Putting aside the issue of Russia’s broken promise to Sarkozy, the EU and the UN Security Council, which is no doubt serious, what is wrong with recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Do people not have the right to democratically secede?
No nation has a permanent claim on its citizens, not even for geopolitical expediency.
Ludwig von Misses wrote in Omnipotent Government that “A nation, therefore, has no right to say to a province: You belong to me, I want to take you. A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants. Boundary disputes should be settled by plebiscite.” He also wrote in Nation, State, and Economy that “No people and no part of a people shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want.”
It appears that in both the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the people have expressed a desire through democratic processes to change their political association. The concept in international law that demands that a secessionist movement, in order to be legitimate, must first be recognized by the nation from which it hopes to secede is like demanding bi-partisan agreement before a divorce is recognized. Unilateral secession must be allowed after it can be demonstrated that there is a genuine will among the people to separate...
In an interview for this post, Dr. Jason Sorens, founder of the Free State Project and expert on international secessionist movements, said “It is difficult to defend Russia's conduct of the war with Georgia, but it is equally difficult to defend the willingness of the U.S., Canada, and other NATO governments to recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence while ruling out future recognition for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If independence for minorities is ruled out from the start, then they have no alternative but to turn to violence. Independence with security guarantees for ethnic Georgians should at least be on the negotiating table.”
As I stated in my previous post on this matter, Russia should stay out of Georgia, and Georgia should stay out of South Ossetia (and Abkhazia). Let me add that the international community should also be less reluctant to recognize independence movements.
Sorens thinks we can learn something else: “The other lesson from this whole episode is that NATO expansion is foolish. Bringing Georgia into the security guarantee would entail that our soldiers could end up dying in a war against Russia while helping Georgia crush the legitimate aspirations of its ethnic minorities. Is that what we really want?”