We haven’t used the poll function for a while.
So okay: the Russians say that they’re only recognizing South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence because the wicked, lawless West set a precedent with Kosovo. And at first glance, this seems plausible! After all, the Georgia crisis came just six months after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. South Ossetia and Abkhazia had previously made declarations of independence, but nobody — not even the Russians — had recognized them.
Kosovo, said Moscow, made the difference. And not just Moscow. Many commentators, including some who were sympathetic to the Kosovars, quickly agreed.
Here’s the thing: I haven’t seen one commentator discuss the counterfactual. That is, what if the Georgia crisis had blown up before Kosovo’s declaration of independence, instead of after. After all, it took nearly eight years for Kosovo to reach that point. It’s not hard to imagine it being delayed by six months.
So: imagine a universe where 2008 unfolds just as it did, except that there’s no Kosovar declaration of independence in February. And in August, there’s the same Georgia crisis. In this universe, what would Russia do? Would it not recognize the breakaway territories’ independence, because there was no precedent? Or would it recognize their independence, and set the precedent itself?
Long time readers of this blog can guess what I think. But counterfactuals are, in the end, matters of opinion. So let’s poll it!
And feel free to explain your answers in the comments.