Welcome Instapundit readers.
David Miliband puts forward the best available case for why the Kosovo precedent has no bearing on the Georgia case:
Some argue that Russia has done nothing not previously done by Nato in Kosovo in 1999. But this comparison does not bear serious examination.
Leave to one side that Russia spends a lot of time arguing in the UN and elsewhere against "interference" in internal affairs, whether in Zimbabwe or Burma. Nato's actions in Kosovo followed dramatic and systematic abuse of human rights, culminating in ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen in Europe since the second world war. Nato acted over Kosovo only after intensive negotiations in the UN security council and determined efforts at peace talks. Special envoys were sent to warn Milosevic in person of the consequences of his actions. None of this can be said for Russia's use of force in Georgia.
The decision to recognise Kosovo's independence came only after Russia made clear it would veto the deal proposed by the UN secretary general's special envoy, former Finnish President Ahtisaari. Even then we agreed to a further four months of negotiations by an EU-US-Russia troika in order to ensure that no stone was left unturned in the search for a mutually acceptable compromise.
It is easy enough to draw clear factual and policy distinctions between Georgia and Kosovo. Comparing them is stupid!
And yet some not obviously stupid people do compare them:
President Dmitry Medvedev has declared that Russia formally recognises the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Mr Medvedev told the BBC Russia had tried to preserve Georgian unity for 17 years, but that the situation had changed after this month's violence ... Moscow now felt obliged to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as other countries had done with Kosovo.
The Point is this.
It is trite to identify similarities and differences between the Kosovo and Georgia precedents. Rummage around in these issues and you'll find what you're looking for.
The actual 'Kosovo precedent' is not about the merits of the specific case(s). It is about the unwisdom of launching a lunge at Kosovo recognition in the face of serious objections within the EU and round the planet.
Kosovo's failure to establish itself quickly and uncontroversially as an independent state recognised round the world is remarkable. Kosovo declared its independence in February this year. Since then a mere 46 UN member states have recognised it. The absence from that list of all the big hitters in the Muslim world (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria) not to mention India and China is especially striking.
After the initial flurry only four more countries have signed up since May. It is hard to think of a comparable example of a significant body of states recognising a new member of the international fold, but a much greater number not doing so.
This shows up a Deep Issue. The countries of the world are a disparate, squabbling lot, but they do take one (for them) existential issue supremely seriously. When is a country a country? Who joins the Countries Club, and on what terms?
The diplomatic practice in past decades has been based on the operational wisdom of establishing a wide consensus before admitting new members to the Club. And of ensuring that UNSC permanent members are at one - see eg Taiwan.
The Miliband article glosses over the problems which he knew were bound to be caused by proceeding with Kosovo recognition in the face of a strong Russian objection and evident Chinese/Indian unhappiness.
See eg this:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, travelling in the Middle East, said Russia's decision to recognize the regions puts it in opposition to several UN Security Council resolutions to which it is a party.
"I want to be very clear," Rice said. "Since the United States is a permanent member of the (UN) Security Council, this simply will be dead-on-arrival in the Security Council" ...
But the US and UK as fellow UNSC members did not respect Russia's objections when pressing ahead with Kosovo recognition, even though Russia had made it unambiguously clear that pursuing such recognition would have 'implications' for eg Georgia.
In short, Washington and London were struck by (and yielded to) the intensity of tiny Albanian nationalism, but underestimated the intensity of far mightier Russian nationalism. I warned London myself about this risk several times as HM Ambassador in Poland. To no avail.
In all the weary meanderings under New Labour about the UK's foreign policy objectives/targets/priorities and (now) Policy Goals, is not this a comprehensive - and unforgivable - blunder of basic professional technique?
How will the mass of states round the world react now?
Most will be privately aghast at Russia's banal power-play to dismember Georgia.
Some may think that this is a reason to move to recognise Kosovo but not Abkhazia and S Ossetia, as a gesture of protest against crass Russian land-grabbing beyond its borders.
But I suspect that the great majority will keep avert their eyes from this shambles, torn unhappily between deriving private satisfaction from the unedifying disagreements between UNSC members on this core international law issue - and fervently hoping that violent separatist urges in their own respective parts of the world are not given new impulses.
Gordon Brown: the changing global order cannot be governed by institutions designed in the middle of the last century. We now know how much more we have to do to create an effective system of international rules. We must strengthen the system of global governance to meet the challenges of our interdependent world.
This windy rhetoric makes no sense. We all have invested in the UN system for decades, precisely to do this.
But let's be honest. Our own clumsy Balkans policy based on scissors and paste improvisation at the UN has messed things up.
Foolish inconsistency is not much better.