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UPDATE: Russia v Georgia

There are now reports that in addition to attacks on the Georgian cities of Poti and Gori, and the continuing fighting in South Ossetia, Russian troops are "invading" the other separatist province, Abhazia. If this is confirmed, then it is quite clear that we are not looking at a response to any Georgian moves in South Ossetia, but a much bigger operation: an attack on the territorial integrity of Georgia that must have been plned for some time.

Russia appears to be attacking its smaller neighbour on all fronts: In the separatist provinces, in Georgia proper and also it has launched large sale DoS attack against Georgian Internet addresses and websites (familiar as a tactic against the Estonians last year).

This is now an act of war, not only against Georgia- which has responded by declaring a state of war, and thus internationalising the conflict by bringing it under the purview of the United Nations- but also the West.

This is the "Rhineland" moment. Should what now appears to be a long planned Russian aggression against Georgia go unpunished, then Russia will feel that it may proceed with impunity against any other of its neighbours. This includes states protected under the North Atlantic Alliance. In short, unless the West intervenes now, we could be facing an all out conflict situation before too long, as Russia continues to proceed with its wilfully reckless and dangerous defiance of all norms of civilised behaviour. Russia refuses to respond to British pressure on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. It continues to sanction extra-judicial murder of any citizen of any country that it deems to be hostile to its interests. It willfully breaks all treaties that it undertakes, including the international law of the sea.

Russia is a rogue state. Although I fear, as Edward Lucas does in today's Times that the West will fail in this challenge, the fact is that Russia is a threat to global peace and stability. If we do fail now, the consequences later could be even more serious- and bring us to the brink of a global war.


Anonymous said…

What would you have us do. Sanctions? Russian veto at the UN. Troops? Even assuming the appetite with Iraq, Aghanistan and Pakistan where would you get them. They don't exist. Poor Georgia, but the brutal reality is this no more likely to lead to an attack on Nato than the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian invasions did.

I just can't see what can be done, can you.

CaitlynA said…
What is the basis for your accusation that Russia has broken the Law of the Sea Convention? Their submission of a proposed claim is entirely in line with the procedures established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (just the same as the UK, Ireland, Spain, Norway and other states around the world) and it is subject to review the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Russia has also said that planting their flag at the north pole was a symbol of their accomplishment of being the first nation to reach the seabed at the North Pole and has a symbolic value similar to the US flag on the moon.

So, again, what is the basis for your claim regarding Russia and the Law of the Sea Convention?
Anonymous said…
The majority of residents in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been granted Russian citizenship. It's possible that Russia will occupy and formally annex both of these separatist republics...the natives won't complain. But I wonder how far Russia will go in this war? maybe overthrow the current government or will it accept a Georgian withdrawal and a return to the status thing is for sure though...Georgia doesn't stand a chance militarily against Russia..but hey maybe they'll get lucky...the Chechen's did in 94.
CaitlynA said…
Cicero, I recognize that the comment you made regarding Russia and the LOS Convention was only a small part of your post, but the post has been reposted widely, giving wide distribution to what, I believe, is a mistaken statement regarding Russian adherence to the Law of the Sea Convention, I would very much appreciate it if you would address exactly why you said that Russia has broken the LOS Convention.
Cicero said…
Caitlyn, the issue is as you say, the claim by the Russian Federation of an EEZ all the way to 90 degrees north (and a redrawing of the current sea border wih Norway (which is disputed anyay). The LoS is ambiguous (and since the US has not ratified, they would be highly unlikely to accept the claim anyway), however the attempt to demonstrate a claim by laying a flag is completely against the fundamental protocol of the treaty which does not admit claims to the open sea, which is what the Artic ocean now is. The claims against Norway are a function of the direction of the border, and again a court of arbiration is unlikely to accept the maximalist Russian position. The whole point of the LoS is to restrict claims against the open sea but allow a generous EEZ. Russia just makes the claim anyway. So my basis is that the claim based on a maximalist reading of the undersea formations is a breach of the fundamental protocol of the treaty.

I think that your comment about the Moon is apt- of course the United States specifically did *not* make a territorial claim on the Moon, although they are -so far- the only people to go there.
CaitlynA said…
Cicero, the Russians did not lay claim to the open sea, which would have been a violation of the LOS Convention. Their claim, as is the one submitted by Norway and the ones that will be submitted in the near future by Canada and Denmark, are limited to the area of the ocean floor beyond 200 n.m. that meets the criteria of Article 76 of the Convention.

