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Plucky little Russia: misreading the Georgian War through the distorting lens of aggression.

South Ossetia--which believed itself an independent state--naturally characterized Georgian forces on its claimed territory as illegal occupiers, though it more commonly used the language of aggression. (92) With one exception, Russia seems not to have used the language of occupation; this would be logical, since it still acknowledged Georgia's formal sovereignty and a state cannot occupy its own territory. The likelier reason, however, is that Russia, like South Ossetia, was much more inclined to refer to Georgian aggression. (93) In any event, given the course of the war, Georgian forces were not in a position to be accused of occupation for very long.

C. Recognition of Breakaway States

On August 26th, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These entities had long claimed independence, but no state had recognized them. (94) International law places separatists in an ambiguous and difficult position: It is not illegal for a region to secede and constitute a new state, but neither is there any right to do so. (95) The matter is generally considered political, but there are strong if ill-defined prohibitions against states supporting or encouraging secession from other states, as that could violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty norms of the U.N. Charter. (96) An occupier is under a special obligation to maintain the existing legal system and respect the sovereignty of the occupied state, which suggests that there is a higher threshold for a state's recognizing secessionist entities on territory it occupies. (97)

Western reaction was uniform: "We ... condemn the action of our fellow G8 member. Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and is contrary to U.N. Security Council Resolutions supported by Russia. (98) Almost every Western statement throughout the crisis reaffirmed Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, insisting that any final deal must be consistent with that baseline. (99) For Western states, non-recognition of the separatists was a necessary concomitant of the obligation to respect Georgia's territorial integrity. For Russia, recognition--justified by Georgia's actions--changed the dynamic, and the parameters, of negotiations; in particular, it mooted the ceasefire's limitations on its troop presence, since an independent South Ossetia could simply request that Russian troops remain, as it quickly did. (100)

D. Disproportionate Force and Jus in Bello Objections

In addition to condemning Russia's resort to force and the territorial consequences for Georgia, Western leaders also condemned Russia's conduct during the war--acts generally falling under the jus in bello governing the conduct and modalities of war, such as disproportionate use of force and acts of ethnic cleansing.(101)Jus in bello applies to conflicts whether or not lawfully undertaken; 102 thus even when Western leaders acknowledged the ambiguity of the initial conflict, or allowed that Russia might have had some basis for fighting, they still could, and did, raise criticisms about the way Russia fought.

Indeed, after concerns about territorial integrity violations, claims that Russia used disproportionate force were the most common criticism from Western officials, and were voiced by non-state observers as well. (103) On August 17, for example, U.S. Secretary of State Rice declared that "Russia overreached, used disproportionate force against a small neighbor and is now paying the price for that because Russia's reputation.., is frankly, in tatters." (104) Some criticisms focused on aerial bombardment and the targeting or indiscriminate killing of civilians, yet the main thrust of U.S. critiques was not about the methods of war, but the location: Repeated statements by Rice emphasized that, whatever the legitimacy of Russian actions in South Ossetia, carrying the war into Georgia proper was per se disproportionate. (105) That is, in the U.S. critique, disproportionality served primarily as evidence of ajus ad bellum violation. (106)

Western governments were far more cautious about characterizing Russia's actions as ethnic cleansing or genocide. Ethnic cleansing is an omnibus descriptor for a number of illegal acts, such as deportation and extermination. (107) Genocide is a defined crime: The commission of certain acts (such as killing) with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.(l08) Both Georgia and Russia accused each other of committing genocide or ethnic cleansing, (109) but Western governments appear not to have given reports of genocide credit, and did not emphasize complaints about ethnic cleansing nearly as much as they did the territorial aspects of Russia's incursion.

In sum, the legal categories that U.S. leaders deployed centered on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. They also demonstrated a patterned distinction between South Ossetia--identified as a zone in which Russian peacekeepers were legitimately present and in which Russia had some limited right to act--and "Georgia proper." (110) Thus claims of "aggression," "violation of territorial integrity," "illegal occupation" and "ceasefire violations" were voiced most strongly in connection with Russian incursions beyond the defined zone in South Ossetia. Likewise, claims about "disproportionate use of force" were most frequently identified with incursions into Georgia proper, the very performance of which was seen as an illicit escalation. All of these interpretative moves emphasized (or at least, suggested) legal features more commonly associated with the jus ad bellum--the decision to fight--and the consequences for Georgia as a sovereign territorial state, rather than the particular harms of war.

Georgia's actions, by contrast, were seen very differently in relation to these categories: However unwise they had been--however difficult a position they had put the United States and other allies in--because Georgia's uses of force took place entirely on its own territory, the norms of jus ad bellum did not even arise.


The 2008 Georgian War was not a conflict over legal definitions. Still, Western policymakers did claim Russia had violated important international legal norms, and the most searching condemnations they made concerned jus ad bellum violations of sovereignty: Russia's actions--invading Georgia, continuing to occupy territory, recognizing breakaway regions--and critiques of Russia's disproportionate conduct both implicate a territorial interpretation.

These are curious grounds for legal criticism, because as we shall see, many of Russia's acts were probably perfectly legal, or at least so indeterminate as to provide dubious grounds for condemnation. Things that were most clearly legally improper made up the smallest part of Western critiques. By following the standard account of events, we can review the conduct of the war against existing legal norms, remembering those norms are not always clear--a fact that does not work in favor of the preferred analysis of the Unites States.

A. Aggression and Violation of Territorial Integrity

Russian troops unquestionably invaded Georgia, but Russia probably did not commit aggression. There had been a chain of incidents and provocations stretching back several years, but on August 7, 2008, Georgia significantly escalated the level of conflict, initiating major military operations by shelling and attacking Tskhinvali, killing eighteen Russian peacekeeping troops. (111) Russia was evidently ready--probably seeking just such an opportunity--and struck back with overwhelming force the next day. This sequence is decisive. (112)

The first serious wrongful use of force normally constitutes aggression. (113) While the term "first" appears straightforward enough, it will turn out to do very little independent work. "Serious" means non-trivial; for example, not just a stray bullet, an accidental crossing of a frontier, or even minor military operations. Finally, the term "wrongful" is not a moral assessment but means lacking justification, as in force that was neither authorized by the Security Council nor a defensive response to some prior use of force or threat. Thus a state does not necessarily commit aggression merely because it used force first, or because it uses a serious level of force: it must be serious, unauthorized, and (usually) first--and these three elements interact.

Let us begin with temporal priority, and see how it quickly implicates seriousness and wrongfulness. On the standard account, Georgia initiated its attack on Tskhinvali on August 7th, before Russia's deployment on August 8th. Georgia contests this, claiming that Russian forces moved through the Roki ttmnel from North Ossetia early on August 7th. Georgia has also claimed it was responding to prior incidents, of which there had been a well-documented series in the preceding months, indeed over the previous eighteen years. Those incidents were principally between Georgian and South Ossetian or Abkhazian units, though some involved Russian forces. (114) If Russia in fact deployed earlier on the 7th, or if these prior incidents themselves were of sufficient seriousness, then later that day Georgia could plausibly have been responding to them in self-defense. This in turn could mean that on August 8th, Russia was not responding, but continuing a conflict it had begun by an earlier violent action. Let us see how these possibilities work out.

To use force in self-defense, a state must be responding to some prior and sufficiently serious act. Just as not every cross-border incursion constitutes aggression, not every incursion gives grounds for the full range of self-defense measures; although all are violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity, there must be a measure of gravity or seriousness. (115) A state is not allowed to retaliate with massive military force to trivial infringements of its sovereignty; a sustained bombing campaign in response to an incursion by a drunken soldier would, in legal terms, be a use of force sufficient to constitute aggression, while the drunken soldier himself would not. (116) But if prior uses of force are serious enough, then actions taken in response constitute legitimate self-defense.

The terms "first" and "serious" are thus related. The Russian incursion on August 8th, which involved large armored and infantry formations, sustained aerial bombardment, and occupation of territory, would clearly qualify on grounds of seriousness. (117) But so would the Georgian action the day before. (118) If the Russians were in fact responding to that, they would not be committing aggression. The standard account says this is what happened, and the Georgian claim that it was merely responding very quickly to an ongoing Russian incursion (or to South Ossetian artillery attacks), which began the day before or earlier that day, is complicated by Georgia's own extensive preparations. Before August 7th, Georgia reassigned artillery to Gori after the completion of joint Georgian-U.S. operation Immediate Response 2008 rather than returning them to barracks, made "frantic requests" for offensive weaponry from Israel, and assembled 12,000 troops on the Ossetian boundary. (119) This tends to strengthen the view that Georgia was acting, and Russia reacting.

And, of course, on August 7th, it was Georgia that sent forces into South Ossetia and initiated a large, sustained artillery bombardment, before any comparably serious military action by Russia. Georgia's application to the International Court of Justice is enlightening in this regard; it accuses Russia of violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination through attacks and expulsions, but does not mention aggression. The text implicitly concedes the most plausible sequence: The complaint submitted by the government of Georgia refers to a Georgian "limited operation" followed by a "well-planned" Russian invasion. (120)

So we are required to consider what, if any justification there can be for the Georgian attack. Plenty of incidents preceded the Georgian attack on August 7th. There is a view that a sequence of prior incidents, none in itself rising to a sufficient level of seriousness, can by accumulation constitute a sufficient trigger for a right of self-defense. (121) On this view, Georgia was responding to a string of insults, and in attacking exactly when it did on August 7th was simply choosing the time and manner for its legitimate response. (122) Because acts of self-defense, by definition, do not give rise to a fight of response in the other party (who is, after all, an aggressor by accumulation), Russia's subsequent acts would have been unlawful.

There is certainly a record of violent incidents and provocations going back to the early 1990s, and accelerating after 2004; less clear is how to characterize the causal sequencing of these incidents, since it is equally plausible to describe many of them as the consequence of Georgia's efforts to reassert its constitutional order in the separatist regions, which would not have been a valid exercise of military force under Sochi.

It is not clear that any of those prior incidents, alone or cumulated, would have qualified on grounds of seriousness. No external observer suggested they did before the outbreak of the 2008 war; and no major actor suggested at the time that Georgia would be authorized, under a theory of self-defense, to repudiate the Sochi framework and undertake the kind of attack it did on August 7th in response to the actual level of incidents that summer or the incidents over the previous eighteen years. So these incidents, even considered cumulatively, probably cannot excuse Georgia's serious actions on August 7th, which in turn can excuse Russia's serious actions on the 8th (if it meets other criteria, to which we will shortly turn). In any case, the accumulation theory is controversial. (123) and accepting it necessarily treats the attack on August 7th as the first act that, on its own, was undeniably serious enough to constitute aggression and generate a right of response.

The third component of aggression is wrongfulness: the lack of legal authority, which derives from either Security Council authorization or self-defense. A party can use serious force, and even use it first, without committing aggression if the force is rightly authorized. In Georgia's case, of course there is no question of aggression: Even if it was the first to use serious and unauthorized force, Georgia never attacked another state's territory, and states do not require Security Council authorization or a claim of self-defense to protect their domestic order against internal threats. (124) Even the attack on the Russian peacekeepers legally based in South Ossetia cannot be qualified as aggression. (125) As for Russia, which did attack another state, it did not have Security Council authorization, so only self-defense could justify Russia's actions. Can Russia's actions plausibly be called defensive?

Like Georgia, Russia had clearly prepared for war: It scheduled its Kavkaz 2008 maneuvers for July and, following their completion, maintained forces in the area in a high state of readiness; (126) it apparently evacuated women and children from Tskhinvali by August 4th; (127) and on August 3rd, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that an "extensive military conflict" was imminent, (128) a statement consistent either with a defensive response or an intent to invade, though not with a claim of perfidious surprise. The fact that both sides prepared for war--for attack, counterattack, or both--could simply show that both sides accurately understood the rising risks; after all, that is what militaries are supposed to do.

Preparations can provide the basis for a claim of anticipatory self-defense if they are of a sufficiently threatening nature, (129) along the lines of the 1967 Six Day War. In Georgia's case, applying the traditional Caroline test this would have required a credible belief that Russia was preparing an imminent invasion. (130) It is plausible to characterize Georgia's actions in early August as anticipating an impending Russian invasion, but equally plausible to characterize Russia's actions as anticipating an impending Georgian attack. Again we descend into the thicket of facts--facts whose best available interpretation favors the Russian claim or, if things are truly ambiguous, counsels against accusations of illegality. Similarly, the speed of Russia's response does not change its plausible factual and legal character as a legal response rather than a first wrongful use. After all, Georgia's own version of events requires one to believe that it counter-attacked with at least equal speed.

If we turn to Russia's affirmative justification for its intervention, we see that it is grounded in a right to respond to Georgia's own unjustified actions. Although hardly a neutral player, Russia kept peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia under arrangements agreed to by Georgia since 1992, and it had a right to defend both them and the ceasefire lines that, on August 7th, Georgia crossed with main force. Even though Georgia never attacked Russian territory, it did use serious force against Russian peacekeepers, killing eighteen in its initial assault; this plausibly implicated Russia's general right to self-defense or its specific rights under Sochi, or both.

The scope of self-defense for acts occurring beyond a state's own territory is complex, but probably no state believes its inherent right of self-defense is co-terminal with its territory: almost all states believe they have a right to defend their interests, their populations, and their military forces abroad under defined conditions. Inasmuch as it was responding to attacks on its citizens among the South Ossetian population, Russia might plausibly claim self-defense directly, relying on the so-called Entebbe defense (131) or passive personality logic for enforcement jurisdiction. (132) These claims are more controversial, (133) of Russia's dual nationals. (134) Still, few states accept on principle that they are barred from acting to protect their nationals merely because they are in another state's territory--especially if, as in this case, that other state is the source of the threat. (135) I am not aware that any state has ever conceded that fighting back against an attacker who has just killed some of its own military personnel stationed abroad constitutes aggression. So, it is plausible that, in attacking on August 8th, Russia was responding to the Georgian assault on at least two grounds: defending its peacekeepers, and defending territory in South Ossetia for which Russia had a defined peacekeeping responsibility. As we have already seen, Russia's claims of Georgian aggression were in fact organized both around the harm to its peacekeepers and civilians and the violation of its treaty-based protective rights to be on the territory. (136)

Finally, it may be that Russia provoked Georgia, but it is not clear why that matters. Russia may have wanted war, but Georgia did not have to oblige. An enemy's actions cannot be merely metaphysically provocative. Rather, they must meet (at least) the criteria of the Caroline test: They have to be real or threatening in a concrete and immediate sense, (137) which includes a measure of seriousness. This simply returns us to the factual dispute about what happened when, and I have yet to hear a persuasive explanation of how Russia "provoked" Georgia into voluntarily invading South Ossetia and killing Russian troops before Russian troops had made any overt offensive moves. (138) Unless one accepts that events prior to August 7th constituted serious actual uses of force or Carolinian threats, singly or cumulated, it was Georgia that initiated major combat operations by attacking territory and persons under recognized Russian protection; once it did, it gave Russia plausible grounds for a claim of self-defense or a right of responsive intervention under S0chi. (139)

In sum, Georgia's actions on August 7th were a considerable escalation in the level of activity; Georgia's resort to main force was not preceded by any sufficiently serious event and was, therefore, the first serious use of force without authorization. There is no question of Georgia's committing aggression because it restricted its operations to its own territory. Still, it is not necessary to show that Georgia committed aggression or violated Russia's territorial integrity in order to find that Russia had the necessary authorization; Georgia used force in a way that implicated Russia's rights as peacekeeper or its right of self-defense. Russia's first use of serious force occurred on August 8th, plausibly in response to Georgia's actions of the previous day; Russia's attack was serious, but it was not first, and it was authorized as an act of self-defense of Russian forces legally stationed in South Ossetia. However much Russia may have welcomed this development, it is not liable for its wishes. Georgia's attack--which had all the qualities of aggression, save that it took place on Georgia's own territory--was a gift that gave Russia the opportunity to do what it desired.

The analysis is essentially the same for violations of territorial integrity: Any use of force against another state technically violates its territorial integrity, but authorized uses of force are justified. So, Russia's incursion into Georgia violated Georgia's territorial integrity, but if Russia was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers or defending civilian populations for which it had responsibility under the Sochi Agreement or under a self-defense theory, its actions, even entering undisputed Georgian territory, were not illegal, so long as they were pursuant to those purposes. For its part, Georgia's actions may have contravened Sochi, but they could not be characterized as territorial violations because they took place on Georgia's own territory.

As we have seen, there is a countervailing Georgian narrative that contests the temporal sequence or contextualizes it, (140) and based on that alternative account one could find a claim of aggression against Russia. This view, which was mostly accepted by U.S. officials at the time, has been contradicted by the standard account; the point is that the Georgian narrative acknowledges the same general contours of the law of aggression. It fills those contours with different factual claims, but the law is the same.

B. Illegal Occupation and Violation of the Ceasefire

Any state that seizes the territory of another through force and exercises effective control over it is in occupation; so, Russia occupied Georgian territory. But as we have seen, this is not necessarily illegal. However, the ceasefire added contractually specified actions that Russia, even as an occupier, might not otherwise have been obliged to take. As a result, it proved a more effective vehicle for Western condemnation than the occupation did.

Indeed, as we have seen, much Western criticism centered on alleged Russian violations of the ceasefire agreement, such as Russia's continued operation of some twenty-five checkpoints within Georgia. Although French and U.S. leaders produced a highly precise formula for what the ceasefire required, the actual six-point text was hardly clear. For example, it called for the withdrawal of Russian forces to their prewar positions but also allowed Russia to take unspecified "additional security measures." (141) Even subsequent French clarifications appear to indicate that Russian forces could remain in a defined zone within Georgia proper for an indeterminate period. (142) Quite simply, the text is ambiguous, and ambiguity weighs against easy accusations of violation.

