Vladimir Putin stated on Tuesday that Crimea and Kosovo are both break-away regions where an ethnic minority used its unilateral right to secede from their state. He accused the US of applying double standards in international law in order to fit American interests. But Kosovo cannot be compared to Crimea. For starters, Russia opposed Kosovo leaving Serbia, while it supported Crimea leaving Ukraine.
I am not a foreign policy expert, but teaching regional autonomy at university makes one appreciate the crucial importance of both process and motives when the territorial integrity of a country breaks down. The military intervention against Milosevic’s troops in Kosovo came after China and Russia vetoed such a move in the UN Security Council. In the absence of a UN mandate, NATO justified dropping its bombs on Serbia because of massive human rights violations against Kosovars, and because of the risk that the conflict would reignite regional instability in the Balkans. Kosovo was seen as a test for the international community’s “Responsibility to Protect” civilians against their own sovereigns after the experiences of Rwanda and Srebrenica.
Here is another important difference. While Russia acts alone in Crimea, Western countries acted multilaterally in Kosovo. And NATO acted only after months of diplomacy and attempts at ceasefires, with China and Russia supporting UN resolutions that condemned the excessive force used by Milosevic. A parallel process with Ukraine Continue reading