Once again, Neo-Soviet Russia Breaks its Word

Don’t they have that story about “The Boy who Cried Wolf” in Russia? How many times does the Kremlin think it can get away with misleading other countries and then breaking its word before the world simply decides Russia cannot be believed or trusted on any issue and therefore cannot be treated as a civilized nation?  Denis McShane lays out the facts in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section regarding the Kremlin’s latest decision to repudiate its written word:

Pacta sunt servanda is pompous diplomatic jargon for a vital mechanism that allows the world to escape from the conflicts of all against all. The Latin means “Agreements must be honoured.” The concept that once two or more parties in conflict have signed an agreement they will stick by it is essential if the world is to have fewer wars and more multilateral global law.

In August Russia’s president, Dimitri Medvedev, signed a six-point agreement with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to end the invasion and bombardment of Georgia by Russian armoured divisions, as well as her Black Sea fleet and warplanes. Sarkozy was also president of the European Union and presented himself as peace-maker extraordinaire.

His energy, drive and willingness to go at once to Moscow and Tbilisi showed a Europe that would not stand indifferent as Russian tanks rolled over a UN and Council of Europe member state in a repeat of the Russian tanks arriving in Prague forty years before. Angela Merkel also went to Tbilisi and David Miliband went to Kiev to make clear to Moscow that its bullying of the two Black Sea ex-Soviet republics would have consequences.

Russia today is changed as the collapse of the world oil price consumes Russia’s surplus and the Kremlin faces zero growth in 2009. Vladimir Putin has governed by allowing all in Russia from oligarchs to the middle classes, from the generals to the patriarchs to have a share of the windfall oil wealth generated in the last decade.

This happy era is now ending as Russia reverts to being a poor country again. Poor but rich in nuclear weapons and with an infinite capacity to cause problems for the Euro-Atlantic democracies over Iran, the Balkans or supply lines to Afghanistan as the border routes in and out of Pakistan become perilous.

Now, the Kremlin has thrown down a new challenge to Sarkozy, to the EU, and to the OSCE (one of the most important examples of successful US diplomacy) at a time when Washington preferred jaw-jaw to war-war. In the six-point agreement Medvedev signed with Sarkozy pride of place went to a clause which stated “the international observation team of the OSCE will continue to exercise their mandate” as defined before the conflict.

The OSCE mission with the duty to observe and report on what was happening in the disputed territories has been in place since 1991. Now the Kremlin has ordered its expulsion in clear violation of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement. The mission was never more than 200 strong. It could not stop Russian ethnic cleansing of Georgians or prevent Georgian president Saakashvili’s attack. But the contempt and cynicism with which the Kremlin has expelled the OSCE mission shows that a solemn agreement signed by the Russian president is worthless. Pacta non sunt servanda is Putin’s new contribution to the lexicon of 21st century diplomacy.

Does this matter? The OSCE was set up in the 1970s as part of the Willy Brandt Ostpolitik era. Henry Kissinger also supported this detente politics and it was sealed with a smackeroo full-lipped kiss between Leonid Breszhnev and Jimmy Carter.

Since then the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to give the OSCE its full title, has done important below-the-radar work in monitoring elections, encouraging democracy, and allowing human rights NGOs a useful platform. It has allowed the US and Canada to sit with Russia, Black Sea and Caucasus states as well as European nations in a joint organisation that avoided confrontation and sought compromise solutions.

Sadly. Russia appears to have decided that the OSCE is past its use-by date and no longer stands for anything the kremlin believes in or supports. There have been many recent examples of Russia refusing to accept OSCE missions or proposals. For many it is clear that Putin’s Kremlin finds the OSCE a troublesome relic with its focus on democracy, free elections, freedom of expression and peaceful resolution of hot and frozen conflicts.

The decision to breach Russia’s solemn pledge to allow the OSCE to continue its work in Georgia should be seen in the light of Putin’s new diplomacy. There is little the OSCE or its Euro-Atlantic members can do. The interesting thing will be to see if President Sarkozy makes a protest. It was his agreement that has now been dishonoured. Will Paris protest or has Putin won another trick in his efforts to divide Europeans internally and Europe from North America?

2 responses to “Once again, Neo-Soviet Russia Breaks its Word

  1. Thanks, good work. These Russian barbarians as far back as 1945 invaded a sovereign state and drove its democratically elected counselor to suicide.

  2. Russia breaks its word, surprise, surprise, surprise.
    It would only be real news if they actually kept to an agreement they had signed I guess.
    Russia wants the OSCE & UN out of Georgia so it can continue its campaign of “reintegrating” (Putinist speak for invading & occupying) Georgia into the “Russian Federation” (Putinist speak for Soviet Union) in 2009, one piece at a time.
    I personally dont think that Sarkozy will speak up, after all look at the glorious French tradition of unconditional surrender!
    As usual it will be up to the USA & UK to stand up to Russia as it once again attempts to cast its dark pall over eastern europe & the caucasus.

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