Whatever the ambiguities and complexities of the ceasefire's text, the question of its relevance arose at the end of the August crisis. For after August 26th, on the Russian account, a sovereign South Ossetia became competent to enter new relations (which it promptly did), rendering the ceasefire moot, at least those parts of it pertaining to areas under South Ossetia's now-sovereign control. (143) Western states and Georgia rejected this, but that is a clash over principles of recognition, which cannot be resolved by debating the meaning of the ceasefire or the rules governing occupation. (144)

C. Recognition of Breakaway States

Russia's recognition of the two breakaway regions not only altered its relationship to the ceasefire (as Russia saw it), but also created new grounds for Western critique. International law strongly protects states' territorial integrity, and probably forbids states from taking steps that even indirectly threaten the territorial integrity or sovereignty of other states; in practice, it is very difficult for territories or populations to secede against the wishes of the recognized government. In South Ossetia's case, the Sochi Agreement created a process for negotiations and confidence-building but made no promises of independence. Thus, although South Ossetia and Abkhazia have had de facto independence since the early 1990s, no other state had recognized them; all parties confirmed support for Georgia's territorial integrity. (145) even as some (like Russia) discouraged Georgia from reintegrating the territories. Under traditional doctrines of self-determination, the separatist regions would have no claim to external self-determination--that is, independence. (146)

So, at first glance, these two regions' declarations of independence and Russia's recognition might look like violations of international law. However, because secession is a political act, it is not in fact clear what constraints actually operate on states in their recognition policies. (147) One of the classical criteria governing recognition is the factual independence and capacity of the de facto entity, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia had met those criteria since the early 1990s. (148) States have on occasion recognized new states out of the territory of other states, and there are few cases of a state being formally (or effectively) sanctioned for recognizing a new state. (149) Moreover, there are plausible arguments that the right of external self-determination, though quite limited, can be invoked in cases in which a population is denied meaningful participation in governance or is subjected to violent repression. (150)

Recent events in Kosovo have further complicated any analysis of secession and self-determination claims. In 1999, NATO intervened in Kosovo to protect its ethnic Albanian population from ethnic cleansing by Serbia--the leading modern example of humanitarian intervention in an internal conflict. The province was put under U.N. administration while remaining formally a part of Serbia. Attempts to find a mutually acceptable negotiated solution stalled; finally, in February 2008, the United States and several major European states recognized Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. (151)

The United States denied that Kosovo's independence was a precedent, citing the existence of a U.N. administration, the history of ethnic cleansing, and other supposedly unique factors. (152) Yet as an objective matter it is difficult to see how the recognition of Kosovo didn't strengthen the case of other claimants for statehood, (153) especially those, like South Ossetia, that could claim a measure of internationalization of their conflict. (154) The International Court of Justice's (ICJ) recent advisory opinion on Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence appears to stand for the proposition that declarations of independence do not violate international law and is entirely silent on the recognition of secessionist entities. (155) Before the ICJ's opinion, it was hard to show that recognition could be illegal; afterwards, it is no easier.

Politically, the catalytic effect of Western recognition of Kosovo was undeniable, increasing Russia's determination and capacity to act in parallel in the Caucasus. (156) Kosovo is now widely recognized, and that suggests the international rules--including, possibly, those pertaining to the subjects of and threshold for self-determination claims--have loosened. (157) Russia took advantage of that to recognize claims South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Only Nicaragua, Nauru, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Venezuela have joined Russia in recognizing the two states, but the small number of recognitions itself does not suggest Russia has done anything illegal.

And, of course, hidden beneath the naked opportunism of Russia's actions is the nature of the opportunity Georgia created on August 7th, for Russia's decision to recognize the separatists--a step it had failed to take for over fifteen years---came only after Georgia attempted to reassert its control over the separatists through the most significant escalation in fighting since the initial conflict in the early 1990s. Whatever changes may have occurred in the broader legal and geopolitical framework, Russian recognition, coming after Georgia's attack on the region, could plausibly be characterized as a response to a radical alteration of the status quo by Georgia, and certainly Russia described it in those terms.

D. Disproportionate Force and the Geographic Scope of the Conflict

Before it jumped at the chance to recognize the separatists, Russia seized a military opportunity, carrying the war Georgia had begun in South Ossetia to the rest of Georgia's territory. Western policymakers criticized Russia's war effort as disproportionate in its use of weaponry and tactics, but especially in its geographical scope.

The first part of the critique is readily dismissed: Although proportionality places limits on the force that can be applied against an enemy, especially in the presence of non-combatants--one may not firebomb a city to kill a sniper--no doctrine requires an army to match its weapons to the foe's or to make the fight fair. Russia unquestionably deployed overwhelming force, which is precisely why it overwhelmed Georgia's smaller forces. This approach to fighting wars has a name: It is known as the Powell Doctrine. (158)

Far more central to U.S. critiques was a claim that Russia's actions were disproportionate because of their geographic scope. Russia carried the fight to Georgia proper, systematically destroying key military installations, port facilities, and communications infrastructure throughout the country. Was this disproportionate?

The U.S. claim seems problematic. Proportionality does figure as part of thejus ad bellum, where it is used to determine the validity of a military response as a whole in relation to the incursion that preceded it. However, it is most commonly deployed as part of the jus in bello to analyze discrete attacks, (159) precisely because it is difficult to evaluate proportionality ad bellum. Given the uncertainty inherent in defining any war's aims, measuring the proportionality ad bellum--really in media belli in the Georgian War, given how quickly Western leaders reacted--of a given use of force is difficult, and the margin of discretion considerable. (160)

Specifically, while the right of self-defense is limited to proportional means, this is really just a corollary of seriousness analysis, which defines an acceptable range of responses. (161) An otherwise authorized defender is not required to stop at the initial incursion line or leave an attacker's military capacity intact. Proportionality and necessity can limit the proper geographic scope of a military response, (162) and states do sometimes limit their operations, but this has never been read to imply a constraint on otherwise militarily valid campaigns reaching the whole national territory of the combatant states themselves. (163) More broadly, a right of necessary and proportional self-defense implies a fight to defend oneself effectively, which can reach Napoleonic levels. Canonical examples include the United States' prosecution of the war against Japan well beyond the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, including its systemic bombing and planned invasion of the Home Islands, or the debellation of the Third Reich. More recent examples include the Gulf War, in which operations against Iraq were not limited to Kuwaiti territory or even the immediately adjacent parts of Iraq, or the removal of the Taliban following A1-Qaeda's 9-11 attacks, undertaken under NATO's Article 5 self-defense provision. (164) These examples suggest that, once a defensive fight is triggered, combatants have considerable discretion to pursue the logic of military advantage, with all that implies about taking the fight to enemy forces, (165) and that objective evaluation of actions taken in self-defense includes a vast margin of appreciation. (166)

On the facts in the Georgian war, the claim of disproportion is even more tenuous. States do often limit the geographic scope of their operations, but Russia's incursions, including ones specifically criticized as disproportionate, actually did not go far beyond the disputed territory. Gori, the Georgian operation's principal base, is only a few miles from South Ossetia. (167) Poti is further, but is also the principal port, a classic military objective. Abkhazia was less plausibly related to strategic protection of Ossetia, but as we have seen, nothing in the laws of war limits a defender to the original territory, and operations there would fit comfortably in the broad discretion typically afforded to a defender to neutralize a military threat. And Georgia is simply not that large of a country: The much-discussed drive towards Tbilisi stopped halfway to the capital, about twenty-five miles from the Ossetian boundary.

Finally, we might contrast the smallness of Georgia with the size of Georgia's attack, and what that implies about Russia's authorization. Self-defense must be proportional to the real or anticipated harm, so if the harm or the operational scope required to neutralize it is great enough, the right of self-defense is commensurately expansive. The Georgian operations on August 7th were hardly the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the breaching of the Polish frontier, but they were significant military operations involving the mobilization of military resources and infrastructure across much of Georgia, leading to significant loss of life and Georgia's brief recapture of Tskhinvali and sizable parts of South Ossetia. (168) If those operations gave Russia a responsive right to use force, it stretches credulity to suppose that right did not reach to the broader territory beyond the zone of peacekeeping operations--that is, to Georgia proper, and as much of it as necessary.

But apart from the weakness of its specific critique, what is of interest is how U.S. claims that Russia's actions were geographically disproportionate conflated the two halves of the laws of war. Criticisms of Russia's insertion of forces into 'Georgia proper' as disproportionate conflated territorial integrity with the jus in bello norms of proportionate response (169)--saying, in effect, that given the origins of the conflict in South Ossetia, any Russian response should have been contained to that area, and any extension of the war into Georgia proper was ipso facto disproportionate. Nothing in the laws of war supports this.

Indeed, what the West condemned as disproportionate force is difficult to distinguish from the very act of attacking Georgia proper as such, even though logically these are different things. (170) The effect of the United States' interpretation is to conflate disproportionality with aggression. In a sense, of course, all acts pursuant to aggression are disproportionate by definition, but the symmetric property does not apply to the reverse equation.

Much as we have seen with the other categories, the proportionality of Georgia's actions was not discussed in the same terms as was Russia's, and indeed was not at issue in the same way. Although Georgia was criticized for disproportionate acts of the in bello variety, it was not criticized for any ad bellum violations--how could it, after all, since it was attacking its own territory?

So, did Russia act illegally? U.S. policymakers uniformly proclaimed it had, but the legal standards do not easily support such a confident assertion. Some discrete acts were unquestionably illegal, and even if carried out by Ossetian irregulars, Russia could be responsible. (171) But these were not the things U.S. policymakers focused on: Their public anger was reserved for Russia's decision to fight at all and to carry the war into Georgia proper; on those points, the balance of international law favors Russia. Georgia struck first without cause or authorization, greatly increasing the levels of violence rather than continuing negotiations, and in the legal analysis, that matters decisively. Most of Russia's actions were consistent with an assertive--and very effective--response within the framework established at Sochi. At least, that is a plausible account of events measured against the legal categories: If there is anything problematic here, it lies less in the factual details than in the law.

Still, it is a curious outcome: a war without anyone to blame, at least in law, for starting it. Though Russia was not an aggressor, neither was Georgia, since its operations, although widely described as reckless, took place on its own soil. Georgia could not violate its own sovereignty or territorial integrity, or illegally occupy itself. The de facto South Ossetian regime, in turn, could not commit many of these acts either, because it was still a recognized part of Georgia: South Ossetians could no more commit aggression against their own state than their own state could against them. Even so, there was what any sensible person would call a war, and that suggests a problem.

Even if it does not regulate internal conflicts in precisely the same way it does international ones, a properly conceived law of aggression should be able to say something intelligent and consequential about internal conflicts as well. And this implies, in the present case, asking some very critical questions about Georgia. For who actually upset the legal and normative order in the Caucasus that August? The West condemned Russia for using the archaic tools of twentieth-century power, but really, isn't that also what Georgia did when it rolled out its tanks? It would be a mistake to blame giant Russia for the war just because it carried the fight to its enemy and won. It would be a mistake to confuse the location of the battlefield with the question of what was being fought over and by whom. Asking what Russian tanks were doing on the other side of the international frontier obscures the equally critical question of what Georgian tanks were doing on their own side--and why it is their side.


One might expect massed armor crossing an international frontier to constitute the paradigmatic example of aggression--a case perfectly fit to analyze with the jus ad bellum--and in the first flush and shock of war, this is exactly how Western leaders described Russia's actions. Yet that August, a constellation of circumstances combined to produce an anomalous outcome: an undeniably international war, but without any aggressor or any wrongful violation of territorial integrity. In theory, this is not supposed to happen.

As we have seen, the modern U.N. Charter regime prescribes a limited universe of violence: A use of force is either authorized by the Security Council or undertaken in self-defense, otherwise it violates the Charter. The sequential, causal relationship between aggression and self-defense suggests that it should not be possible for all actors in a war to have a legitimate fight to use force. (172) The just war tradition--with which this Article is not directly concerned, but which underpins discussions of aggression173--1ikewise does not readily contemplate the idea of universally just war, in which all parties have a justification to fight. (174) It is possible that no party to a conflict is justified or legally authorized in using force, but hardly that all are.

It is completely obvious that Georgia did not violate the classical jus ad bellum for the simple reason that its forces fought entirely on its own territory where, traditionally, the resort to force was almost completely unregulated. It is equally obvious that Russia's forces--those that were not peacekeepers--crossed an international frontier. That obvious fact combined with the obvious preferences of Georgia's allies to yield the claims and charges we saw in Part II: aggression, violations of territorial integrity, occupation and ad bellum disproportionality. But, as we saw in Part III, those claims do not actually work; although the United States and its allies issued vociferous criticisms, the better reading is that Russia had legal justification for its decision to use force and for the broad outlines of its campaign, and that any violations were of the jus in bello kind.

This puts the puzzle before us: How can all parties in a conflict be justified? On this, the doctrine is unimpeachable: Logically--tautologically--they cannot. To resolve this, we must see that the reasons why Russia was not in violation of thejus ad bellum also point to the reasons why Georgia was. And the thing we will find specifically problematic in Georgia's actions shows us there are compelling grounds to rethink the general legal categories we have: to reconceive what we mean by sovereign territory, and--perhapsdiscern the outlines of a different model for humanitarian intervention.

A. Layered Territoriality: Sochi as a Special Constraint on Georgia's Sovereignty

As we have seen, Russia's justifications for using force principally arise from its legitimate role and presence in South Ossetia. Asking why Russia was allowed to exercise rights in South Ossetia is roughly equivalent to asking why an otherwise sovereign Georgia was not allowed to exercise its rights. At one level, there is a purely positivist answer: In 1992, Russia and Georgia signed an agreement providing for Russia to operate on Georgian soil, and limiting Georgia's rights in the same area. But the Sochi Agreement was not simply a typical specification of rights and obligations, such as one might find in a trade treaty or even in a status of forces agreement for basing troops abroad; it was a deeply intrusive, open-ended reorganization of Georgia's internal governance, made in response to an internationalized war at whose root was an internal conflict over sovereignty. (175) Sochi incorporated certain general international rules, like selfdefense norms and prohibitions on the use of force, into an internal conflict. Georgia was barred from unilaterally deploying force on part of its own territory-from resolving its own internal conflict--without risking a legally legitimated Russian reaction. The French peace plan from August 2008 speaks of additional security measures "while awaiting an international mechanism." (176) But of course, there already was one: Functionally, the Sochi Agreement is an internationalized mechanism for regulating an internal conflict.

Once we adopt this view, the performance of the various actors in August 2008 looks rather different. Rather than aggressors, Russian tanks are a responsive mechanism designed to stop Georgian incursions in violation of the Sochi regime-a mechanism, moreover, that actually worked as it was supposed to. This is apparent if one accepts the standard account of the events that August, but even if one has doubts about the particular factual sequence, a hypothetical question makes the point: Under the Sochi regime, what would one have expected Russia to do if Georgia had suddenly tried to reconquer South Ossetia? Calling the events of August 2008 an act of international regulation is an interesting way to think about the war, and also the answer to our original puzzle: Georgia violated no rules of general international law, but it did violate alex specialis regime incorporating some of those rules into what would otherwise have been a purely internal affair, which gave Russia responsive rights to enforce the regime's terms with military force. The singular feature of Sochi was its reconceptualization of Georgia's territory: Under its internationalized regime, Georgia did not have the right to move its military forces into or otherwise exercise almost any effects of its sovereignty over contested parts of its own territory. Sochi effectively created a layered territoriality within Georgia, with rights pertaining to other states like Russia and other actors, including South Ossetia and the OSCE.

A BBC interview with Russia's Foreign Minister early in the war gives a sense of these two moves--the creation of responsive rights and the reorganization of sovereign Georgian territory. His particular interpretation is obviously highly partisan and preferential, but makes the general point about the mechanism Sochi plausibly put in place:

   S.Lavrov: ... this peacekeeping force has a mandate. The mandate is
   to make sure that there is no violation of quiet in the zone of
   conflict and the peacekeepers are required by this document to
   prevent any violations and to put out any violations. Since
   Georgian forces for the second time are engaged in aggressive
   actions in full violation of the obligations under those
   international agreements and international humanitarian law
   [listing various alleged violations]. So this is absolutely
   unacceptable and the responsibility of Russia as a peacekeeper
   could be only sustained by responding to this aggression.

   Question: Does not Georgia then have the right to control its
   entire territory?

   S.Lavrov: Absolutely. Absolutely, but Georgia after it attacked, as
   I said, its own regions in the early nineties, accepted that there
   would be international mechanisms to keep peace in Ossetia and in
   Abkhazia but not to perpetuate the situation. In both cases
   international negotiating mechanism [sic] has been established with
   the participation of Georgia ... (177)

If we analyze Sochi as a specifically territorial constraint, we arrive at an interpretation that plausibly places Georgia in violation of a specialized norm of territorial integrity--a violation of something that is, or looks very much like, the jus ad bellum. This initiates the doctrinal sequence of action and response, returning us to the position in which the anomaly of universally legal war is erased: Neither side violated the general norms of the jus ad bellum, but Georgia violated specific obligations that we can and should assimilate to general norms on territorial integrity, and from this all the actors' uses of force can be understood.

B. From Lex Specialis to a General Rule: Internationalizing

Internal Conflicts

Accepting this view of territoriality solves our original puzzle: it identifies a violation of territorial integrity norms sufficient to show that one party was not authorized to use force and that another was. The purpose of this exercise has not been not to achieve doctrinal purity, however; on the contrary, it is to drag doctrine towards relevance. For it is precisely the rigidity of the jus ad bellum that makes it difficult to see Georgia as the violating party: Under general international law, it was and is by definition impossible for Georgia to aggress against itself or violate its own territorial integrity, and it is only because of the Sochi regime that we can reach such a conclusion.

The present contours of the jus ad bellum remain dogmatically hostile to the regulation of states' internal resort to force as such. There is simply no prohibition in international law on a state using force within its own territory to suppress insurrections. (178) So, moving beyond a special, contingent interpretation applicable only in defined circumstances (as the Sochi Agreement was) to a more generally applicable interpretation would imply a considerable expansion of the conceptual commitments underlying the rules on territorial integrity. And such an expansion would also move international law towards more substantive engagement with the nature of internal conflicts, which are often fought precisely over questions of sovereignty and self-determination.

Internal conflicts are not unregulated; on the contrary, they are subject to extensive protections and prohibitions in international criminal and humanitarian law. Under the influence of human rights and a re-emergent international criminal law, the law of armed conflict has undergone a dramatic deformalization that has relaxed its doctrinal dualism: many of the same rules now apply to both international and non-international armed conflicts; the requirement of a nexus to armed conflict for crimes against humanity has been eliminated; and an expanding menu of crimes against humanity track more closely with human rights law. (179) The mere occurrence of human rights violations or significant crimes is, doctrinally and even politically, sufficient to bring an internal conflict onto the international plane, a move that increasingly correlates with the arrival of internationalized military forces.

Most notably, there has been a considerable expansion of support for doctrines of humanitarian intervention, (180) especially the responsibility to protect (known by its regrettable acronym R2P), (181) applied in the recent authorizations of force against Libya and Ivory Coast. (182) Although existing forms of humanitarian intervention like R2P do not formally address jus ad bellum norms, they increasingly describe limitations on states' scope of action in thejus in bello that, if sufficiently expanded, could effectively deny a sovereign the ability to go to war against its own people.

