Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Models of Sovereignty in the South Caucasus

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Models of Sovereignty in the South Caucasus

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the last five to six years we have witnessed dramatic changes in the international security environment - changes that have directly influenced developments in the South Caucasus. Among the most significant changes are the world economic crisis, the Arab awakening, and the turbulence and civil wars all over North Africa and the Middle East.

There is also a growing number of secessionist movements, indeed even in the prosperous parts of Europe: Scotland and the Flemish region will hold referenda on independence from Great Britain and Belgium, respectively; separatist trends are under way in Catalonia and in the Basque country in Spain, as well as in Quebec in Canada. Great Britain is debating abandonment of its EU membership.

It is not by chance that we are also witnessing the appearance of several internationally recognized sovereign states, even though they are either essentially failed states or very weak. There is also a group of state entities that can be considered as conflict-ridden exceptions. Among them are the semi-recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

In many ways these developments are related to the issue of state sovereignty. The pillars of this concept are sovereignty over a territory and a population, over decisionmaking in governance, as well as over the state's interaction with other states and international organizations. The notion of sovereignty offers a framework for the state's behavior and for its population generally. It influences directly its degree of security, stability, and prosperity.

In accordance with international law and the UN Charter, all states are equal. Despite this ideal, a given state's level of political, economic, and social development defines its degree of sovereignty and its role in international affairs. However, the sovereign state per se must meet two criteria: self-rule and self-protection. The second criterion is easier to implement, while the first is almost impossible to put into practice in a rapidly globalizing world.1 A further important measurement is a state's stage of democratization.

With regard to the developed democracies, there are some important areas in which shared sovereignty is a factor. The two primary European organizations-the European Union and NATO-take responsibility for critical developments in Europe. The austerity measures imposed by the EU (under German leadership) upon the economies of Greece, Spain, and Portugal offer examples of limitations upon these states' sovereignty. However, the consequences of these limitations are significant: the Euro zone has been able to move toward a slow recovery from the 2008 economic crisis.

With respect to the failed states, the leading international organizations sometimes consider the imposition of full control over the economic and political resources of these states as a means to maintain security and prevent the spread of terrorist activity. The latter has become more and more critical, especially in those areas of overt religious conflict. (Recent examples include the international military operation in Northern Mali, and the recent attack in Nairobi, Kenya).

In the meantime, there have been several cases where, "in the name of democracy, international organizations adopted new mandates, such as 'responsibility to protect,' and regional charters of democratic standard-setting and conditionality."2 There are examples of the forcible introduction of democracy by European states and the U.S., coordinated with military operations against sovereign states (Iraq, Afghanistan, SerbiaKosovo, etc.). The suspension of the national sovereignty of internationally recognized UN member states, which took place in all these cases, was implemented without the consent of the governments involved.

Another trend related to the participation of sovereign states in international organizations should also be mentioned. …

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