With regard to the flag-planing, as with the United States and the moon, the Russians have said that the flag-laying was not a claim of territory (I expect you can find some Russian who would say other wise, but you can also find a few Americans who would say the same about a US claim on the moon.

The existence of a disputed boundary, such as the disputes between Norway and Russia, is not, by itself, a case where one is 'breaking the law of the sea' since there are cases where boundaries might be drawn on principles other than equidistance. Norway also has a dispute with Denmark, and neither Norway nor Denmark are violating the law as a result, though they will have to find a resolution to the dispute.

The Convention does not set the boundaries between states, it recognizes principles and methods states may apply to determine boundaries. The states are to work out the boundaries among themselves or, if they both choose to, they may use the dispute resolution procedures of the Convention to reach a solution. I would point out that there is a dispute between Canada and the US on one border and between Canada and Denmark on another, yet you haven't accused Canada of breaking the law of the sea. There is also a dispute between the US and Canada over whether the Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation or Canadian internal waters, yet neither the US nor Canada are accused of breaking the law of the sea.

With regard to the outer limit of the continental shelf, the convention is not all that ambiguous, but at present the scientific data to support claims is limited and still being gathered. That is why Russia was conducting their research and why Canada and Denmark are releasing their own research now. I would also point out that when the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued their statement that the first russian submission did not have sufficient evidence to support their claim, the Russians accepted that and went out to gather more data.

I expect the recently announced Canadian-Danish geologic data on the Lomonosov Ridge will be incorporated into their own submissions and will provide the CLCS with more information to evaluate Russian, Canadian and Danish claims. If they show the connection from the continent to the Ridge in all three cases, then the ridge will be divided somewhere, probably about mid-way, between the claimants.

The United States does not really have a stake in the claims to the Lomonosov Ridge. It is too far from any US territory to be subject to a claim under the law of the sea, and the Bush administration has already said issues in the Arctic will be determined by the law of the sea. 28 years ago the US passed a deep seabed mining bill that could give one US company rights to deep seabed minerals exclusive against other US citizens, but it did not extend to excluding other nations from any part of the deep seabed. That helps explain which all eight deep seabed mining consortia are operating under International Seabed Authority while the sole remaining US claimant is idle and has lost all foreign partners and investment. As they say where I grew up, the US "don't have no dog in that fight" when it comes to the Lomonosov Ridge. It either belongs to Russia, Canada, Denmark, or, if not them, it is under the management of the International Seabed Authority (on which, as a non-signatory, the US foregoes its seat on the ISA's council and the power to block key decisions that come with that seat).

There will probably be disagreements over ocean boundaries and borders for years to come - as an example, look at the oceans near Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea or the continental shelf between Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Burma. The existence of disputes and disputed claims is a normal part of the process of boundary resolution, not a case that one part is violating the law.

After all that, I just suggest that you shouldn't have tossed the comment about the LOS Convention into your article on Russia and Georgia, both because it wasn't necessary to your case and because your claim of Russian violations of the Convention wasn't well supported.
Cicero said…
Caitlyn, This is not in any event a discusion of the LoS- which is a red herring anyway- you disagree with my LoS point, (it will take years of litigation to establish the fundamental point of law) but do you disagree with my main arguement? However, in fact you have made my point for me. Actually NO US Official has ever made a claim on the Moon, but several senior Russian government officials have made a claim on the Arctic Ocean- which as you say is a contravention of the LoS.
After the past few days, I suggest that you do no regard it as a slip-The Russian Federation means to claim to 90 degrees North, whatever the LoS says. To believe otherwise is now simply niaive.
So? said…
This should dispel any notion that Russia was "itching to escalate":
If the damn russkies aren't calculating villains, then they are bumbling fools. But perhaps the truth is a lot simpler. Saaka acted impulsively, as he is wont to do, and the Russians simply reacted... belatedly, but too fast and hard for Saaka nonetheless.
Anonymous said…
Too often the loud voices of paranoia shout across the world from America. Here is a different scenario that many of you fail to realise. "A family sleeps softly in South Ossetia, their hopes for the future the same as yours and mine.Their dreams of peace and prosperity no different. Suddenly, loud explosions break their dreams and their lives are lost or destroyed. The perpetrator of this evil is the President of Georgia. For the citizens, families children of South Ossetia their only hope is for thier homeland, Russia to come to their aid. Russia does so, sending the criminal president ofGeorgia and his legions of lackies back to their bases." mY QUESTION TO ALL OF YOU, Who attacked South Ossetia? What shouold happen to the war criminal president of Georgia?
Anonymous said…
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