However, the practical and conceptual reach of these initiatives into the jus ad bellum are still quite limited. (183) They have not extended the definitional scope of aggression--which remains fully, formalistically limited to the international plane (184)-and only imperfectly reach the most critical part of internal conflicts, namely challenges to the very existence of the state's sovereignty authority. This suggests that the Georgian War--whose internationalized mechanism for regulating a persistent challenge to a state's sovereign order clearly touches these issues--has something to tell us about an alternative path towards more robust restrictions on internal sovereign violence. (185)

What would a functional jus ad bellum for internal conflicts look like more generally--abstracted, that is, from the circumstances of Sochi? An explication is far beyond the scope of this Article, but it is worth noting a few issues--the enormous questions that would have to be resolved--in defining the parameters such a model of 'protectable territory' might take. (186) A Sochi-style model would import the norms of the jus ad bellum to internal conflicts, by identifying territorial lines with a functional status equal to an international frontier in relation to the use of force--territory whose violation would allow the kinds of responses that are automatically available in true international conflicts. This would create, within a single state, differentiated sovereignties derived directly from the territorial aspects of conflict.

A Sochi model would rely on some kind of tripwire forces to secure this 'protectable territory.' The force would be authorized to respond to any incursions across those quasi-frontiers by military personnel and perhaps other agents of the state. (187) Once triggered, any response would be subject to the norms of thejus in bello, and therefore have to be proportional to the harm and appropriate in nature. So, for example, the establishment of a post office in contravention of a special agreement would not justify a military assault, but might allow the forces to physically shut down the operation. Ideally, conflicts would be governed by the full range of international protections, rather than the less comprehensive rules governing non-international conflicts (though as we have seen, these are converging).

Some of the forces' operational authority would be specified in a special agreement (indeed it would be necessary to do this, to avoid the uncertainty that leads to escalating disputes of the kind that always arise on what would be, in effect, a militarized frontier), but the most important aspects--such as self-defense norms--might simply be imported from general international law; it is these aspects that would create the tripwire.

Indeed, it might be better not to specify all the conditions under which force could be used. The lack of provisions in Sochi specifying the parties' powers to act in event of a breach by another party actually suggests the potential of this model: International law's voluntarism has always allowed states to contract their way into complex relationships. But here the law's background provisions were imported even without specification, and were probably more robust because of that: In 1992, had the parties engaged in arms-length negotiations to agree on specific language governing breaches of the agreement and rights of intervention, it is likely those norms would have been relatively restrictive, making the mechanism, when it came to be used twenty years later, much less effective. On the other hand, unspecific norms would give the 'protecting' state more leeway to intervene opportunistically, in just the way Russia has been plausibly accused of doing. (188)

How would these forces be created and authorized? Sochi was the product of an international agreement, and initially, at least, it is difficult to see any other way to it. Over time, the model might become generalized--at least, it would clearly be desirable that it be increasingly available as an obvious option or default model that would be hard to avoid, much in the way international criminal tribunals have become a default response to major episodes of internationalized internal conflict. Such a default would put (marginally more) pressure on states involved in internal conflicts to accept intervention. But how this would happen--how exactly mechanisms derived through lex specialis would affect general or customary law on the jus ad bellum and move from special agreement to general norm--is anything but clear.

As for the likely application of such a model: A typology of internal conflicts and the tools to address them is well beyond the scope of this Article--it might well be one direction this argument suggests for further research--but it is worth noting the ways in which the Sochi Agreement represents a model that moves farther than others towards a functional ban on internal aggression. Unlike existing R2P models, all of which contemplate high levels of human suffering before intervention can be undertaken, (189) the Sochi regime gave Russia the right to use necessary and proportionate means to counter whatever level of incursion Georgia undertook within a defined, protected territory. (190) Its capacity to respond was not limited to serious interventions: A single Georgian soldier crossing into the special zone, or indeed any improper deployment of Georgian sovereignty, would have authorized Russia to respond--subject to limits of proportionality--without delay or deliberation.

And Russia would have been authorized to act without delay or deliberation, because the Sochi regime created a standing, pre-existing trigger mechanism. R2P models are post hoc and reactive threshold-response models and require either a vote by the Security Council or a long process of deliberation. (191) Sochi required neither a threshold of harm nor reactive authorization; when the regime's territory was breached or its peacekeepers attacked, Russia was already licensed to act. It was this tripwire that allowed the mechanism to react so quickly and effectively. 192 These features look much more like the automatic, inherent right of self-defense in the jus ad bellum.

The Sochi Agreement did not expressly create these rights for Russia: It did not authorize any autonomous right of military response, nor did it specify any conditions under which Russian forces may cross into Georgia proper. But Sochi implicitly, necessarily incorporated a range of general legal norms such as self-defense. Once that self-defense logic was engaged, it operated not according to the minimal, poorly drafted norms of Sochi, but by the more categorical logic of the jus ad bellum.

Most important, a mechanism like Sochi may be especially apposite for internal conflicts that involve self-determination claims, precisely because the mechanism territorializes the sovereign's relationship to the internal dispute. It is common to call South Ossetia a "frozen conflict," but this name implies certain features besides merely being protracted and unresolved: Frozen conflicts typically concern claims to a separate territorial and sovereign status. (193) Under the Sochi regime, Georgia retained a background claim of sovereignty but had very limited rights to exercise that claim and was specifically prohibited from exercising many of the usual incidents of sovereignty on the defined territory. These features were no accident: The real driver of the Sochi regime was the underlying internal conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia. For nearly two decades, the South Ossetian and Abkhazian regimes have contested the very idea that the Georgian state is sovereign over them. This does not necessarily mean South Ossetia and Abkhazia have valid claims; there are arguments on both sides, and I can think of many places on the planet where secessionists have stronger cases. (194) But it does suggest that South Ossetia's separatism and self-determination claims, whatever one thinks of them, are different from the generic, human rights and harm-driven logic of R2P. South Ossetia's claims are not complaints about abuses of Georgia's sovereignty, but a challenge to the very idea that Georgia should be sovereign at all.

This difference can be seen most clearly in Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia fight after the war. The claim that Georgia in effect sacrificed any right to sovereignty over South Ossetia by resorting to violence-Russia's rationale for recognition--is similar to the logic of R2P, which describes state sovereignty as an obligation (a responsibility to protect) that, if unfulfilled, opens the door for international intervention to fulfill the obligation. But the Russian rationale, considered in the abstract, is actually far more expansive, as it implies not merely a remedial right of intervention to correct an abusive sovereignty--as happened, say in Libya, and may still happen in Syria--but a right for an oppressed group to escape the state's sovereignty. Even the most intrusive model of R2P does not contemplate changing a state's territory, and the pained debates over Kosovo's declaration of independence--with even its most ardent supporters adamantly denying it could have any precedential effect on secession-suggest how little scope current models have to expand. The Sochi model, if it does anything, runs right at the problem of conflict over sovereignty and territory.

We shall come, in a moment, to the objections such a model raises; they are considerable. First, however, we look at one seeming objection that, on reflection, may actually be a strength: This model is not new. The idea of an intervening military force with extensive protective authority--which inevitably would morph into actual governance--starts to sound a lot like an international transitional administration, or a protectorate, or peacekeeping operations. The objection, then: Isn't the supposed Sochi model really just the old wine of peacekeeping and protectorate in a new bottle?

And the response, I think, is: Yes. This is in fact of a piece with such things--which is to say that Sochi was not an isolated phenomenon, but part of a trend, a crystallization of various efforts, all in some way responding to the evident structural inadequacies of the jus ad bellum. (195) The entire effort to develop R2P arose out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the prevailing standards on intervention--which is to say, standards on territorial sovereignty. Likewise, peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts in Cyprus, Transdniestria, Kosovo and Bosnia share some of these features. Sochi is simply one more such effort, but a particularly interesting one precisely because it is different in its underlying assumptions--and because it was not recognized as part of that trend, but was seen as something entirely different.

C. Reasons for Pessimism: A Mechanism We Do Not Recognize When It Works

So, the Georgian War--though conventionally seen by the United States as a dangerous throwback to an older model of geopolitics--represents the operation of a surprisingly sophisticated model that bears deep similarities to, and perhaps important lessons for improving on, recent, more conventional exercises in internationalizing internal conflict.

Yet seeing the war in this way is not necessarily a source of optimism. The Sochi regulatory mechanism has been expressed through two wars and twenty years of endemic, seemingly irresolvable tension and protracted low-level violence. Those who are excited about the new interventionism occasionally overlook that what they are prescribing to regulate internal conflict is international war; recent experiences, the history of our species, and the reflections of philosophers who have considered the danger of apologetic justifications for state violence might recommend against facilely imagining that war solves more problems than it creates. (196)

Still, the use of war as a regulatory device has great pragmatic appeal--at least, advocates of humanitarian intervention logically must believe it does. (197) For me, pessimism about the value of the Georgian War as a model for effective intervention norms arises from two different sources in particular: the case-specific derivation of its norms, and policymakers' evident inability to recognize those norms when they are actually deployed.

We have seen how the Sochi Agreement's lex specialis governed the territory of South Ossetia, altering the sovereign rights and obligations of Georgia and Russia. This regime was effective in internationalizing that internal conflict, but it was also the product of a specific context; there is no reason to suppose that what is produced in specific circumstances is readily generalizable. Sochi was an international agreement, subject to the positivist, voluntaristic norms of treaty formation. Georgia did not have to enter into the agreement; in this case it did, producing specific territorial constraints that acted as a regulatory mechanism. But this is hardly a replicable model: The idea of grounding norms of humanitarian intervention or conflict regulation on the voluntaristic acquiescence of the very states whose violent behavior we wish to regulate seems problematically selflimiting.

Moreover, the Sochi regime was not just tailored to a particular conflict, it was the product of a specific negotiations by the parties to that conflict, and itself an outcome of the war in the early 1990s. Georgia entered into the Agreement in part to forestall the risk of further Russian encroachment; 198 Sochi was therefore partly a product of duress (199) and partly of a Russian imperial strategy, rather than a real compromise channeling South Ossetian or Georgian interests. (200) Russia was not interested in a mechanism as an abstract exercise in internationalization; it was exercising power in the service of its own strategic concerns. (201) It was surely essential to Sochi's success that the protecting party was a great power with a veto on the Security Council, operating in its own self-defined Near Abroad; it is hard to imagine a minor power asserting such a right of intervention and acting on it without other states objecting. The actual contours of the South Ossetian peacekeeping system, likewise, were not a function of technical calculation but of a balance-of-forces stand-off. All this makes the Georgian case doctrinally interesting, but also messy, infected with special interest and particular claims--a problematic and context-specific system rather than a promising basis for a global rule on intervention in internal crises.

But the greatest source of pessimism about the possibilities a mechanism like Sochi has for effectively regulating internal conflicts arises from the rhetorical reactions with which we began--the critiques leveled against Russia by the United States and others. For while we accept in principle that war can be a regulatory mechanism to internationalize internal conflict and we even rationalize the ways those 'mechanisms' arise out of the grossest assertions of national interest, we still seem ill-equipped to recognize their operation in practice.

Sochi was about as close as one gets to an internationalized regime for governing internal conflicts: (202) Russian and OSCE involvement were means to prevent excessive Georgian zeal from terminating an internal dispute. Sochi was a regime that the United States had accepted, even taken part in, for the better part of two decades. Yet when the mechanism actually began to operate, U.S. officials appeared not only unwilling (as they surely were), but genuinely unable to think of what was happening in those terms. Indeed, almost no one seemed to see the war for what it plausibly was--an internationalized internal conflict--and instead all began to debate and criticize the operation of the mechanism as if it were a pure violation, which the United States labeled aggression. Even though it and other actors were fully aware of the underlying internal dispute, the United States relied exclusively on the rules of general international law and the jus ad bellum, which all but preordained the outcome of its rhetorical exercise, since those rules are utterly inapplicable to a conflict like South Ossetia.

The inadequacy of that general system for describing and regulating use of force in certain contexts has occurred to almost everyone: the gaps in application to terrorists and other non-state actors, for example, and even to imperfectly internationalized internal conflicts of the kind with which this article is concerned. (203) Yet in the Georgian War, the inadequacy of those general rules was actually exacerbated, precisely because the situation appeared to be one in which the rules would apply--a cross-border tank war between recognized states that looked like a brief, bloody reversion to classical type, and was called precisely that. The effect was to distract attention away from the actually existing mechanism-the lex specialis of Sochi and the rules it incorporated, which looked very much like self-defense norms--and focus it, instead, onto the doctrinally irrelevant general system.

This does not mean that the United States and its allies were somehow fooled into adopting the policies they did because of the particular language of the law on aggression; whatever the limited influence of language and of legal categories, it does not constrain policymakers in any direct sense. Western powers had plenty of reasons to support Georgia, just as they found reasons to combine strong rhetoric with studied inaction once the war broke out. Certainly U.S. policymakers' statements were consistent with their previously declared political preferences. There is no evidence, and no reason to suppose, that the United States took any position it would not otherwise have merely because of linguistic or doctrinal constraints.

Yet equally, it would go too far to suppose that, in defining the interests of the United States, U.S. policymakers were unaffected by the legal environment in which they operated. Those policymakers acted primarily out of a sense of self-interest, but their definition of that interest, and of the range of possible or acceptable means they perceived for vindicating it, is not so simply derived and cannot simply be assumed.

Certainly it is possible to criticize the resort to violence in internal conflict--the United States' response to Russia proves that much--but such criticisms trip over the conceptual problems we have seen here, and are revealed in the impoverished vocabulary we have to voice them. That alone is problematic enough, even from a realist perspective, and if one believed (as I do not) that language actually controls the apparatus of interest-based policymaking, it would be an almost absolute obstacle to reform of the normative regime. At the very least, the vocabulary of international law expresses underlying values and assumptions about how our world is and should be organized, in which case our critique is properly oriented towards those values and assumptions, which make too much of the fact of frontiers. The language we use for sovereignty, territory and aggression has not created the gap in our policy, but it does describe it. (204)

We lack useful doctrine to regulate or even discuss the resort of force by a state within its own territory. We need a jus ad bellum for internal wars, but the current models, grounded in the classical distinction between an international zone and a zone of internal sovereignty, are not capable of direct revision. It seems unlikely that the current approach to intervention, R2P, is moving towards an effective ad bellum framework either. For all its flaws, Sochi--which places territory at the center of its process--at least indicates the proper direction.

A respect for the logic underlying the prohibition on aggression (and, for that matter, democracy and self-determination) might encourage one to ask what exactly Georgia was doing try to assert its rule and its constitutional order (205) over areas whose present populations do not want to be ruled by it. There may be excellent answers, but they are hard to find in an international legal order that renders the questions nearly invisible--that make a mechanism designed to restrain Georgian overreach look like Russian aggression. It seems that we are constrained by anachronistic and inflexible categories that do not translate well to actual conflicts, and this forces our efforts to evaluate acts of violence onto pathways that distract us from what our critiques should really be engaged with. (206)

That August--but really, in any August--the language and logic of sovereignty, aggression and territorial integrity shed little light on the dynamics of internal conflicts; if anything, those legal categories obscure both the nature of internal conflicts and our own imperfect efforts to regulate them. Our defective jus ad bellum produces legal outcomes that merely replicate existing policy preferences or--more troublingly--channel the choices policymakers make away from engagement with substantive disputes between political communities and towards formulaic, enchanted logics.

(1) Names for the conflict track problematically with political preferences. Cf 2008 South Ossetia War, WIKIPEDIA (Dec. 2011), South_Ossetia_war (giving names for the war--"the South Ossetia War" or "the Russia-Georgia War"--in regional languages, and discussing objections to the neutrality of the article's title). "The August War" appropriates a lot of the calendar, assuming optimistically that there won't be other wars in other Augusts. I use "the Georgian War" as a plausible indicator of the war's location. Also, throughout I refer to "war," though the standard usage in international law is "armed conflict." See Elihu Lauterpacht, The Legal Irrelevance of the "State of War "', 62 AM. SOC'Y INT'L L. PROC. 58, 58 n. 1 (1968).

(2) See YORAM DINSTEIN, WAR, AGGRESSION AND SELF-DEFENCE 5, 16 (4th ed. 2005); see also ROBERT CRYER ET AL., AN INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE 223-24 (2007) (describing jus ad bellum as the legality of war and jus in bello as the basic rules of warfare; describing the separation ofjus ad bellum and jus in bello as a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law).

(3) See HALVARD BUHAUG, SCOTT GATES, HAVARD HEGRE & HAVARD STRAND, PEACE RESEARCH INSTITUTE OSLO (PRIO), GLOBAL TRENDS 1N ARMED CONFLICT (2007), (showing the numerical dominance of intrastate over international conflicts between 1946 and 2006). As a proxy for the likely regulatory burden, consider the current docket of the International Criminal Court: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Sudan (Darfur), Kenya, Libya, and Ivory Coast. See Situations and Cases,INT'L CRIM. CT., visited Jan. 22, 2013) (listing the situations and cases in which the International Criminal Court has been involved). Each of these situations concerns an internal conflict.

(4) See general(v AMNESTY INT'L, CIVILIANS IN THE LINE OF FIRE: THE GEORGIA-RUSSIA CONFLICT (2008), (describing violations of the jus in bello by the parties to the conflict); HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, UP IN FLAMES: HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATIONS AND CIVILIAN VICTIMS IN THE CONFLICT OVER SOUTH OSSETIA (2009), (also describing violations of the jus in bello).

(5) See Press Release, N. Atl. Treaty Org., Bucharest Summit Declaration: Issued by the Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council [paragaraph] 23 (Apr. 3, 2008), (acknowledging Georgia's desire for NATO membership and supporting the development of a Georgian Membership Action Plan following "high political level" engagement); see also NATO's Relations with Georgia, N. ATLANTIC TREATY ORG., (last updated Dec. 5, 2012) (describing Georgia's involvement with NATO, including Georgia's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace starting in 1994, which was itself a source of tension with Russia in the run-up to the war).

