At this week’s summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Russian president Medvedev was reportedly seeking support for his country’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. If that’s true, he can’t be the mastermind he’s sometimes alleged to be in the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Surely he knows that “territorial integrity” is one of the PRC’s favorite phrases in the lexicon of contemporary diplomacy. Surely he knows that China sees Tibet as a matter of territorial integrity. Surely he knows that the PRC sees Taiwan as a matter of territorial integrity. He may not know that one of the recurring themes of Chinese history is territorial breakup, but surely he has advisors who do, and who should have told him that asking China to back the undoing of territorial integrity as a norm of interstate relations is asking for a rebuff.
The Organization’s communique split the difference, saying “[We] urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks.” They added, “The SCO states welcome the adoption in Moscow on August 12 of six principles of settling the conflict in South Ossetia and support Russiaâ€™s active role in contributing to peace and cooperation in the region.” The “active role” has to count as a win for Russia, but the absence of any hint of recognition or support for recognition must surely count as a loss. It’s surprising that Russia sought it at all.