National Interests (19 September 2021)
By Taras Kuzio
Two restless powers in Eurasia—Russia and Armenia—are united by their inability to accept that their “imagined communities” are coterminous with their former Soviet republics.
For most of the post-war era, the principle of the territorial integrity of states was sacrosanct. In the 1950s and 1960s, the United Nations’ (UN) definition of the right to self-determination was only applied to colonies of European empires. Separatist drives were only successful in two cases: Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 and Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1991. Irredentism surfaced in the mid-1970s when Morocco invaded Western Sahara, and Indonesia invaded East Timor.
In the post-Cold War era, the Russian Federation threatened the principle of the territorial integrity of states when it manufactured frozen conflicts in Moldova’s Transnistria, Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Ukraine’s Crimea. These territories do not fall under the UN definition of the right to self-determination because they are part of existing states. Separatist drives, such as Biafra from Nigeria in 1967 to 1970, have never been supported by the United Nations.
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