(6) France occupied a middle position, and Germany and Italy showed the greatest accommodation. Jonathan Eyal, 'We are Extremely Concerned': The EU and Georgia, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INST. (Aug. l 1, 2008), UMWVMeOe8UU (noting that Italy sided with Russia and that "Europe remains divided between its East and West, and Western European governments simply do not feel the same urgency about Russia"); Angela Merkel Calls .[or Immediate Ceasefire, BUNDESREGIERUNG [GERMAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND CHANCELLOR] (Aug. 11,2008), anzeige.php?zaehler-12679 (focusing almost exclusively on the mutual need to prevent violence, engage in mediation, and provide humanitarian assistance; there is no attempt to characterize the conflict in legal terms). Some of France's positions are noted below.

(7) See Press Release, Office of the Press Sec'y, Statement by the Press Secretary on EU Decision Regarding Georgia (Sept. 1, 2008), s/2008/09/20080901-15.html ("We join the EU in condemning Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and in calling on other states not to recognize these Georgian separatist regions.").

(8) See Press Release, N. Atl. Treaty Org., NATO-Georgia Joint Press Statement on the Occasion of the North Atlantic Council Visit to Georgia and the Inaugural Meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission (Sept. 15, 2008),

(9) On the contrary, I assume that plural and conflicting positions exist within the state--and at the same time, that the state is in fact the predominant legal fiction about and through which legal claims are analyzed. Cf. MYRES S. McDOUGAL & FLORENTINO P. FELICIANO, LAW AND MINIMUM WORLD PUBLIC ORDER: THE LEGAL REGULATION OF INTERNATIONAL COERCION 12-13 (1961) (cautioning against describing actors in international processes as states, rather than the individuals within them: "For purposes of precision in description.., as well as for the application of certain sanctioning procedures, such as those providing for criminal liability, one must frequently go behind the institutional abstraction 'state' and refer to the effective decision-makers. ...").

(10) Even candidates Obama and McCain, locked in a fierce election campaign, were largely in agreement in condemning Russia, differing mostly on the manner of response. See CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERV., RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT IN SOUTH OSSETIA: CONTEXT AND IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. INTERESTS 105 (2008) (noting that both McCain and Obama condemned the Russian military incursion, with McCain "warn[ing] Russia that there could be severe, long-term negative consequences to its relations with the United States and Europe" and Obama "call[ing] for Georgia to refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and urg[ing] all sides to pursue a political settlement that addresses the status of the regions").

(11) See generally INDEP. INT'L FACT-FINDING MISSION ON THE CONFLICT IN GEOR., REPORT vols. 1-3 (2009), available at [hereinafter TAGLIAVINI REPORT] (describing the August 2008 conflict, along with relevant background material on the region's history, legal issues, and international resolution efforts). This report was assigned by the EU to an independent fact-finding mission. Id. vol. 1 at 2.

(12) See Paul A. Goble, Defining Victory and Defeat: The Information War Between Russia and Georgia, in THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008: RUSSIA'S WAR IN GEORGIA 181 (Svante E. Cornell & S. Fredrick Start eds., 2009) (discussing the lack of legitimate fact-finding mechanisms on which to rely in evaluating international conflicts); Tyler B. Musselman, Note, Skirmishing for Information: The Flaws of the International Legal System as Evidenced by the Russian-Georgian Conflict of 2008, 19 TRANSNAT'L L. & CONTEMP. PROBS. 317, 337 (2010).

(13) I focus on comments made during the actual fighting and its immediate aftermath. I make use of later analysis to clarify points about the known record and to test my core claims. At the same time, there is parsimony in focusing on the conflict period when the outcome was still unclear; the contemporaneous responses of officials are valid data in and of themselves. For a discussion of how officials in the warring states and media presented the conflict, see Hans-Georg Heinrich & Kirill Tanaev, Georgia & Russia: Contradictory Media Coverage of the August War, 3 CAUCASIAN REV. INT'L AFF. 244 (2009) (discussing media coverage of the war, which the authors find was initially favorable to Georgia, and then became more skeptical): James V. Wertsch & Zurab Karumidze, Spinning the Past." Russian and Georgian Accounts of the War of August 2008, 2 MEMORY STUD. 377 (2009) (examining Russian and Georgian media narratives).

(14) See infra text at page 225.

(15) See Jack M. Balkin, The Promise of Legal Semiotics, 69 TEX. L. REV. 1831, 1842 (1991). Balkin observed:

   [L]egal discourse was permeable to political discourse and vice
   versa. The two were so similar, and so deeply intertwined in their
   common forms of expression, that it was no accident that legal
   argument and political argument moved in lock step. Thus, lawyers
   and judges were not making legal arguments in order to cover up
   political arguments that they dared not openly express. Rather,
   they were always making political arguments because the basic forms
   of legal and political discourse were identical, or at the very
   least shared large elements in common.

Id. See also, Brian Bix, Law as an Autonomous Discipline, in THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF LEGAL STUDIES 975, 982 (Peter Cane & Mark V. Tushnet eds., 2003), 1010995 (noting that "[i]n the United States, the political nature of law ... is widely accepted"); Richard A. Posner, The Decline of Law as an Autonomous Discipline: 1962-1987, 100 HARV. L. REV. 761, 767 (1987) ("[M]any fields of law today are deeply entangled with political questions.").

(16) See Ruti Teitel, Transitional Jurisprudence: The Role of Law in Political Transformation, 106 YALE L.J. 2009, 2077 (1997). Teitel stated:

   Transitional jurisprudence examines the way law mediates such
   periods and constructs the transition, thereby describing this
   bounded domain. ... Legal practices in such periods reveal a
   struggle between two points, between settled and revolutionary
   times, as well as a dialectically induced third position.
   Persistent dichotomous choices arise as to law's role in periods of
   political change: backward versus forward, retroactive versus
   prospective, continuity versus discontinuity, individual versus
   collective, law versus politics. Transitional legal mechanisms
   mediate these antinomies.

id. For different views of the effect of language or concepts on action, see generally JOHN M. CONLEY & WILLIAM M. O'BARR, JUST WORDS: LAW, LANGUAGE AND POWER (1998); HELLE MALMVIG, STATE SOVEREIGNTY AND INTERVENTION: A DISCOURSE ANALYSIS OF INTERVENTIONARY AND NONINTERVENTIONARY PRACTICES IN KOSOVO AND ALGERIA (2006); LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS (1968); Felix Cohen, Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach, 35 COLUM. L. REV. 809 (1935); Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From Global Lines to Ecologies of Knowledge, EUROZINE (June 29, 2007), articles/2007-06-29-santos-en.html.

(17) See Christopher Borgen, The Language of Law and the Practice of Politics. Great Powers and the Rhetoric of Self-Determination in the Cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia, 10 CHI. J. INT'L L. 1 (2009) (discussing the role of language in law and politics with reference to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict).

(18) Cf DAVID KENNEDY, THE DARK SIDES OF VIRTUE: REASSESSING INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIANISM xviii, 279 (2005) (elaborating on how the tools of humanitarian and human rights work are "enchanted," becoming themselves the focus of attention in lieu of substantive engagement).

(19) For background on the conflict and the region, see generally TIM POTIER, CONFLICT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH, ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA: A LEGAL APPRAISAL (2001); THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008, supra note 12, at 181; THOMAS DE WAAL, THE CAUCASUS: AN INTRODUCTION (2010); Gerard Toal, Russia's Kosovo: A Critical Geopolitics of the August 2008 War Over South Ossetia, 49 EURASIAN GEOGRAPHY & ECON. 670, 673-84 (2008) (discussing the historical, political and geographical aspects of the conflict).

(20) See INT'L CRISIS GRP., GEORGIA: AVOIDING WAR IN SOUTH OSSETIA REPORT NO. 159, at 2 5(2004), [hereinafter ICG, REPORT NO. 159] (discussing general background to the conflict).

(21) See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH/HELSINKI, BLOODSHED IN TItE CAUCASUS: VIOLATIONS OF HUMANITARIAN LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE GEORGIA-SOUTH OSSETIA CONFLICT 2 (1992), ("The maned conflict in South Ossetia included the shelling (by both sides) of both Georgian and Ossetian villages, blockades, and hostage-taking, claiming at least 250 lives, and wounding at least 485.").

(22) The autonomous region of Abkhazia also broke free of Georgia's control around this time.

See generally Michael Toomey, August 2008 Battle of South Ossetia: Does Russia Have a Legal Argument for Intervention?, 23 TEMP. INT'L & COMP. L.J. 443 (2009) (discussing challenges to Georgia's effective control of territory and declarations of independence).

(23) Soglashenie o printsipakh uregulirovaniia gruzino-osetinskogo konflikta (COFJIAIIIEHHE o npnHIiI4nax yperyYlHpOBaHNR rpy314HO-OCeTnHCKOro KoHqbmKTa) [Agreement on Principles of Settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian Conflict] Geor.-Russ., June 24, 1992, translation available at 06 24 e.htm?lawid-368&lng_3=en [hereinafter Sochi Agreement].

It is also known as the Dagomys Agreement. Some texts add "between Georgia and Russia" to the document's title--a not insignificant difference. See also INT'L CRISIS GRP., GEORGIA'S SOUTH OSSETIA CONFLICT: MAKE HASTE SLOWLY REPORT NO. 183 (2007), dia/Files/europe/183 georgia_s_south_ossetia_conflict_make_haste_slowly.pdf [hereinafter ICG, REPORT NO. 183] (discussing the agreement in a report shortly before the 2008 conflict).

(24) Sochi Agreement, supra note 23, art. 3(1) (incorporating by reference the military observers established in the earlier Kazbegi Agreement); see also ICG, REPORT NO. 183, supra note 23, at 1.

ICG, REPORT NO. 183 states:

   The JCC was tasked to supervise observance of the agreement, draft
   and implement conflict settlement measures, promote dialogue,
   devise and carry out measures to facilitate refugee and IDP return,
   solve problems related to economic reconstruction and monitor human
   rights. Additionally it was to coordinate the activities of the
   Joint Peace Keeping Forces.


(25) See Vladimir Socor, South Ossetia Joint Control Commission Ingloriously Mothballed, EURASIA DAILY MONITOR (Mar. 7, 2008),[ tt_news]-33440 ("The JCC's single purpose and relevance was as a tool for freezing the RussiaGeorgia conflict in South Ossetia. In this aspect alone the JCC had proven its effectiveness from its inception in 1992 to the present.").

(26) See Civil Georgia, Tbilisi Proposes New Negotiating Format for S. Ossetia, CIVIL.GE (Mar. 1, 2008), 17244.

(27) 1 TAGLIAVINI REPORT, supra note 11, at 14; ICG, REPORT NO. 183, supra note 23, at 17-18.

(28) ICG, REPORT NO. 183, supra note 23, at 17 (citing an interview with an unnamed international expert).

(29) Press Release, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russ. Fed'n, Polozhenie ob Osnovnykh Printsipakh Deyatel'nosti Voennykh Kontingentov i Grupp Voennykh Nablyudatelei, Prednaznachennykh dlya Normalizatsii Situatsii v Zone Gruzino-osetinskogo Konflikta [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII][Regulation on the Basic Principles of the Military Contingents and Military Observers Group, Intended to Normalize the Situation in the Georgian-Ossetian Conflict] (June 4, 2004), [hereinafter 2004 Regulations] (giving the text of the Regulations). The 2004 Regulations authorized the peacekeeping forces to keep the peace and ensure control over the zone of conflict (art. 1); respond to breaches of the cease-fire (art. 2); disband any irregular forces, prevent armed groups from entering the conflict zone, deny entry of weaponry and materiel into the zone, and assist law enforcement in establishing law and order in the zone (art. 3); patrol, detain or destroy armed groups (art. 4). Id.

(30) Sochi Agreement, supra note 23, at art. 3(5) ("In case of violation of provisions of this Agreement, the Control Commission shall carry out investigation of relevant circumstances and undertake urgent measures aimed at restoration of peace and order and non-admission of similar violations in the future."); 2004 Regulations, supra note 29, art. 2 ("The decision to use troops and military observers in the event of breach of the cease-fire by a party, is taken by a commander of [Joint Peacekeeping Force] in order to restore peace, with the notice of JCC.").

(31) See INTERNATIONAL LAW: NORMS, ACTORS, PROCESS: A PROBLEM-ORIENTED APPROACH, 37ff (Jeffrey L. Dunoff, Steven R. Ratner,& David Wippman eds., 2010) (discussing the Turkish interventions in Cyprus in 1963 and 1974); David Wippman, Treaty-Based Intervention: Who Can Say No?, 62 U. CHI. L. REV. 607 (1995)(discussing the same).

(32) See Meeting Records from the Committee of Senior Officials of the 17th Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to the Personal Representative of the CSCE Chairman-in-Office for Georgia (Nov. 6, 1992), available at

(33) ICG, REPORT NO. 183, supra note 23, at 18.

(34) ICG, REPORT NO. 159, supra note 20, at 5.

(35) See UNMIK: Mandate and Structure, U.N. INTERIM ADMIN. MISSION IN KOSOVO, (last visited Dec. 12, 2012); see also Ralph Wilde, Note, From Danzig to East Timor and Beyond: The Role of International Territorial Administration, 93 AM. J. INT'L L. 583 (2001) (discussing the structure and role of international administration in Kosovo and other locations).

(36) Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, Why Moscow Says No. A Question of Russian Interests', Not Psychology, FOREIGN AFF., Jan.-Feb. 2011, at 122.

(37) See ORG. FOR SEC. & CO-OPERATION IN EUR., HIGHLIGHTS OF ODIHR ACTIVITIES IN 1994, at 3 (1994), available at

(38) See Timeline: Georgia, BBC (Jan. 31, 2012), profiles/1102575.stm ("2005 January ... President Saakashvili unveils proposals on autonomy within Georgia for South Ossetia, whose leadership rejects them, repeating demand for full independence.").

(39) See Thornike Gordadze, Georgian-Russian Relations in the 1990s, in THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008. supra note 12, at 3 34; Margarita Antidze, Russia Closes Last Military Base in Georgia, REUTERS, Nov. 13, 2007, available at The disengagement of Russian forces from Georgian territory was a protracted affair. When Georgia first declared independence, Soviet military structures were still in place, many of which were inherited by Russia: Russian forces operated on the Georgian border with Turkey, and Russia's Transcaucasian Military District had its headquarters in Tbilisi. Russia only closed its last base in Batumi in 2007, and its forces are still in the disputed areas. See Timeline: Georgia, supra note 38 (listing on the timeline for 2007 that "Russia says it has withdrawn last troops [sic] based in Georgia since 1991 collapse [sic] of the Soviet Union, but retains a presence in the breakaway provinces").

(40) For some, especially on the Georgian side, this will seem inadequate; the decision to use force in 2008 cannot be separated from the progressive insults and incursions by the South Ossetians and their Russian patrons. See infra note 120 (discussing the theory of accumulated basis self-defense).

(41) Timeline. Georgia, supra note 38. During this period the new government in Georgia successfully reincorporated the autonomous Adjaria region (May 2004), and shortly thereafter reclaimed control of the Kodori Gorge region in Abkhazia (July 2006). Id. See also Nikolai Topuria, Georgia Takes Control of Renegade Region, Sets Sights on Two Others, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, May 6, 2004, available at; Civil Georgia, Tbilisi Turns Kodori into 'Temporary Administrative Center" of Abkhazia, CIVIL.GE (Sept. 27, 2006), eng/article.php?id=13654.

(42) See AMNESTY INT'L, supra note 4, at 7-8; INT'L CRISIS GRP., RUSSIA VS GEORGIA: THE FALLOUT REPORT NO. 195, at 1-4 (2008) [hereinafter ICG, REPORT NO. 195] (providing a chronology of events that led up to the conflict); The Chronicle of a Caucasian Tragedy, SPIEGEL ONLINE (Aug. 25, 2008),,1518,druck-574812,00.html [hereinafter Caucasian Tragedy].

(43) See Jorge Benitez, Russia and Georgia Still Locked in Frozen Conflict, ATLANTlC COUNCIL (Aug. 15, 2011), available at (reporting more recently on the potential for escalation within the frozen conflict).

(44) Johanna Popjanevski, From Sukhumi to Tskhinvali: The Path to War in Georgia, in THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008, supra note 12, at 143, 145-49, 160 (noting that, before July 2008, the prevailing assumption was that conflict would break out over Abkhazia rather than South Ossetia).

(45) Press Release, Office of the Press Sec'y, President Bush Concerned by Escalation of Violence in Georgia (Aug. 9, 2008), 09-2.html.

(46) ICG, REPORT NO. 183, supra note 23, at 32. Since the cease-fire in 1992, there has been a defined "zone of conflict" running in an East-West zig-zag across the southern part of South Ossetia and the adjacent territory of Georgia proper, with its northern limit just north of Tskhinvali and its southern limit just north of Gori. See Toal, supra note 19, at 671 (reproducing maps showing the zone of conflict). It is possible that President Bush was referring not to this, but instead to only the area in South Ossetia in which combat was actually taking place (thanks to Jonathan Kulick for this point); however, later U.S. government statements clearly invoked the legally defined "zone of conflict."

(47) Georgia Conflict." Key Statements, BBC (Aug. 19, 2008), 57.stm [hereinafter Key Statements]. The peace agreement to which Bush refers is apparently French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's initial effort rather than the six-point plan finally agreed to.

(48) Steven Lee Myers, No Cold War, But Big Chill Over Georgia, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 1, 2008), (noting that Bush's statements became stronger over time).

(49) See, e.g., Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 155 (noting that the "the prevailing Western view after August 2008 is that the Georgian government acted irresponsibly when sending troops into Tskhinvali. ... "); Conor Sweeney & Richard Balmforth, Russia's First Georgia Move Legitimate. U.S. Envoy, REUTERS, Aug. 22, 2008, available at M47889020080822 (discussing U.S. Ambassador to Russia's comments in support of Russia's initial, though not subsequent, actions); Roy Allison, Russia Resurgent? Moscow's Campaign to 'Coerce Georgia to Peace ', 84 INT'L AFF. 1145, 1145 (2008). Allison stated:

   The strong support Georgia received for its sovereignty and
   territorial integrity during this crisis from western states, for
   all their initial concerns about Georgia's assault on Tskhinvali,
   reflects a robust commitment to Georgian statehood. ... Th[e] claim
   of an initial Russian violation of Georgian territory was received
   rather skeptically by most western states at first, and has still
   not been conclusively corroborated.

Id. Even states supportive of Georgia were, in some cases, uncomfortable with what they perceived to be the profoundly unwise Georgian decision to begin hostilities.

