The world after the Russia-Georgia war

Linked with Rein Müllerson – Estonia.

Published on openDemocracy, by Rein Müllerson, Sept. 5, 2008.

… It may well be that 8 August 2008 will come to signify less the opening date of the Beijing Olympics and more a crucial milestone in the evolution of international society, as important as the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin wall – and overshadowing even 9/11. What is emerging may not be a new cold war, but it seems certain that fresh lines of division are emerging on the most vital security matters and that in consequence the role of various international organisations will have to change. While the “dragon” is still quietly and wisely gaining strength and enjoying its 8/8/o8 triumph, it has been the “bear” – surrounded by hunters and their hunting-dogs – that has shown its teeth and claws.

In order to understand events in the Caucasus in light of the war between Georgia and Russia of 8-12 August 2008 and its disputatious and still-violent aftermath, it is necessary to look beyond the history of the region (though that helps too), but to see it and its ongoing conflicts in a wider context: that of the new geopolitical struggle for the future of world order, including access to energy resources …

… A veil of deception:

As a professor of international law I may be expected to evaluate the situation in the light of international law. I could do that, but this would squander my own and the reader’s precious time. Why? Because of the very way that those directly involved in the Caucasian conflicts – as well as those who support or strongly sympathise with either side – are using the terminology of international law (aggression, occupation, genocide, racial discrimination, territorial integrity, peace enforcement, humanitarian mission, sanctity of treaties) without any constraint, with such gusto, with such self-righteous indignation, with such self-confidence that not only journalists but even poets would envy them.

In this situation – in my humble expert opinion – one task of an international-law scholar is to try to lift the abusive veil of legal terminology in order to glimpse the interests it is meant to conceal. It is only by exposing deception and self-deception that it will become possible to reverse the dangerous trend towards a new superpower confrontation; one for which, in contrast to the earlier, ideological grounds are lacking and differences of pragmatic interests may be outweighed by common threats and challenges. (full long text).

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