“Today marks 18 years since the Republic of South Ossetia was proclaimed,” said Eduard Kokoity as his breakaway region celebrated its independence with a military parade in Tskhinvali yesterday. “For 18 years, the people of South Ossetia have been proving their right to an equal place among other nations.”Prime Minister Putin must have been studying the Ossetian leader’s words with confusion, because in the last two weeks Kokoity has alternatively advocated that his region unify with Russia and maintain its claimed status as an independent state. Now, Putin is undoubtedly alarmed as well: on Thursday the breakaway leader said that South Ossetia would retain its independence and seek to unify with North Ossetia. North Ossetia is within the Russian Federation.
Moscow, it appears, has backed itself into a corner. It has just fought a war for self-determination and recognized the independence of South Ossetia. What could the Kremlin possibly say when Kokoity asks for a statehood referendum of all Ossetians?
If the people in both parts of Ossetia want to join together, then perhaps we should support them. After all, President Bush’s “freedom agenda” surely is big enough to include the right to be governed by one’s own kind.
So if the Ossetians indeed want to form a more perfect union, let’s recognize they have a right to do so. Americans, once populating a breakaway region of their own, should not be supporting the maintenance of failing multicultural empires.
Especially the one ruled from the Kremlin. Russia, in the last month, has dropped any pretense of being a responsible great power. By saying it sees no benefit in World Trade Organization membership, it has essentially proclaimed it does not want to be part of the international community. And by announcing its opposition to a fourth set of Security Council sanctions on Iran-as Moscow did yesterday-it has made clear it wants to be the world’s leading troublemaker. So what’s the point of compromising our principles in order to placate hostile autocrats?