(50) See Alexis Crow, The U.S., Georgia, and Russia, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INST., (Aug. 12, 2008), Crow stated:

   In the next five days, the United States continually reassured
   Georgia that it was a staunch American ally, and demanded Russia to
   halt its military actions. Yet many of these statements were
   guarded: Bush condemned the Russians for bombing 'outside' of South
   Ossetia, and reprimanded Russia for its 'disproportionate
   response.' Despite Bush's insistence that he was 'very firm' with
   Put in, his statements reflect a cautious tone.


(51) Perhaps policymakers emphasized sovereignty and territory instead of ethnic cleansing because evidence of the latter often is ambiguous or contested, whereas the fact of invasion--at least of the kind Russia undertook is notorious. Even so, this would imply a fastidious caution and a respect for the integrity of legal argument, rather than the naked instrumentalization of law for political purposes.

(52) See Balkin, supra note 15 ("[Y]he fact that legal discourse is rhetorizable says nothing about its lack of authenticity. To the contrary. ... the only type of discourse that is truly authentic is that which is permissible within our existing language games, and is thus always rhetorizable.").

(53) See Andrew E. Kramer & Clifford J. Levy, Rice, in Georgia, Calls on Russia to Pull Out Now, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 15, 2008), pagewanted=all ("Ms. Rice ... referred to the Russians as '21st-century barbarians' who had essentially raped Georgia.").

(54) See ALAN G. WHITTAKER ET AL., THE NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY PROCESS: THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL AND INTERAGENCY SYSTEM 47-48 (2011) (reviewing the role of the Department of State in the national security policy process, including its role in "[l]eading interagency coordination in developing and implementing foreign policy").

(55) Compare Press Release, Condoleezza Rice, Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of State, Russia Move into Georgia (Aug. 8, 2008), [hereinafter Rice, Russia Move into Georgia], with Press Release, Robert Wood, Acting Deputy Spokesman, U.S. Dep't of State, Russian Actions in Georgia (Aug. 8, 2008), 8097.htm [hereinafter Wood] (using identical language to indicate support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity in reference to U.N. Security Council resolutions).

(56) See, e.g., Curtis A. Bradley & Eric A. Posner, Presidential Signing Statements and Executive Power, 23 CONST. COMMENT. 307 (2006) (arguing that signing statements allow presidents to express views on the constitutionality of legislation and can aid in statutory interpretation).

(57) By contrast, reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch avoid "aggression" in their legal analysis. See, e.g., AMNESTY INT'L, supra note 4; HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 4.

(58) See generally JEFFERY L. DUNOFF ET AL., INTERNATIONAL LAW, NORMS, ACTORS, PROCESS: A PROBLEM-ORIENTED APPROACH (2d ed. 2006) (reviewing the formation of customary international law).

(59) On legal characterizations of the conflict, see generally Borgen, supra note 17; Gregory Hafkin, The Russo-Georgian War Of 2008: Developing The Law Of Unauthorized Humanitarian Intervention After Kosovo, 28 B.U. INT'L L.J. 219 (2010). For a polemical defense of the legality of Russia's actions, see Nicolai N. Petro, The Legal Case for Russian Intervention in Georgia, 32 FORDHAM INT'L L.J. 1524 (2009).

(60) Definition of Aggression, G.A. Res. 3314 (XXIX), U.N. GAOR, 29th Sess., U.N. Doc. A/RES/3314(XXIX) (Dec. 14, 1974); U.N. Charter art. 2, para. 4 (prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of a state); General Treaty for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy arts. I-II (Kellogg-Briand Pact), Aug. 27, 1928, 94 L.N.T.S. 57 (still valid law in 66 countries). Aggression--a crime against peace and a crime of state--was also charged as an individual crime at Nuremberg. International Military Tribunal Charter art. 6 (Nuremberg Charter), Aug. 8, 1945, 82 U.N.T.S. 279. Resolution 3314's definition, though originally devised to describe action by a state, was recently adopted by the International Criminal Court for use in individual criminal cases. The Court's jurisdiction over aggression will not become active until 2017 at the earliest. See generally Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, July 17, 1998, 2187 U.N.T.S. 900; The Review Conference of the International Criminal Court Dec. 22, 2010, INT'E CRIM. CT. (Dec. 22, 2010), ion.htm.

(61) See U.N. Charter arts. 39-42, 51. Self-defense includes collective action--a state may seek help from its allies.

(62) See Larry May, The International Criminal Court and the Crime of Aggression: Aggression, Humanitarian Intervention and Terrorism, 41 CASE W. RES. J. INT'L L. 321, 325 (2009); Noah Weisbord, Conceptualizing Aggression, 20 DUKE J. COMP. & INT'L L. 1 (2009) (discussing the concept of "first wronging"). There is also a component of seriousness. See infra notes 115-123 and accompanying text.

(63) Recently asserted principles of humanitarian intervention contemplate legitimate interstate uses of force not approved by the Security Council or undertaken in self-defense. See infra Part IV.

(64) Sanjeev Miglani & Matt Spetalnick, Chenev: "Russian Aggression Must Not Go Unanswered," REUTERS, Aug. 10, 2008, available at (citing a statement issued by Cheney's office, which also referred to "this threat to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity")

(65) See Key Statements, supra note 47.

(66) See id. On August 17, Bush referred to Russia's "invading forces."

(67) See Press Release, Declaration of Universal Mobilization by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (Aug. 8, 2008), Saakashvili stated:

   As you all know, we initiated military operations after separatist
   rebels in South Ossetia bombed Tamarasheni and other villages under
   our control. ... A large-scale military aggression is taking place
   against Georgia. Over the past few minutes and hours, Russia has
   been bombing our territory and our urban areas. This can only be
   described as a [sic] classic international aggression.

Id. Saakashvili referred to Russian aggression in most of his speeches. Descriptions of Russian actions as aggression predate the war. See Anne Penketh, Georgia Says Russia Fired Missile in "'Act of Aggression", INDEPENDENT (London) (Aug. 8, 2007), europe/georgia-says-russia-fired-missile-in-act-of-aggression-460672.html.

(68) Caucasian Tragedy, supra note 42 (quoting unnamed South Ossetian authorities).

(69) Alexis Crow, Georgia-Russia Conflict Timeline (Includes South Ossetia and Abkhazia), ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INST. (Aug. 11, 2008), ref:C48A08074B93E4. Russia used the term "'aggression"' liberally, even before the war. See, e.g., Kazbek Basayev, Russia Accuses Georgia of Open Aggression, REUTERS, July 4, 2008, available at CH .2400 (reporting Russian accusations that Georgia killed two people in a mortar raid against South Ossetia). Basayev commented:

   "Moscow considers it unacceptable when Tbilisi ... is committing
   undisguised acts of aggressions [sic] against South Ossetia,["] the
   Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "The recent military
   incidents will lead to a sharp escalation in the armed
   confrontation in the conflict zone," it said. "Any further delays
   in resuming the negotiations process could lead to the most tragic

Id. (ellipsis in original).

(70) Press Release, Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russ., Statement on the Situation in South Ossetia (Aug. 8, 2008) [hereinafter South Ossetia Statement], 08/08/08/1553_type82912type82913_205032.shtml.

(71) Key Statements, supra note 47.

(72) AMNESTY INT'L, supra note 4, at 6. Russia's claims to be defending its own passport-holding citizens and peacekeepers are discussed in Part III.

(73) U.N. Charter art. 51 (providing for a right of self-defense). I have not found any side claiming that their actions were directly authorized by the Security Council, though it is common for states to claim implicit authorization from ambiguously worded prior resolutions, or from the Council's silence. Russia does claim that the basis for its subsequent recognition of the separatist regions is the U.N. General Assembly Declaration 2625 on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States, and there was Security Council action on Abkhazia earlier that year. See S.C. Res. 1808, [paragraph] 1318, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1808 (Apr. 15, 2008) (covering settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and extension of the mandate of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia). The United States invoked this same resolution to oppose Russia's military actions in Georgia proper. See infra note 77.

(74) Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Dem. Rep. Congo v. Uganda), Judgment, 2005 I.C.J. 168, [paragraph] 148 (Dec. 19).

(75) See MALMVIG, supra note 16, at 1-22; MALCOLM N. SHAW, INTERNATIONAL LAW 333-34 (4th ed. 1997). International documents more commonly refer to "sovereign equality."

(76) See DINSTEIN, supra note 2, at 83; see, e.g., U.N. Charter art. 2, para. 4 (prohibiting the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of a state "or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations"); id. at para. 7 (prohibiting interference with a state's domestic jurisdiction); Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, G.A. Res. 26/25, Annex art. 1, U.N. GAOR, 25th Sess., U.N. Doc. A/RES/2625(XXV) (Oct. 24, 1970) ("Every state has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the temtorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."). The Helsinki Final Act defines sovereignty to include "in particular the right of every State to juridical equality, to territorial integrity and to freedom and political independence." Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe Final Act, Aug. 1, 1975, 14 I.L.M. 1292, available at Analyzing violations of territorial integrity proves much more difficult in practice--defining the scope of "interference with a state's domestic jurisdiction" or "political independence" is a complex definitional and line-drawing exercise.

   (77) Rice, Russia Move into Georgia, supra note 55. Rice stated: We
   call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and
   missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its
   ground combat forces from Georgian soil. ... We underscore the
   international community's support for Georgia's sovereignty and
   territorial integrity within its internationally recognized
   frontiers, as articulated in numerous U.N. Security Council
   resolutions, including ... 1808. ... Id.

(78) Key Statements, supra note 47 (citing Rice using very similar language about 1968 two days earlier).

(79) Caucasian Tragedy, supra note 42; 3 TAGLIAVINI REPORT, supra note 11, at 595-626 (referring to the supposed "Order No. 2"); see also Michael Cecire, Doubting Der Spiegel--What is Order No. 27, GEORGIAN DALLY (Apr. 27, 2009), tent&task=view&idl1271&Itemid=130 (calling into question a Der Spiegel article that blamed Georgian leadership for the Georgian War). General Kurashvili made a similar comment on television, but other Georgian officials distanced themselves from this characterization. See Email from Jonathan Kulick, Advisor, Office of the State Minister of Geor. for Reintegration, to author (Nov. 13, 2010) (on file with author). These comments about reasserting constitutional order are controversial because they are thought to show Georgian premeditation, but they also indicate a view of the conflict's nature: Georgia was restoring its sovereignty over its own territory, which is what any state might be expected to do. As Professor Gotz notes, the phrase is "the basis of virtually any country's decision to reestablish control over breakaway pieces of real estate and mafia dens, ranging from the U.S. South in 1861 to Italian efforts to trim the mob in Sicily." Cecire, Doubting Der Spiegel, supra.

(80) See ICG, REPORT NO. 195, supra note 42, at 9. The report states:

   Russia insisted it supported Georgia's territorial integrity, but
   this language is no longer to be heard. Prime Minister Putin was
   the first to state, on 9 August, that 'a fatal blow has been
   inflicted on the territorial integrity of Georgia itself, and..,
   its own sovereignty.' Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov similarly said
   on 14 August, 'one can forget any talk about Georgia's territorial

Id. (citations omitted).

(81) See infra Part III.C (discussion of Russia's recognition of the separatist regions).

(82) See Press Release, Int'l Court of Justice, Georgia Institutes Proceedings Against Russia for Violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Aug. 12, 2008), [hereinafter Racial Discrimination] (describing three timeframes lbr Russia's violation of CERD encompassing the entire relevant period); see also Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Geor. v. Russ.), Preliminary Objections Judgment, 2011 I.C.J. 140, 22 (Apr. 1), available at [hereinafter Georgia v. Russian Federation] (dismissing Georgia's application). Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia under the Sochi Agreement were generally not thought of as an occupying force, though Georgia now disputes this. See id. 79, 103 (citing various U.N. documents referring to the peacekeeping forces as a facilitator between Georgia and South Ossetia, and that shortly before the war, in June 2008, Georgia had approached Russia "as a facilitator, as a potential guarantor and in terms of its role in the CIS peacekeeping forces"). See also Bart M.J. Szewczyk, Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation), 105 AM. J. INT'L L 747, 749, 50 I.L.M. 603 (2011) (discussing the ICJ's view of Russia's role); Alexei Zverev, Ethnic Conflict in the Caucasus 1988-1994, in CONTESTED BORDERS IN THE CAUCASUS Chapter 1 (Bruno Coppieters ed., 1996), available at (discussing Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze's efforts to "call[] on Russia, as a guarantor of the Sochi agreement, to restore the status-quo").

(83) See Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War art. 53, Aug. 12, 1949 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135 (concerning destruction of property); see also Hague Convention IV Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, Annex arts. 42-56, Oct. 18, 1907, 36 Stat. 2277, 75 U.N.T.S. 287; EYAL BENVENISTI, THE INTERNATIONAL LAW OF OCCUPATION (2004) (analyzing the contemporary law of occupation and identifying the responsibilities of occupiers); George Packer, Occupation, in CRIMES OF WAR 2.0: WHAT THE PUBLIC SHOULD KNOW 307 (Roy Gutman et al. eds., 2d ed., 2007), available at ("Occupiers are also obliged to look after the welfare of the civilian population, ensuring as far as possible that it has adequate food, water and medical treatment."); Breven C. Parsons, Moving the Law of Occupation into the Twenty-First Century, 57 NAVAL L. REV. 1, 1 (2009) (arguing that the "law of occupation has become somewhat of an afterthought" and is "frequently dismissed as outdated or impractical"); Ariel Zemach, Taking War Seriously: Applying the Law of War to Hostilities within an Occupied Territory, 38 GEO. WASH. INT'L L. REV. 645,660 (2006).

(84) Parsons, supra note 83, at 32. Occupations may be legal or illegal. If a state moved forces into another state with authorization by the Security Council, its actions would be legal but would still be an occupation. "United Nations (U.N.) governance occupations, such as those in East Timor and Kosovo and the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq in 2003, are instances of transformative occupations requiring resort to legal authority outside the traditional law of occupation framework. ... [T]hese occupations occurred under legal frameworks authorized by the U.N. Charter and the approval of the U.N. Security Council." Id. (citations omitted).

(85) BENVENISTI, supra note 83, at 144 (distinguishing between "the course through which the territory came under the foreign state's control" and "the phenomenon of occupation," which he defines as "the effective control of a power.., over a territory to which that power has no sovereign title, without the volition of the sovereign of that country"). Occupation is supposed to be temporary--the inadequacy of the law in dealing with situations such as the Palestinian territories suggests the problems that arise when occupation become effectively permanent--but as a legal category it refers primarily to some period longer than the shooting war; this is why its provisions are concerned to avoid such things as resettlement of populations. As Benvenisti explained:

   The Hague Regulations did not envision that a peace treaty between
   the rival powers would take long to reach. In the nineteenth
   century, military defeats were soon followed by peace treaties and
   border modifications, and thus occupations were short lived. The
   Fourth Geneva Convention did envision the possibility of protracted
   occupation. ... Most of the articles dealing with occupation,
   including ... the occupant's prescriptive powers, are enumerated as
   the exceptions that are retained as long as the occupation lasts.


(86)See Text of the Peace Accord, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 13, 2008), packages/pdf/world/2008/08/20080813_GEORGIA_ACCORD.pdf. During negotiations, a set of modifications proposed by Georgia was rejected. The final Agreement provides, in full (with the rejected provisions indicated thusly):

1. No recourse to the use of force

2. Definitive cessation of hostilities

3. Free access to humanitarian aid.

4. Georgian military forces must withdraw to their normal bases of encampment.

5. Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities. While awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping troops will implement additional security measures (six months)

6. Opening of international discussions on the modalities of lasting security in Abkhazia and South Osset(based on the decision of the UN and the O.S.C.E)

Id. In a communique, Sarkozy stated, in relation to point 5:

   [T]hese ... may only be implemented in the immediate proximity of
   South Ossetia to the exclusion of any other part of Georgian
   territory. ... [T]hese "measures" may only be implemented inside a
   zone of a depth of a few kilometers from the administrative limit
   between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia in a manner such that
   no significant urban zone would be included. ... Special
   arrangements must be defined to guarantee the liberty of movement
   and traffic along the length of the major highways and railways of
   Georgia. ... These "additional security measures" will take the
   form of patrols undertaken solely by Russian peacekeeping forces at
   a level authorized by existing agreements.

Communique, President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian Aggression of Georgia: Six Point Peace Plan (2008), The legal effect on Russia's obligations of France's clarifications is unclear: They could constitute aids to interpretation, but as post hoc unilateral pronouncements they would not directly bind Russia.

(87) See H. Lukashuk, The Principle Pacta Sunt Servanda and the Nature of Obligation Under International Law, 83 AM. J. INT'L L. 513, 513 (1989) (noting that states generally must respect their international obligations in good faith, though the legal consequences of not doing so vary considerably).

(88) Press Release, Condoleezza Rice, Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of State, Recent Events in Georgia (Aug. 13, 2008), [hereinafter Recent Events] (suggesting that Russia was violating a ceasefire). French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had earlier broached a different ceasefire plan, and negotiations for the final plan extended from August 12th to 16th, with considerable confusion about when the various parties entered into what obligations. See Andrew E. Kramer, Peace Plan Offers Russia a Rationale to Advance, N.Y. TIMES (Aug. 13, 2008), (discussing the Frenchbrokered four-point ceasefire plan).

(89) Key Statements, supra note 47 ("That means--and we do not see signals of that happening-that Russian troops will have to withdraw now to their pre-crisis positions. There can be no business as usual in our relations to and with the Russian Federation.").

(90) See Press Release, Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Dep't of State, Joint Statement on Georgia by Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom (Aug. 27, 2008), [hereinafter Joint Statement on Georgia]. The press release states:

   We deplore Russia's ... continued occupation of parts of Georgia.
   We call unanimously on the Russian government to implement in full
   the six point peace plan ... in particular to withdraw its forces
   behind the pre-conflict lines. We reassert our strong and continued
   support for Georgia's sovereignty within its internationally
   recognized borders. ...


(91) See Press Release, Sean McCormack, Spokesman, U.S. Dep't of State, Recent Russian Actions in Georgia (Sept. 10, 2008), The press release comments:

   We are extremely concerned about recent statements from the Russian
   government indicating that Russian forces will remain permanently
   in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The ceasefire agreement ... obliges
   Russian troops to withdraw to the positions they held on August 6.
   Any additional deployments ... would constitute a violation. ...

Id. Several years later, Russia still has forces there, which the United States views as a violation of the ceasefire. See SABINE FISCHER, THE EU'S NON-RECOGNITION AND ENGAGEMENT POLICY TOWARDS ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA (2010), available at eport.pdf.

