Same or Different? Russia has been pointing to Kosovo as a precedent for her operation in the Caucasus. The 5 day-war in South Ossetia and Kosovo issue, have their common aspects as well as differences… Most probably the risk analysts of the west failed to measure the Russian endurance or thought the global economic crisis could be overcome with a huge strain. Russia had no choice but to “take action”… In any case these facts remain in place : Russia was not respected on Kosovo issue. Either during the NATO intervention or during the independence following that, the ones in charge in the West, did not pay much attention to Kremlin’s concerns as much as they did to weekend magazines. Russia with her Tzardom and USSR background, was indeed disturbed by the situation. Western persistence to enlarge NATO –along with the colorful nearby revolutions- lead to an indigestible rage. Especially the Missile Shield System has led Russia to respond in some way. Moscow does not care much about criticisms, protests and statements of the West. Even does not worry about isolation, sanction and boycott rumors from the West. This is quite obvious from readings of the Russian statements. Russia looks set to change the order, balance and the system. This approach of Kremlin tells us that Russia did not act spontaneously and measured all the possibilities before making a move. Maybe Russia has decided to create a new world or is planning to use all these means at the negotiation table. Russia will maybe stop there or take similar steps on all geographies in her periphery. Time will tell that, however if we skip the similarities and differences between Kosovo and South Ossetia we cannot comprehend the “reasons” and “consequences”. Kosovo and Ossetia… Above all, Kosovo and Ossetia are comparable cases because both of them are ethnic controversy regions where Russian and the US interests contradict each other. The issue Russia is most criticized about is the shooting of “civilian targets”, which Russia addresses with Kosovo. NATO had previously said “ it was not civilian targets that were hit in Kosovo but strategic facilities and infrastructure”. Today the West shares the argument that Russia has used “disproportionate power” and violated the sovereignty of Georgia –even by invading. Apparently, the 11-week heavy NATO bombardment in Kosovo in 1999 was not either much of a balancing move. The West grounded its support in Kosovo’s separation and independence from Serbia on “the will of Kosovar people not be a part of Serbia any more”. Today, Russia adopts the same parlance on the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, because according to Russia, Ossetian and Abkhazian people do no longer want to live with Georgians. It can be said that if there is no problem in West’s taking care of Kosovo, there is no problem in Russia’s taking care of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But the point we should remember is that back then Russia had claimed Western arguments as “illegal” and “unfair”. The real issue in here is not the similarity between what Russia has done in South Ossetia and what the West had done in Kosovo. The problem is; Russia’s doing the very same things she denounced and claimed unfair previously. Moscow’s “backyard” in the Caucasus… South Ossetia Located in the north of Georgia, South Ossetia was founded during the Soviet regime in 1922 as an autonomous region. This status and name was abolished by the Georgian government following Georgia’s declaration of independence. During the dissolution of USSR, Georgia declared independence with the support of Moscow. With its de facto independence, there are two administrations in South Ossetia, one is the Russian-backed pro-independence administration, and the other is the one appointed by Georgian government. The separatist administration’s center is Tskhinvali, Georgia appointed administration’s center is Kutra. In the dissolution process of USSR, the Russian-backed pro-independence forces in the region declared unilateral independencies. When the region declared itself as the Democratic South Ossetia Republic in 1990, Tbilisi abolished the autonomy of the region. Clashes began in 1991 upon Georgia’s intrusion into South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali. On July 14,1992 Russia set up a peace force consisted of Georgians and Ossetians, and secured a ceasefire. Following severe clashes the ceasefire agreement in 1994 forced Georgian soldiers out of Abkhazia. In accordance with the agreement Russia secured the right to hold a 3000-strong contingent in Abkhazia. In the first referendum after the de facto independence in 1992 98% of Ossetians voted for independence and in the second referendum in 2006 90% chose independence. However, South Ossetia’s independence was not recognized by any state. Prior to the Russian operation, nearly half of the region was under the control of Georgian government. In April 2007, Georgia assigned the Interim South Ossetia administration to settle the dispute in the region through peaceful negotiations. The leaders of this administration were the same people in the former separatist administration. South Ossetia interim administration organized peaceful activities named Kokoiti Fandarast all around Georgia and in this region in locations beyond the control of the de facto administration, to deport pro-independence Eduard Kokoiti. However, Georgia’s bringing down the Aslan Abaşidze administration in the previously autonomous Acaristan region and its ending the autonomy of the region, and on top of that, its adding a cross to the flag of the mostly-Muslim populated Acaristan regional administration, set the South Ossetian people in motion. In the aftermath, on August 8, 2008, Georgian forces assaulted on South Ossetia lands. The number of casualties according to Ossetian officials is 2000, Russian officials claim the number is around 1600. Georgian troops took control of 8 settlements around capital Tskhinvali, and announced that they shot down 2 Russian planes and wounded 3 Russian soldiers. Russian officials however, said 12 soldiers serving in the Peace Force were killed and 150 others were wounded. Russia entered South Ossetia with about 150 tanks and armored vehicles and waged a war on Georgian army. Over that, Georgia declared state of emergency and ceasefire after the 5-day-long war. On August 26, 2008 Russian President Dmitri Medvedev officially recognized the independence of South Ossetia. “Backyard” of the USA in the Balkans… Kosovo In World War II, over Italy’s surrender to Germany, the assembly founded by Tito declared Yugoslavia in 1945 and abolished the monarchy. Following this event, Kosovo became a state of Yugoslavia. Kosovo’s autonomy was abolished in 1989. Many Kosovars had to immigrate. Yugoslavia took its place on the list of disintegrating countries following the dissolution of USSR. Yugoslavia started disintegrating with its states’ declaring independence in 1992. Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared independence. However, Kosovo could not reach independence because of Serbian pressure and military interventions. The tension rose when the Dayton Conference granted Kosovo with autonomy in 1995. Kosovar Albanians voiced their independence demands more loudly. In 1996 the resistence organization UCK stepped on the scene and the clashes began. It went on like this until 1999 and many Albanians took refuge in neighboring countries. On March 1999, NATO intervened in Yugoslavia because of “human disaster”. Following the intervention Kosovo went under UN rule and UN Mission in Kosovo was founded. In March 2004 Serbians and Gypsies were attacked, thus the NATO presence in Kosovo was backed with reinforcements. Since 1999, the status of Kosovo remained in the international agenda. After long negotiations, Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008 with the full support of the West. The first country to recognize Kosovo was the USA, and the second one was Albania. Turkey, England, and Afghanistan were among the first group of countries that recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Many countries followed this fashion. Making it clear that they would not recognize Kosovo’s independence, Greece, Southern Cyprus Greek Administration, Serbia and Russia still consider Kosovo as an autonomous region of Serbia. Following the declaration of independence, UN handed the control of Kosovo to EU. Border has been placed between Kosovo and Serbia. The EU representative in Kosovo has said that from then on it would serve under the name International Civilian Representative. This ended the UN administration in Kosovo that was in place since 1999. 1900 police and jurists from EU countries will serve in Kosovo. This way Kosovo became the 50th country of Europe.
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