. Georgian forces should withdraw from South Ossetia (equivalent
of the Serbian pull-out from Kosovo). A pull out they
say they accomplished already.
b. Russian forces should withdraw the forces they
brought to South Ossetia after August 6.
c. Russian (and CIS) Peace keepers should stay in their
positions and -if the UN Security Council offers- should
be reinforced by UN Peace keepers.
d. A process leading to referendum in South Ossetia and
Abkhazia should be established by the United Nations. If
these provinces wish to stay as autonomous regions
inside Georgia, an international mechanism to oversee
these negotiations should be established. And if these
local "republics" wish to separate -like Kosovo- they
too should be granted that wish and helped to achieve
As in the former Yugoslav conflict no final solution
would satisfy the emotional, historical and geopolitical
feelings and aspirations of all parties with the same
degree, but this is the current state of our
international law. As Pope Benedict XVI has often
remarked, the strongest pillar in international
relations must be reciprocity. Therefore as we planted
in Kosovo, we need to harvest in South Ossetia, and
For the international community -and the free world in
particular- are facing off with a global, advancing and
lethal enemy to all. We're dealing for the next decades
with forces that see South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia,
Russia, Europe, America and all other democracies as "Kuffars"
(infidels) with no distinctions. "Indifels" should see
beyond local conflicts and solve ethnic struggles as
fast as they can; for the Salafists and the Khomeinists,
terror powers of the world, count on kuffar wars to
survive and prolong their assault on world Peace. We
should be smarter, strategically.
Dr Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism
Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for
Democracy. He is the author of The Confrontation:
Winning the War against Future Jihad.