(92)See Iugoosetinski sily vmeste s dobrovol'tsami v khode boev otvoevali chast' Tskhinvala [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] INTERFAX, Aug 8, 2008,available at html(noting South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity's comment that "Georgian occupiers are being hit hard"). See generally Materialy za Avgust 2008 goda [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Material about August 2008], GENOTSID OSETIN [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.), (last visited Jan. 26, 2013) (documents referring to Georgian occupiers or villages occupied by Georgians, but with more numerous referring to military aggression by Georgia).

(93) The one exception is a statement made on August 9th by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in an interview with the BBC: "They [Russian troops] have a mandate to liberate the zone of conflict from violators. Whatever it takes we would do. To stop this is for the Commander-in-chief of the Georgian army, to give orders to his troops to withdraw from the area they illegally occupied." Press Release, Ministry of Foreima Affairs of the Russ. Fed'n., Interview by Minister of Foreign Affaires of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov to BBC (Aug. 9, 2008), A7F669EBC32574A100262597. Lavrov's initial reference to Russian troops is ambiguous, but appears to encompass the additional forces, not just the peacekeepers.

(94) South Ossetia and Abkhazia recognized each other in November 2006, and established diplomatic relationships in September 2007. Abkhaziia i Osetiia ustanovili diplomaticheskie otnosheniia ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) South Ossetia Established Diplomatic Relations], NOVYI REGION ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), (Sept. 27, 2007),; Abkhaziia i Iuzhnaia Osetiia i Pridiestrove priznali nezavisimost' drug druga i prizvali vsekh k etomu zhe ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria Recognized Each Other's Independence and Called All Others to Do Likewise], NEWSRU (Nov. 17 2006),

(95) Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation No. 21: Right to Self-Determination, 6, U.N. Doc. CERD/48/Misc.7/Rev.3 (Aug. 23, 1996), available at le004d3 ld0?Ope ndocument ("[I]nternational law has not recognized a general right of peoples unilaterally to declare secession from a State."). CERD provided the basis for Georgia's (now dismissed) case against Russia before the International Cotu-t of Justice. See Georgia v. Russian Federation, supra note 82, at 115-84.

(96) See, e.g., John Dugard & David Raic, The Role of Recognition in the Law and Practice of Secession, in SECESSION: INTERNATIONAL LAW PERSPECTIVES 95 (Marcelo G. Kohen ed., 2005) ("Recognition of a new State that emerges from the territory of an existing State, without the consent of the latter, is in most circumstances viewed as a violation of international law."); ALEKSANDAR PAVKOVIC & PETER RADAN, CREATING NEW STATES: THEORY AND PRACTICE OF SECESSION (2007) (describing the practice of secession through a series of case studies, including low odds of success for secession); Bridget L. Coggins, Secession, Recognition & the International Politics of Statehood 2 (2006) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University) (assessing threshold conditions under which Great Powers find it attractive to recognize secession). If a separatist group establishes de facto control over a defined territory with a stable population and is capable of entering into diplomatic relations, other states could recognize it (some scholars add a requirement the claimant must demonstrate democratic legitimacy), but in practice, recognition is rare without the acquiescence of the former metropole. Dugard & Raic, supra.

(97) See Parsons, supra note 83 (outlining the obligations of occupation but also arguing that a changed framework allows occupiers to usurp the occupied state's sovereignty under certain conditions); see also Grant Harris, The Era of Multilateral Occupation, 24 BERKELEY J. INT'L L. 1 (2006) (making a similar argument).

(98) Joint Statement on Georgia, supra note 90.

(99) Interview, Condoleezza Rice, Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of State, Interview on the Situation in Georgia With Charles Gibson of ABC News (Aug. 12, 2008), 2008/08/108171.htm (on the situation in Georgia). Secretary Rice stated:

   I think it's important that there is an international mediation
   going on to find modalities for moving forward. But I want to make
   clear a couple of very important principles. Territorial integrity
   of Georgia has to be preserved, the democratically elected
   Government of Georgia has to be respected, Abkhazia and South
   Ossetia are within Georgia's internationally recognized boundaries,
   and any resolution of this conflict has got to recognize those


(100) C.J. Chivers, Russia Keeps Troops in Georgia, Defying Deal, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 2, 2009), (describing Russian forces stationed in portions of South Ossetia formerly in Georgian hands, even though international monitors were in place, and noting both that this violates the ceasefire agreement and that Russia has concluded a bilateral deal with South Ossetia to station troops).

(101) See Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War art. 2, Aug. 12, 1949, 75 U.N.T.S. 287 ("[T]he present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them."); Prosecutor v. Tadi6, Case No. IT-94-I-A, Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction, 70 (Int'l Crim. Trib. for the Former Yugoslavia Oct. 2, 1995) ("[A] n armed conflict exists whenever there is a resort to armed force between states."); CRYER, supra note 2, at 233 ("The paradigmatic situation of international armed conflict is the resort to force between the military forces of States."). See generally YORAM DINSTEIN, THE CONDUCT OF HOSTILITIES UNDER THE LAW OF INTERNATIONAL ARMED CONFLICT (2004) (describing how different obligations apply in international and non-international armed conflicts).


(103) Leading non-governmental rights organizations criticized both Russia and Georgia for disproportionate use of force. See AMNESTY INT'L, supra note 4, at 60 (criticizing Georgia for not adopting measures to protect civilians in Tskhinvali and criticizing Russia for failing to distinguish military objectives and targets from civilian settlements); HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 4, at 3 (blaming Georgia's "indiscriminate and disproportionate force" in artillery assaults, and Russia's indiscriminate "aerial, artillery, and tank fire strikes", and criticizing both sides for the use of cluster munitions).

(104) Key Statements, supra note 47.

(105) Recent Events, supra note 88. Rice stated:

   [B]ut ... Russia seriously overreached. ... Russia engaged in
   activities that could not possibly be associated simply with the
   crisis in South Ossetia. Bombing civilian targets-bombing targets
   outside the zone of conflict, some of which have civilian uses, the
   activities in Gori, the activities in Poti, destruction of civilian
   infrastructure--these are hardly moves that are related to South

Id.; see also Press Release, Condoleezza Rice, Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of State, Remarks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the Situation in Georgia (Aug. 14, 2008), etary/rm/2008/08/108254.htm (calling for enforcement of ceasefire and reiterating support for Georgia's territorial integrity); Press Release, Condoleezza Rice, Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of State, Remarks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (Aug. 15, 2008), 2008/08/108289.htm (demanding an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces).

(106) We will consider this in detail in Part III.

(l07) See CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 204 (defining deportation as "forced displacement of persons by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law").

(108) See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide art. 2-3, approved Dec. 9, 1948, 78 U.N.T.S. 277. Genocide is also a crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the statutes of the other tribunals.

(109) See Key Statements, supra note 47 (quoting Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on August 11 th: "The ferocity in which the actions of the Georgian side were carried out cannot be called anything else but genocide. ... "); Mafia Golovnina, Georgia Accuses Russia of Ethnic Cleansing, REUTERS Aug. 9, 2008, available at (quoting Georgia's National Security Council Secretary on August 9th: "No doubt about that. Villages that fell under Russian invasion, those villages are being cleaned out. ... Pulling out our troops would lead to more ethnic cleansing by Russian troops."). Both states accused the other of ethnic cleansing at the Security Council on August 10, 2008. Szewczyk, supra note 82.

(110) U.S. policymakers sometimes conflated the "zone of confict" with South Ossetia as a whole, even though parts of the former Soviet South Ossetia Autonomous Oblast had remained under Georgian control.

(111) See Caucasian Tragedy, supra note 42.

(112) War Timeline, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFF. OF GEORGIA, index.php?lang__id=ENG& sec_id=556 (last visited Jan. 26, 2013); The Chronology of Russian Aggression Against Georgia in 2008, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFF. OF GEORGIA, e/files/556_10535_625923_CHRONOLOGYMIA2008.pdf(last visited Dec. 15, 2012).

(113) See Definition of Aggression, supra note 60.

(114) For example, Russian forces were involved in the destruction of a Georgian drone over Abkhazia in April 2008. Martin Malek, Georgia & Russia: The "Unknown" Prelude to the "Five Day War ", 3 CAUCASIAN REV. INT'E AFF. 227, 229 (2009).

(115) See Definition of Aggression, supra note 60, at Annex art. 2. The U.N. definition of aggression states:

   The first use of armed force by a State in contravention of the
   Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of
   aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with
   the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of
   aggression has been committed would not be justified in the
   light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact
   that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of
   sufficient gravity.

Id. (emphasis added). See also Keith A. Petty, Criminalizing Force: Resolving the Threshold Question for the Crime of Aggression in the Context of Modern Conflict, 33 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 105 (2009) (discussing threshold considerations for the crime of aggression).

(116) Thomas M. Franck, On Proportionality of Countermeasures in International Law, 102 AM. J. INT'L L. 715,719-20 (2008). Franck commented that:

   Although the law, as refined by judges' decisions, recognizes a
   right to respond with military force to an armed attack, it warns
   as well that this fight is not absolute, depending, rather, on
   whether the provocation was of such magnitude as to warrant a
   full-scale military response. A small border incursion, for
   example, might not justify a war.

Id. See also May, supra note 62, at 323 ("[I]f one is interested in a definition of aggression that was normatively persuasive, more is needed than merely a reference to violating territorial integrity or political sovereignty.").

(117) See Definition of Aggression, supra note 60, at Annex art. 3 (providing a non-exhaustive list of acts constituting aggression).

(118) Except, of course, that Georgia's action was conducted entirely on its territory--but more on this shortly.

(119) See Caucasian Tragedy, supra note 42. On the other side of the balance sheet are Georgia's continuing efforts to negotiate a new ceasefire. Here the claims are as polemical as they are poignant. See, e.g., Damien McElroy, Georgia Conflict: How a Flat Tyre Took the Caucasus to War, DAILY TELEGRAPH (London) (Aug. 16, 2008), 70754/Georgia-conflict-How-a-flat-tyre-took-the-Caucasus-to-war.html (describing a last-minute effort at negotiations foiled by car trouble). However, it is not clear that they tell us much. It is entirely possible that Georgia negotiated even as it prepared for war. Indeed, since both Russia and Georgia engaged in negotiations on August 7th, whichever side started the war was presumably planning to fight while negotiating. This is normal practice--diplomats occasionally, awkwardly, find themselves in the enemy capital as the bombs begin to fall.

(120) See Racial Discrimination, supra note 82, [paragraph][paragraph] 7%78. The ICJ Press Release states:

   In response to the persistent shelling of ethnic Georgian villages
   in South Ossetia by separatist forces, Georgian military forces
   launched a limited operation into territory held by ethnic
   separatists on 7 August 2008 for purposes of putting a stop to the
   attacks. Seizing the opportunity to realize its goal of an
   ethnically homogenous and compliant South Ossetia, Russia responded
   with a full-scale invasion of Georgian territory on 8 August 2008.
   Beginning in the morning hours of 8 August, several thousand
   Russian troops invaded Georgia in a well-planned air and land
   attack throughout Georgian territory.

Id. Concern about the facts is not the only reason for this strategy, of course: Georgia had limited jurisdictional options for bringing a contentious case against Russia to the ICJ. See CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 223-24, 276-78.

(121) See, e.g., Norman M. Feder, Reading the UN Charter Connotatively: Toward a New Definition of Armed Attack, 19 N.Y.U.J. INT'L L. & POL. 395,415 (1987); Christian Tams, The Use of Force Against Terrorists, 20 EUR. J. INT'L L. 359, 388 (2009) (discussing the theory and noting states showing "new willingness" to accept accumulation doctrine); Victor Kattan, The Use and Abuse of Self-Defence in International Law: The Israel-Hezbollah Conflict as a Case Study 13-14 (June 15, 2007) (unpublished article), available at (discussing the Nadelstichtaktik (needle-prick tactic) doctrine, also known as the "accumulation of events" theory).

(122) Roundtable: Causes And Effects Of The Russia-Georgia War (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty radio interview, August 9, 2009), transcript available at le_Causes_And_Effects Of The Russia_Georgia_War/1795469.html. Edward Lucas commented that "the basic perception now of the war in the West focuses very much on the hours before it started and Saakashvili's decision to send his forces north and rather ignores the two years' worth of provocations that went before that." Id.

(123) Tams, supra note 121, at 370 (discussing Israel's assertion of a right to defend against "continuous pin-prick assaults" but that this was not accepted at the Security Council; and criticizing side-effects of accumulation doctrine, including confusion regarding temporal aspects of use of force and requirements for immediacy); Derek Bowett, Reprisals Involving Recourse to Armed Force, 66 AM. J. INT'E L. 7 (1972) (discussing the Security Council's repeated rejection of this basis for self-defense in relation to the Israeli conflict). For a current discussion, see Paul Ducheine & Eric Pouw, Operation Change of Direction: A Short Survey of the Legal Basis and the Applicable Legal Regimes, NETH. ANN. REV. MIL. STUD. 51-96 (2009). For two cases implicitly invoking the concept, see Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), 1986 I.C.J. 14, 120 (June 27); Oil Platforms (Iran v. U.S.), 2003 I.C.J. 161, [paragraph] 64 (Nov. 6) (preliminary objections).

(124) Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 157 ("It is not necessary for Georgia to invoke the doctrine of self-defense in this instance because it did not breach a sovereign border in South Ossetia.").

(125) Unauthorized movement of troops stationed within a foreign state constitutes aggression, but an attack on those troops' base by the host state does not constitute aggression, though of course it may be wrongful in other ways. Thanks to Steve Ratner for this point.

(126) Some of these forces are normally based in Pskov, on the Estonian frontier, but did not return there after the end of the Kavkaz exercises. See Malek, supra note 114 (discussing how the 58th Army, the key force in the Russian operation in Georgia, remained in the region after the exercises ended).

(127) Press Release, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russ. Fed'n, O telefonnom razovore stats sekretarva--zamestitelva Ministra inostrannikh del Rossii G.B. Karasina s zamestitelem Gosudarstvennovo sekretarya S.Sh.A. Fridom [Telephone Conversation State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Fried] (Aug. 4, 2008), available at 5fc325749b002bf378!OpenDocument (mentioning evacuation of women and children, but not specifying by whom).

(128) Caucasian Tragedy, supra note 42; Pavel Felgenhauer, After August 7." The Escalation of the Russia-Georgia War, in THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008, supra note 12, at 165 ("IT]his official Russian position [claiming that their intervention was a spontaneous response] ignores the simple fact that an invasion of such a magnitude would require long-term preparations involving the entire Russian military, including the Army, Air Force, and Navy.").

(129) See U.N. Charter art. 51. The text of the U.N. Charter's Article 51 arguably limits self defense to situations of actual attack, but it is often accepted that some measure of anticipation is allowed. See Steven R. Ratuer, Aggression, in CRIMES OF WAR 2.0, supra note 83, at 37 (distinguishing between the more broadly accepted anticipatory defense doctrine and the Bush administration's more expansive pre-emptive self-defense doctrine); Leo Van den Hole, Anticipator), Self Defense Under International Law, 19 AM. U. INT'L L. REV. 69 (2003) (arguing that it is legitimate to expect a state to use force in anticipation of an armed attack).

(130) See R.Y. Jennings, The Caroline and McLeod Cases, 32 AM. J. INT'L L. 82, 89 (1938) (discussing how the "necessity of self-defence [is] instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation"). See generally Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, 1996 I.C.J. 226 (July 8), available at (articulating arguably narrower self-defense tests than Caroline allowing less room for anticipation); Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), 1986 I.C.J. 14 (June 27). This, of course, would leave even less scope to describe Georgia's actions as anticipatory, whereas Russia's core claim that it was responding to an actual, ongoing invasion by Georgian forces--would if true meet the temporal or sequential elements of any definition of aggression. See CHRISTINE D. GRAY, INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE USE OF FORCE 105-08 (2008).

(131) See Ratner, supra note 129, at 37. Ratner stated:

   A number of States have accepted that a State's first use of force
   to extricate its citizens from another State when they are in
   imminent danger, and the other State is not able to protect them,
   is not aggression (e.g. Israel's 1976 Entebbe raid) and may be a
   form of self-defense.


(132) CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 223-24, 242-43 ("Passive personality jurisdiction is jurisdiction exercised by a State over crimes committed against its nationals whilst they are abroad.").

(133) See, e.g., Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 158 (citing INT'L COMM'N ON INTERVENTION AND STATE SOVEREIGNTY, THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (2001) [hereinafter ICISS REPORT]) ("[E]ndangerment of a state's citizens does not automatically create a basis for intervention militarily on another state's territory."); GRAY, supra note 130, at 108-11 (noting other examples when this fight has been invoked--incidents in Suez, Lebanon, Congo, Dominican Republic, Iran, Grenada, Panama but also that the fight to use force to rescue nationals in a foreign state is controversial. Some states--for example, Belgium, Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom--have argued for this right, but this view has not attracted many adherents). On passive personality, see CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 223-24, 42-43 ("In most instances the assertions of such jurisdiction is controversial.").

(134) See 2 TAGLIAVIN1 REPORT, supra note 11, at 169-78 (strongly criticizing Russia's wholesale granting of passports to South Ossetians); Kristopher Natoli, Weaponizing Nationality. An Analysis of Russia's Passport Policy in Georgia, 28 B.U. INT'L L.J. 389 (2010) (criticizing Russia's grant of passports to South Ossetians and its justification of the war as a defense of them, and arguing for the illegality of Russia's actions under the abuse of rights doctrine).

(135) GRAY, supra note 130, at 157 (stating that most states which have used force to rescue their nationals, including the UK, have "expressly referred to Article 51 as covering their operations ... [although] an alternative less satisfactory view is to seek to derive from customary international law a right of intervention to protect nationals"); ICISS REPORT, supra note 133, at para. 4.13 ("The Commission found in its consultations that even in states where there was the strongest opposition to infringements on sovereignty, there was general acceptance that there must be limited exceptions to the non-intervention rule for certain kinds of emergencies."). Whatever constraints states assert concerning intervention to protect citizens abroad, the kinds of endangerment that occurred when Georgia attacked on August 7th--inchiding sustained shelling of populated areas and the killing of peacekeepers--would likely allow a response in the eyes of most states.

