Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Georgian / Russian Conflict and International Law

There is an excellent article at Opinion Juris on an international legal view of the conflict in Georgia.

Chris Borgen takes an excellent look at the issues surrounding the possible secession movement in South Ossetia and implications in international law.

Borgen rightly notes that secession tends to be a matter of internal, domestic law but can spill over into the international arena. This is a fact of which the Russians appear to have cynically taken advantage.

Borgen goes on to address the Russian's strongest argument - that interference in Georgia is justified similarly to NATO's interference between Serbia & Kosovo.

I find Borgen's analysis to be spot on and Opinio Juris has done a thorough job reviewing the international legal aspects of this tragic affair - much more thorough than I could do.

How does this affect you?

As for North Americans, like most international affairs, the Georgian / Russian conflict has a direct impact on oil prices. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas and the world's second largest oil exporter. Europe is the largest consumer of that oil.

Georgia has one of the few pipelines in the region that is not controlled by Russia. Should Russia succeed in annexing Georgia (or destroying the pipeline), they will have tightened their control on the regional oil exports. Russia will control a spigot they can turn to manipulate oil prices at a whim. Europe will have no choice but to buy oil from Russia or the global market - taking oil that would normally be sold elsewhere.

This means that North Americans would see a shrinking supply of oil and increased prices. So far, falling demand and quick diplomacy from the European Union has prevented a lasting price shock, but tensions still exist. Any resumption of blatant hostilities will lead to a rise in prices at the gas pump.

As a side note, U.S. diplomacy seems to be especially ineffective. The U.S. military invasion of Iraq on trumped up pretenses have given other would be conquerers a powerful rhetorical weapon to through back in the U.S.'s face. We've given a the tinpot dictators of the world cover for blatant acts of illegal aggression. We'll regret this for decades to come.