Is Crimea Kosovo? Fundamental Misunderstandings and Failed Diplomacy Between Russia and the West in the Post-Cold War International System
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The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of the United States as global hegemon, and the endurance of an international system with no seemingly agreed-upon rules. It appears that Russia and the West have fundamentally different understandings of international law and relations and, in most cases, are unable to operate within a middle ground when it comes to conflict. The Russian and American reactions to the Kosovo and Crimea cases underscore this disparity; both sides have accused the other of violating international law, each providing their own justifications, and each side has engaged in inconsistent interpretations of international law. Furthermore, the Russian perspective on international law and relations has largely been missing in Western literature and international dialogue, likely contributing to already existing misunderstandings between Russia and the West. This study makes use of case studies—Crimea and Kosovo—as examples of Russia’s distinct approach to and perspective on international law and relations, and to understand the Russian perspective within the changing dynamics of the twenty-first century. The diverging Russian and Western traditions of and approaches to federalism provide an additional layer of analysis and another way to understand the Kosovo and Crimea cases. The study essentially claims that the answer to the question, “is Crimea Kosovo?” does not matter so much as understanding why each side thinks the way it does, in an attempt to identify areas of misunderstanding between Russia and the West and to hopefully uncover areas of future cooperation as well.