(136) See South Ossetia Statement, supra note 70. The statement said:

   Russia has maintained and continues to maintain a presence on
   Georgian territory on an absolutely lawful basis, carrying out its
   peacekeeping mission in accordance with the agreements concluded.
   ... Georgia's acts have caused loss of life, including among
   Russian peacekeepers. The situation reached the point where
   Georgian peacekeepers opened fire on the Russian peacekeepers with
   whom they are supposed to work together to carry out their mission
   of maintaining peace in this region. Civilians, women, children and
   old people, are dying today in South Ossetia, and the majority of
   them are citizens of the Russian Federation.


(137) The Bush administration proposed a revised doctrine of preemptive self-defense, which would relax the immediacy requirements of traditional antieipation. See THE WHITE HOUSE, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY OF THE UNITED STATES 15-16 (2002), available at http://www.state. gov/documents/organization163562.pdf. But this has proved highly controversial, as it was "widely rejected as impermissible under international law." CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 223 24, 269.

(138) Cf May, supra note 62, at 325. May stated:

   'First strike' should be seen as short-hand for 'first wronging'
   rather than about which State literally engaged in physical assault
   first. It may seem odd to say that the State that provokes is an
   aggressor, rather than the State that launches an attack. But
   history has shown many examples of States that try to start wars
   stealthily by provoking another State to use violence that can then
   be countered by supposedly self-defensive violence. Think of a
   state that menacingly moves its troops to the border of another
   State thereby provoking that other State to attack first.

Id. However, any such provocation must still meet the criteria for anticipatory self-defense. May describes a doctrinal possibility; it does not mean Russia's actions actually reached to that level. Again we return to the facts.

(139) Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 160. Popjanevski said:

   Georgia's decision to advance towards Tskhinvali on August 7 likely
   constituted a grave miscalculation of the possible Russian response.
   ... Whether or not Tbilisi perceived itself as having no other
   choice but to order its troops towards Tskhinvali on August 7, its
   moved provided Moscow with the pretext it needed to launch its
   invasion of Georgian territory.


(140) Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 161 ("The events in early August, those on August 7 in particular, should not be treated as decisive with regard to the issue of accountability in the Russia-Georgia war.").

(141) Text of the Peace Accord, supra note 86, at point 5.

(142) See id. and accompanying text, discussing the French position on the "additional security measures."

(143) One might argue that South Ossetia's indepcndence would not have this effect: Russia's obligations under the ceasefire--whatever they are--constitute a binding international agreement with Georgia and France concerning the location of Russian forces, which might remain valid even if South Ossetia seceded. Russia did not interpret things this way, and to my knowledge no Western state raised this claim, though presumably this is because they rejected the South Ossetia's independence outright and considered Russia's recognition itself to be a violation of the ceasefire; they simply were not developing arguments "in the alternative" that might acknowledge South Ossetia's independence. Russia never contested that those parts of the ceasefire affecting Georgia proper remained valid, although it differed with Georgia and Western states over interpretation. Over time, following initial foot-dragging and vociferous objections from Western states, Russia withdrew from its forward positions in Georgia proper.

(144) An occupier cannot annex land or take other actions that undermine the sovereignty of the occupied state, and recognition of a secessionist entity might contravene this rule. However, that improperly collapses the question. If South Ossetia's secession were otherwise valid, Georgia would no longer be sovereign, and nothing would preclude Russian recognition.

(145) George Khutsishvili, The Abkhazia and South Ossetia Cases: Spoilers in a Nearly Collapsed Peace Process, in CHALLENGES TO PEACE-BUILDING: MANAGING SPOILERS DURING CONFLICT RESOLUTION 282, 286-95 (Edward Newman & Oliver Richmond eds., 2006); Roman Muzalevsky, War in Georgia and Its" Aftermath. Russian National Security and Implications for the West, 5 REV. INT'L L. & POE. 109, 110 (2009). Muzalevsky commented:

   Russia's official position since the end of the hostilities [in the
   1990s] was based on its recognition of Georgia's territorial
   integrity. Russia committed itself to seek an [degrees]agreement
   toward mutually acceptable model of reincarnation in [sic] common
   state, or towards any other status acceptable for the parties to
   conflict and the custodians.' All the UN Security Council
   resolutions and positions of its member states have unambiguously
   adhered to the territorial integrity of Georgia.

Id. at 110.

(146) Self-determination is a right of "all peoples[.]" International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), art. 1,999 U.N.T.S. 171 (Dec. 16, 1966). However, there is no clear definition of a "people" apart from the whole population of a state or territory--a definition that tautologically excludes sub-state regions like South Ossetia. Moreover, self-determination's application has traditionally been restricted to situations of colonial or alien rule. See Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, G.A. Res. 1514 (VX), U.N. Doc. A/RES/I 514(VX) (Dec. 14, 1960); Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion, 2010 I.C.J. 141, [paragraph][paragraph] 78-83 (July 22) ("[I]nternational law of self-determination developed in such a way as to create a fight to independence for the peoples of non-self-governing territories and peoples subject to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation. ..."); 10PPENHEIM'S INTERNATIONAL LAW 15, 712 (Robert Jennings & Arthur Watts eds., 19th ed. 1996) (noting that "the principle has often appeared in practice to be an adjunct of the decolonialisation [sic] process rather than an autonomous principle. ..."). On the doctrine of self-determination and its limited applicability outside the colonial context, see generally HURST HANNUM, AUTONOMY, SOVEREIGNTY, AND SELF-DETERMINATION: THE ACCOMMODATION OF CONFLICTING RIGHTS (1996).

(147) See IAN BROWNL1E, PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW 289-91 (4th ed. 1990) ("Recognition, as a public act of state, is an optional and political act and there is no legal duty in this regard."); K. William Watson, When in the Course of Human Events." Kosovo's Independence and the Law of Secession, 17 TUL. J. INT'L & COMP. L. 267 93 (2008) (discussing the political nature of recognition).

(148) See Convention on the Rights and Duties of States art. 1, Dec. 26, 1933, 165 L.N.T.S. 19 [hereinafter Montevideo Convention] ("The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states."). See also Montevideo Convention, supra, art. 3 ("The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states."). Even so, de facto states are often not recognized; examples include Northern Cyprus, Transdniestria, Somaliland, and of course South Ossetia and Abkhazia until 2008.

(149) States have accused each other of illegal conduct in recognizing breakaway regions. For example, Serbia condemned the recognition of Kosovo's independence by other states as a violation of international law. As we have seen, several states objected to Russia's recognition of Ossetia and Abkhazia. See, e.g., U.N. SCOR, 63d Sess., 5969th mtg., U.N. Doc. S/PV.5969 (Aug. 28, 2008). At that meeting,

   Costa Rica's representative said it was unacceptable that a United
   Nations Member State was being "dismembered" by force. "We cannot,
   and the international community should not, reward this approach,
   which is counter in all aspects to international law." A settlement
   of the situation must include respect for the territorial integrity
   of Georgia, the rights of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
   and the integrity of international law and the principles of
   peaceful coexistence, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

Id. See also Few Countries More Condemn Russian President's Decree, APA NEWS (Aug. 26, 2008, 7:11 PM), (quoting officials from the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany and Ukraine, all criticizing Russia's recognition).

   150 See Reference Re Secession of Quebec [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217
   (Can.). The opinion states: A right to secession only arises under
   the principle of self-determination of people at international law
   where 'a people' is governed as part of a colonial empire; where 'a
   people' is subject to alien subjugation, domination or
   exploitation; and possibly where 'a people' is denied any
   meaningful exercise of its fight to self-determination within the
   state of which it forms a part. In other circumstances, peoples are
   expected to achieve self-determination within the framework of
   their existing state.


(151) Kosovo Advisory Opinion, supra note 146, [paragraph][paragraph] 69, 74 (discussing the background of U.N. interaction in Kosovo and Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence); Timothy William Waters, Misplaced Boldness: The Avoidance of Substance in the International Court of Justice's Kosovo Opinion, 23 DUKE J. COMP. & INT'L L. (forthcoming 2013) (summarizing the conflict and circumstances of the independence declaration); P.D., Reactions to ICJ Kosovo Ruling." To Recognise or Not to Recognise, ECONOMIST (July 29, 2010) 2010/07/reactions_icj_kosovo_ruling.

(152) See U.N. SCOR, 63d Sess., 5830th mtg. at 19, U.N. Doc. S/PV.5839 (Feb. 18, 2008) ("My country's recognition of Kosovo's independence is based upon the specific circumstances in which Kosovo now finds itself. We have not, do not and will not accept the Kosovo example as a precedent for any other conflict or dispute.")

(153) See RONALD D. ASMUS, A LITTLE WAR THAT SHOOK THE WORLD: GEORGIA, RUSSIA, AND THE FUTURE OF THE WEST 87 (2010); Oksana Antonenko, A War with No Winners, 50 SURVIVAL 23, 30ff (2008), available at (describing the effects of Kosovo's independence on the conflict in Georgia); Solveig Righter & Uwe Halbach, A Dangerous Precedent? The Political Implication of Kosovo 'S Independence on Ethnic Conflicts in South-Eastern Europe and the CIS, 20 SECURITY & HUM. RTS. 223 (2009) (discussing Kosovo's influence on the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia); Waters, supra note 151 (critiquing the argument that Kosovo's recognition did not create precedential effects); Kosovo Precedent for 200 Territories, B92 (Jan. 23, 2008), &dd=23&nav_i d=47173 (quoting comments of Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister: "A precedent is objectively created not just for South Ossetia and Abhazia but also for an estimated 200 territories around the world. If someone is allowed to do something, many others will expect similar treatment."); Shatm Walker, The Kosovo Precedent, PROSPECT (Apr. 27, 2008), magazine/the Kosovo precedent ("[I]n recogmsing Kosovo, the west has admitted that there are sometimes circumstances when a country's territorial integrity can be violated without its consent.").

(154) Certainly the Sochi regime was nothing like the 1244 regime in Kosovo, which was a true international governance project rather than just a security arrangement. But this merely shows that Kosovo is a precedent, and the real question is how similar South Ossetia would need to be for that to matter. Cf David Wippmann, Univ. of Minn. Law Sch., Comments at the American Society for International Law Annual Conference, Panel: Creating and Building a "State": International Law and Kosovo (Mar. 26, 2010) (arguing that Kosovo was a precedent, but one with a very high threshold).

(155) See Waters, supra note 151 (discussing the opinion and criticizing its failure to engage with questions of secession and self-determination).

(156) Will Sarkozv Plan Rubber-Stamp Georgia's Loss of Abkhazia, South Ossetia? (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty radio broadcast Aug. 13, 2008), available at _Plan_Georgia_Abkhazia_Ossetia/1190775.html. That commentary stated:

   "Can the Ossetians and the Abkhaz - and do they want to - be a part
   of Georgia?" Medvedev asked. "This question should be put to them
   and they will give their own, unambiguous answer. It is not Russia
   or any other country that should answer this question. This should
   be done in strict compliance with international law, although in
   recent years international law too has abounded with examples of
   self-determination of peoples and the emergence of new states on
   the map. Let's recall the example of Kosovo. So, it is a question
   that needs to be answered by the Ossetians and the Abkhaz, taking
   into consideration history and what has happened in recent days."

Id. See also Hafkin, supra note 59, at 221 ("Russia was among the fiercest objectors to the Kosovo intervention, though nine years after that conflict it proceeded to fight in Ossetia on a somewhat similar rationale."); David J. Smith, The Saakashvili Administration "s Reaction to Russian Policies Before the 2008 War, in THE GUNS OF AUGUST 2008, supra note 12, at 127-32 (discussing the implications of Kosovo's independence for Georgian and Russian policy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

(157) The liquefying potential of Kosovo was recognized long before the province's independence. See, e.g., Lorie Graham, Self-Determination for Indigenous Peoples After Kosovo: Translating Self-Determination "Into Practice" and "'Into Peace ", 6 ILSA J. INT'L & COMP. L. 455, 460 (2000) ("At the very least, the Kosovo experience calls into question any lingering claims by participating States that the fight of self-determination is limited in scope by the theoretical construct of territorial sovereignty. More importantly, it appears to signal a change in the conceptual understanding of self-determination. ...").

(158) Robert Haddick, This Week at War: The Long Death of the Powell Doctrine, FOREIGN POL'Y (Mar. 5, 2010),'fis_week at war the_powell_doctr ine is dead (noting that one element of the strategy is that any "military plan should employ decisive and overwhelming force in order to achieve a rapid result"). There is little evidence that Russia used exotic, prohibited weaponry; it simply used a great deal of the conventional sort.

(159) See LARRY MAY, AGGRESSION AND CRIMES AGAINST PEACE 117-19 (2008) (discussing jus ad bellum and jus in bello proportionality principles, and noting that the former is principally oriented toward measuring whether the losses caused by a war outweigh the gains). On the differences, and overlap, between theater and incident proportionality, see Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ICTY Doc. PR/P.I.S./510-E, 39 I.L.M. 1257 (June 13, 2000), available at http://www.icty. org/sid/10052. That report states:

   [A] determination that inadequate efforts have been made to
   distinguish between military objectives and civilians or civilian
   objects should not necessarily focus exclusively on a specific
   incident. If precautionary measures have worked adequately in a
   very high percentage of cases then the fact they have not worked
   well in a small number of cases does not necessarily mean they are
   generally inadequate.

Id. at [paragraph] 29.

(160) Timothy William Waters, Unexploded Bomb. Voice, Silence, and Consequence at the Hague Tribunals: A Legal and Rhetorical Critique, 35 N.Y.U.J. INT'L L. & POE. 1015 (2003) (discussing findings by the Prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia finding that NATO's Kosovo campaign had not been disproportionate at the tactical or theater level and showing that the Prosecution itself argued that applying proportionality, especially at the theater level, is very difficult).

(161) Oil Platforms (Iran v. U.S.), 2003 I.C.J. 161, [paragraph] 77 (Nov. 6) (preliminary objections) (finding U.S. action disproportionate to original attack); Legality of the Threat, supra note 130, [paragraph][paragraph] 40-44 (discussing proportionality in the context of nuclear weapons); MAY, supra note 159, at 126-29 (discussing a "specific rule whereby self-defence would warrant only measures which are proportional to the armed attack and necessary to respond to it, a rule well established in customary international law"); Mary Ellen O'Connell, Preserving the Peace." The Continuing Ban on War Between States, 38 CAL. W. INT'L L.J. 41, 52-54 (2007) (arguing that a U.S. attack on Iran aimed at stopping its nuclear program or its aid to Hezbollah would violate principles of necessity and proportionality because it would likely not succeed in accomplishing its military objective).

(162) In Armed Activities on the Territory c?[ the Congo, the ICJ rejected Uganda's claim of self defense and found that Uganda had violated Congo's territorial integrity and sovereignty, with sufficient gravity to constitute a violation of Charter Article 2's prohibition on use of force. While not reaching the question directly, it suggested that Uganda's operations inside Congo might have been disproportionate, but these were hundreds of kilometers from the frontier where, Uganda alleged, transborder incursions by irregular forces had occurred, which the court was not satisfied could be attributed to Congo in any case. These facts are difficult in all particulars from the events of August 2008. See Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Dem. Rep. Congo v. Uganda), Judgment, 2005 I.C.J. 168, [paragraph] 146-65 (Dec. 19).

(163) Compare Christopher Greenwood, The Relationship Between Ius ad Bellum and Ius in Bello, 9 REV. INT'L STUD. 221, 223 (1983) ("The traditional assumption that the outbreak of war between two states necessarily involved hostilities ... wherever they might meet ... can no longer be regarded as valid."), with Christopher J. Greenwood, Scope of Application of Humanitarian Law, in THE HANDBOOK OF HUMANITARIAN LAW IN ARMED CONFLICT 51 (Dieter Fleck ed., 1995) ("The area of war comprises[] the territories of the parties to the conflict as defined by the national boundaries. ..."). See generally DINSTEIN, supra note 2, at 20-24 (noting only exceptions based on formal neutralization arrangements because "[i]n principle, all the territories of the belligerent States, anywhere under their sovereign sway, are inside the region of war").

(164) See Press Release, N. Atl. Treaty Org., Invocation of Article 5 Confirmed (Oct. 2, 2001), 1002a.htm.

(165) Cf DINSTEIN, supra note 2, at 237-38 ("Once war is raging, the exercise of self-defense may bring about the destruction of the enemy's army regardless of the condition of proportionality. ... The scale of counterforce used by the victim State in a war of self-defense will be far in excess of the magnitude of the original force employed in an armed attack 'short of war', and the devastation caused by the war will surpass the destructive effects of the initial use of unlawful force.").

(166) We might recall as well another recent war, whose aftermath was tangentially relevant to the recognition crisis following the Georgian War: NATO's Kosovo bombing campaign, which was not limited to the area in which ethnic cleansing was occurring but in fact targeted sites all across Serbia. In that war, NATO did not invoke self-defense, but the rationale of fighting wherever military necessity requires was the same.

(167) The Georgian forces that attacked on August 7th began their operations from bases in Gori, received their supplies from Georgia proper, and were commanded from Tbilisi.

(168) It is interesting to consider if Russia's authorization would have been more limited had Georgia not killed Russian peacekeepers. Logically, the contingency of the harm--a shell landing wide or hitting the mark--shouldn't govern the outcome, but practically, levels of harm serve as at least a rough proxy for seriousness. This means that if Georgia hadn't killed peacekeepers, or hadn't launched a major assault to retake territory but only a small incursion, Russia's claim would have been commensurately weaker. On the actual facts, though, it is doubtful if the loss of life was decisive, because the territorial aspects of Georgia's attack were, by themselves, clearly serious enough. Self-defense may require some tangible acts by the enemy, but a defending state is not required to wait for human losses to repel an invader.

(169) Wood, supra note 55 (quoting Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte as saying "that we deplore today's Russian attacks by strategic bombers and missiles. ... These attacks mark a dangerous and disproportionate escalation of tensions, as they occur across Georgia in regions far from the zone of conflict ill South Ossetia.").

(170) Popjanevski, supra note 44, at 158. Another argument holds that Russia acted wrongly by causing more loss of life than the original alleged harm by Georgia. "'Russia's excessive use of force across the entire territory of Georgia, which resulted in casualties well exceeding the number of deaths during the initial fighting and caused severe material destruction, thus discredits Russia's justification for its intervention." Cf. May, supra note 62, at 321. 327 (arguing that states should decline to intervene if it would result in larger loss of life.) Though morally appealing, this argument makes it hard to explain most accepted exercises of self-defense, including Allied conduct in World War II. Most wars lead to more deaths than their triggering events.

