The bear and the eagle’s games in the Balkans and Caucasia. Crises in Kosovo, Ossetia and Abkhazia

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On August 26th, 2008, less than three weeks after Georgia had launched a military operation to regain control over the separatist regions of Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Federation of Russia announced the official recognition of these entities’ independence. Explicit references were made to the Kosovo precedent, whose independence had been supported by Western powers permanent members of the Security Council. Presented worldwide as a scathing counter-example by the opponents to a forcible re-drawing of borders, or as manipulation from the Russian State in quest of recovered power by the defenders of the « sui generic » case of Kosovo, this Caucasian crisis appears to be a response, with reversed roles, to the Kosovar scenario. Russian leaders, who openly apply a similar rhetoric of victimisation as means of gaining public legitimacy, outside of any preconfigured international legal framework, for a military intervention and in fine for the independence, did not seek solely to respond to NATO and to the USA in particular. They also used this opportunity to highlight the major risk of international relations’ destabilisation entailed by the non-observance of the international principles on which the conflict prevention system had been built, and more specifically the intangibility of borders or the non-interference in internal affairs. The main victims are, as always, civilians; and there are many areas where such a scenario of well-known ingredients could be replicated, including in Europe.