(171) See HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 4, at 26 27. Russia likely violated international law by allowing Ossetian irregulars to loot, rape, and expel Georgians; to the degree such acts constitute etlmic cleansing, this is a serious charge. Under the law of occupation, Russia is responsible for maintaining law and order in the areas its forces control However, even clear violations would not necessarily invalidate the initial resort to force or the decision to strike Georgia proper.

(172) See Self-Defense: Discussion, 81 AM. SOC'Y INT'L L. PROC. 350, 351 (1987) (quoting Oscar Schachter, who said: "Self-defense is a justifiable use of force in response to a prior illegitimate use of force. Hence it would not be possible for each of the two states in conflict to legitimate use [sic] of force in self-defense."). Naturally, each party may believe itself to be acting in self-defense, but the notionally objective standard for determining the status of a conflict does not readily acknowledge parties' subjective views, which would obviously open the doctrine up to self-dealing. See Luisa Vierucci, "Special Agreements" Between Conflicting Parties in the Case-law of the ICTY, in THE LEGACY OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 401,426 (Bert Swart et al. eds., 2011). Vierucci stated:

   [S]ince the conclusion of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 it became
   clear that, under international law, the determination of the
   nature of an armed conflict is based on a de facto standard (i.e.,
   the mere existence of an armed conflict) and not on the intention
   of the parties to make war (animus bellandi). As is well known, the
   de facto standard was adopted in order to evade the political
   manipulations to which the determination of the nature of a
   conflict would be subjected if left to the evaluation of the
   parties to the conflict.

This is true even if the parties themselves agree on how to characterize the conflict. See Prosecutor v. Tadid, Case No. IT-94-1-T, Trial Judgment, [paragraph] 583 (Int'l Crim. Trib. for the Former Yugoslavia May 7, 1997) (agreement between the parties to the conflict in Bosnia "does not in any way affect the independent determination of the nature of that conflict by this Trial Chamber").

(173) Nicholas J. Wheeler, Legitimating Humanitarian Intervention: Principles and Procedures, 2 MELBOURNE J. INT'L L. 550, 554-450 (2001); George Weigel, Just War Tradition and the World After September 11, 51 CATH. U. L. REV. 707 (2002) (discussing criteria of just war theory and when they might be realized and observing "'defense against aggression' has become the primary, even sole, meaning of 'just cause'").


   Drawing on arguments put forward by Augustine, Aquinas, and
   Vitoria, some just war theories argue that war should be waged only
   to correct and/or punish an injustice that has already occurred.
   Others, though, go even further and claim that the prevention of an
   injustice that is about to happen also constitutes a just cause for

Id. Correction and prevention leave little scope for mutual justification.

(175) Cf. Vicken Cheterian, The August 2008 War in Georgia: From Ethnic Conflict to Border Wars, 28 CENT. ASIAN SURV. 155, 156 (2009), available at 768 ("The August 2008 war moved the conflicts in the Caucasus from ethnic conflicts powered by mass nationalist mobilization, to conflicts between centralized state structures around borders and territorial control."). Cheterian writes to another purpose, but the observation about the shift in the conflict's relationship to territory captures the same point.

(176) Text of the Peace Accord, supra note 86. The French original reads: "Dans l'attente d'un mecanisme international. ..." The New York Times provided the English translation. Parentheticals are handwritten additions to the original French document.

(177) Press Release, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supra note 93. Lawov's partisan interpretation is heavily focused on events in the 1990s: He bases Russia's legal claim for acting in 2008 on Georgian violations in light of Sochi. Also, within a few weeks, as we have seen, Russia would no longer reflexively acknowledge Georgia's territorial sovereignty.

(178) The Tagliavini Report tries to do this, applying the existingjus ad bellum to the actions of both Georgia and South Ossetia on the grounds that South Ossetia is a de facto state, but this has been greeted as an unpersuasive misreading of the lex lata. See supra note 11; see also Christian Henderson & James A. Green, The Jus Ad Bellum and Entities Short of Statehood in the Report on the Conflict in Georgia, 59 INT'L & COMP. L.Q. 129 (2010), available at ayFulltext?type=6&fid=7100896&jid=ILQ&volumeld=59&issueld=01 &aid-7100892&bodyld-&me mbershipNumber=&societyETOC Session=& fulltextType RA&fileld=S0020589309990108 (criticizing the report's arguments about use of force variously as "flimsy," "illogical," and "casual and cursory," and criticizing the report's conclusions as desirable lexferenda, not lex lata).

(179) See especially Prosecutor v. Tadic, Case No. IT-94-1-AR72, Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction, [paragraph] 70 (Int'l Crim. Trib. for the Former Yugoslavia Oct. 2, 1995) (confirming the application of significant portions of the law governing international armed conflict to purely internal conflicts and decline of nexus to armed conflict for crimes against humanity). See also CRYER ET AL., supra note 2, at 229-32 (discussing the gradual expansion of the principles applicable in international armed conflicts to internal armed conflicts); HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 4, at 28 ("Customary humanitarian law as it relates to the fundamental principles concerning conduct of hostilities is now recognized as largely the same whether it is applied to an international or a noninternational armed conflict."); STEVEN R. RATNER & JASON S. ABRAMS, ACCOUNTABILITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ATROCITIES IN INTERNATIONAL LAW: BEYOND THE NUREMBERG LEGACY 105-07 (2009) (discussing tensions between doctrinal coverage of crimes in internal and international conflicts).

(180) MAY, supra note 159, at 273-96; OSCAR SOLERA, DEFINING THE CRIME OF AGGRESSION 444-63 (2007); John Langan, The Element of St. Augustine's Just War Theory, 12 J. RELIGIOUS ETHICS 19 (1984). Although it has clear roots in Catholic just war theory (especially the third category of acceptable wars, or liberation of an oppressed people), the locus classicus of modern humanitarian intervention is NATO's 1999 Kosovo war.

(181) The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) developed the principle. ICISS REPORT, supra note 133 (applying the responsibility to protect); G.A. Res. 63/308, U.N. Doc. A/RES/63/308 (Oct. 7, 2009) (deciding to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect); World Summit Final Outcome, G.A. Res. 60/1, [paragraph][paragraph] 138-39, U.N. Doc. A/RES/60/II(Sept. 16, 2005); S.C. Res. 167, [paragraph]4, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1674 (Apr. 28, 2006).

(182) S.C. Res. 1973, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1973 (Mar. 17, 2011) ("Reiterating the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirming that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians. ..."); S.C. Res. 1975, [paragraph] 6, U.N. Doc. S/RES/1975 (Mar. 30, 2011) ("The Security Council [r]ecalls its authorization and stresses its full support given to the [United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire], while impartially implementing its mandate, to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. ..."); see also Jayshree Bajoria, Libya and the Responsibility to Protect, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN REL. (Mar. 24, 2011),

(183) The form of responsibility to protect adopted by the U.N. reiterates the primacy of the Security Council, rather than affirming a pathway for independent action by willing states, as happened in the Kosovo intervention.

(184) Ironically, R2P and all current forms of humanitarian intervention generally are vulnerable to challenge precisely on the grounds that they constitute a form of illegal aggression--a view Russia has advanced. Cf. U.N. SCOR, 54th Sess., 3988th mtg. at 2-3, U.N. Doc. S/PV.3988 (Mar. 24, 1999), available at 6E4FF96FF9%7D/kos%20SPV3988.pdf. At that meeting, Sergei Lavrov spoke on behalf of Russia:

   Attempts to justify the NATO strikes with arguments about
   preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo are completely
   untenable. Not only are these attempts in no way based on the
   Charter or other generally recognized rules of international law,
   but the unilateral use of force will lead precisely to a situation
   with truly devastating humanitarian consequences. Moreover, by the
   terms of the definition of aggression adopted by the General
   Assembly in 1974, "No consideration of whatever nature, whether
   political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a
   justification for aggression".


(185) R2P and humanitarian intervention were not invoked in any significant way during the Georgian War: Georgia and its allies would have had no use for the doctrine (since Georgia never crossed a frontier and its allies could have intervened, had they chosen to, by Georgian invitation), while Russia which in theory could have used it to justify its cross-border intervention--is not particularly partial to the doctrine, given its provenance in the Kosovo conflict. See SECURITY COUNCIL REPORT, UPDATE REPORT NO. 4: PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT 1 (2006), Update%20Report%2013%20January%202006_POC.pdf ("China and Russia, specifically, believe that reference to responsibility to protect by the Security Council is premature. ... Also, the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity have led them to fear that rapid interventions in exercise of the responsibility to protect could occur.").

(186) Cf. Henderson & Green, supra note 178 (criticizing the Tagliavini Report's attempt to assert jus ad bellum rules for internal conflict and arguing that "applying [such] rules to these entities would mean a large conceptual and practical shift in the legal regime of the jus ad bellum. Any such process would need careful consideration; the ramifications could be great. The system as it stands is not able coherently to cope with the applicability of the core provisions of the jus ad bellum to non-State entities").

(187) The tripwire force principally acts to constrain the sovereign, but there is no reason it could not also constrain the separate forces. Indeed, the Sochi model clearly did this, discouraging Georgia from intervening and the separatists from perfecting their claim. As we have seen, Russia, despite its obvious biases, also operated as a constraint on the separatist Ossetians, and Georgia regularly dealt with it in this capacity, whatever its private opinion about the Russian side's sincerity or neutrality.

(188) Henderson & Green, supra note 178, at 137 ("Any such precedent would be extremely damaging to international peace and security. States could forcibly aid any entity that requested help; the scope for the (increased) abuse of the right of self-defence would be huge."),

(189) ICISS REPORT, supra note 133 (referring to levels of harm or violations that might trigger intervention); U.N. Secretary-General, In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All, U.N. Doc. A/59/2005 (Mar. 21, 2005) (referring to intervention triggers); High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, U.N. Doc. A/59/565 (Dec. 2, 2004) (also referring to intervention triggers).

(190) One can object that, in fact, over the past two decades the Sochi regime has tolerated an unacceptably high level of violence, including the numerous incidents that on a cumulative theory of self-defense could justify Georgia's actions in August 2008.

(191) The main R2P models also emphasize preventative work and post-conflict rebuilding. See ICISS REPORT, supra note 133 at 29, 39; World Summit Final Outcome, supra note 181, [paragraph][paragraph] 138-40; Sean Murphy, Criminalizing Humanitarian Intervention, 41 CASE W. RES. J. INT'L L. 341, 353-54 (2009) (discussing the complications arising from the post hoc nature of humanitarian intervention). However, it seems clear that the core of all these models is the justification for military intervention, and on that score, they all adopt a threshold-of-harm approach.

(192) A perfectly functioning mechanism would have provided greater signaling and specific deterrence such that Georgia would not even have undertaken its adventure. The Sochi mechanism also provided no means of moving beyond enforcement of the frozen conflict to a permanent resolution. See Sochi Agreement, supra note 23.

(193) On the frozen conflicts, see Christopher Borgen, Imagining Sovereignty, Managing Secession: The Legal Geography of Eurasia's Frozen Conflicts, 9 OR. REV. INT'L L. 477 (2007) (discussing the conflicts of Transdniestria, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh); Olga Kamenchuk, Complexities of Conflict Prevention and Resolution in the Post-Soviet Space." EU-US-Russian Security Dimensions, 5 EUR. Y.B. MINORITY ISS. 99, 100 (2005-06).

(194) In Abkhazia, the flight and expulsion of ethnic Georgians in the early 1990s greatly complicates claims about what the Abkhazian population desires. The current, majority ethnic Abkhaz population largely favors separation from Georgia, but if the (mostly ethnic Georgian) expellees were included, the result would be very different. In South Ossetia it is possible to define significant territories whose pre-1991 majority ethnic Ossetian populations favor separation, but even here estimates of the existing populations vary considerably. See INT'L CRISIS GRP., SOUTH OSSETIA: THE BURDEN OF RECOGNITION 2-4, 13-14 (2010), 20South%20Ossetia%20-%20The%20Burden%20of%20Recognition.ashx (noting different population estimates and popular sentiment for either integration with Russia or independence). (195) See Brian D. Tittemore, Belligerents in Blue Helmets. Applying International Humanitarian Law to United Nations Peace Operations, 33 STAN. J. INY'L L. 61, 110 (1997) ("Hybrid and controversial rules appear to be emerging in relation to what have been characterized as internationalized armed conflicts, such as where one state becomes involved in an internal conflict in the territory of another state.").

(196) Cf Richard Falk, Christian Resurgence and World Order, BROWN J. WORLD AFF., Winter Spring 2006, at 133 ("[M]odern Christian voices are often either silent or apologetic in the wake of tactics that radically contradict the religiously grounded limitations that just war theory places on the use of force. ... "); Amanda Murdie & David R. Davis, Problematic Potential: The Human Rights Consequences of Peacekeeping Interventions in Civil Wars, 32 HUM. RTS. Q. 49 (2010) (discussing how peacekeeping forces can have both positive and negative effects on human rights in the host country).

(197) I have argued as much. Timothy Waters, What Now for War Trials After Milosevic?, CHRISTIAN SCL MONITOR (Mar. 16, 2006), In the article, I stated:

   Military force--not threats of prosecution--made our belated
   interventions in the Balkans credible. ... [W]ar is still the best
   way to combat war crimes: The energy expended on tribunals might be
   better invested in building consensus on robust, timely
   intervention when crimes are being committed rather than seeking
   punishment afterward.


(198) See Omer Kocaman, Russia's Relations with Georgia Within the Context of the Russian National Interests Towards the South Caucasus in the Post-Soviet Era: 1992-2005, 1 USAK Y.B. INT'L POL. & L. 347 (2008) (discussing threats by Russian leaders to allow South Ossetia to join Russia and to bomb Tbilisi; linking Georgia's decision to sign the Sochi Agreement to those threats). (199) See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties arts. 51-52, May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S.

331. Duress is a bar to the formation of treaty under the Vienna Convention, but there is no reason to

think that the Sochi Agreement would not meet the Convention's standards for validity. Few if any international agreements have been successfully challenged on those grounds.

(200) As we have seen, although Georgia accepted the Soehi regime, it was increasingly dissatisfied with it, and there is no evidence it ever actually liked it.

(201) See Smith, supra note 156, at 125; Allison, supra note 49 (discussing Russia's interests and strategy in the conflict). Russia was also not principally motivated by sympathy for the separatist regions but was more concerned with Georgia's independent policy and moves towards NATO. Smith notes that the South Ossetia issue was not central to Russian policy. Still, despite the problems it suggests, the self-interest aspect of Sochi might also explain why it is a functional model: All intervention models rely on states acting with reference to their own interests--there are no pure interveners--so the fact that here Russia was self-interested merely indicates the circumstances in which we could expect this model to work.

(202) At least, it is one of the better examples. The 1244 regime for Kosovo was considerably more intensive. And indeed, the much thicker nature of the Kosovo intervention was, for some, a reason to distinguish between support for recognizing Kosovo's and South Ossetia's independence. See Hanna Jamar & Mary K. Vigness, Applying Kosovo: Looking to Russia, China, Spain and Beyond After the International Court of Justice Opinion on Unilateral Declarations of Independence, 11 GERMAN L.J. 913 (2010) (differentiating Kosovo as based on unique circumstances); see also David Wippman, Kosovo and the Limits of International Law, 25 FORDHAM INT'L L. J. 129, 129 (2001) (discussing how "[t]he Kosovo campaign pushed at the boundaries of international law").

(203) Tams, supra note 121; Eyal Benvenisti, Rethinking the Divide Between Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello in War[are Against Nonstate Actors, 34 YALE J. 1NT'L L. 541 (2009); Thomas M. Franck, Terrorism and the Right of Self-Defense, 96 AM. J. INT'I_ L. 839 (2001) (discussing the relationship between terrorism and a jus ad bellum principle); Gabor Rona, Interesting Times for International Humanitarian Law: Challenges in the "War on Terror", 27 FLETCHER F. WORLD AFF. 55, 57 (2003) (arguing that terrorists do not control territory and cannot engage in armed conflict); Tittemore, supra note 195 (discussing these matters in relation to U.N. peacekeepers); David S. Weissbrodt, The Role of International Organizations in the Implementation o.1 Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Situations of Armed Conflict, 21 VAND. J. TRANSNAT'L L. 313, 337-38 (1988) (defining an "internationalized" armed conflict as one in which "foreign assistance [is] provided to one side or the other" in an internal armed conflict); see also Final Report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780, U.N. SCOR, 49th Sess., Annex [paragraph] 44, U.N. Doc. S/1994/674 (May 27,1994). That report states:

   The character and complexity of the armed conflicts concerned,
   combined with the web of agreements on humanitarian law that the
   parties have concluded among themselves, justifies the Commission's
   approach in applying the law applicable in international armed
   conflicts to the entirety of the armed conflicts in the territory
   of the former Yugoslavia.


(204) Thanks to Mark Osiel for prompting this line of thought.

(205) The very fact that Georgia's partisans have denied purported comments about military operations being intended to restore the constitutional order (the controversy over Order No. 2, noted above) suggests their discomfort with claiming such a purpose as a plausible basis for committing violence against one's own citizens.

(206) Thanks to Gabriella Blum for this general idea and phrasing, in a personal communication.

Timothy William Waters *

* Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington; Humboldt Experienced Research Fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut fur auslundisches offentliches Recht und Volker-recht, Heidelberg. Thanks to Professors Diane Marie Amann, Gabriella Blum, Mark Drumbl, Rick Fawn, David Fidler, Hurst Hannum, Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, Robert Ivie, Ajay Mehrotra, Christiana Ochoa, Mary Ellen O'Connell, Kerstin Odendahl, Mark Osiel, Steven Ratner, Susan Williams, and Lesley Wexler; Jonathan Kulick, Nadejda Mazur and Alexei Trochev; participants in the Association for the Study of Nationalities' conference at Columbia University, the University of Illinois College of Law's Big Ten Untenured conference, Central European University's doctoral workshop, and the Human Rights section at the Association of American Law Schools annual conference; and two anonymous reviewers for their comments. Thanks also to Laura Coquard-Patry, Laura Heft, Robert Henson, Zoe McCallum, and Huong Nguyen for research assistance, and to Nadejda Mazur for assistance with Russian-language sources. Author publications at
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Title Annotation:II. Not 1968: U.S. Characterizations of the War B. Illegal Occupation and Violation of the Ceasefire through IV. Waiting for a Mechanism (Which We Already Have): Internationalizing Territoriality in Internal Conflicts, with footnotes, p. 200-238
Author:Waters, Timothy William
Publication:Stanford Journal of International Law
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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