Vladimir Putin at a press conference summarizing the G8 meeting in Germany made a very serious statement about the situation in Kosovo. He made it clear that if the Ahtisaari plan goes ahead with a recognition of Kosovo's independence without Serbia's approval, Russia will be ready to use such a precedent to solve the conflicts dimming on the post-Soviet landscape. These conflicts include the breakaway republics in Moldova and Georgia, where Russian peace-keepers are currently stationed to the great disdain of the local authorities but are highly approved of by the breakaway republics. The following is an excerpt from Vladimir Putin's press-conference on June 8th (the translation from Russian has been made by the blog's author):
It is necessary to abide by the current principles of international law, and to not impose one's will on other countries and other nations.
If we all come to a conclusion that in today's international situation the principle of a nation's right for self-determination is more important than the integrity of a country's borders, then we will have to use that principle in all regions of the world, and not where some of our partners like it. Thus, the national self-determination principle will have to be used by the peoples in the post-Soviet region, including smaller nations in the Caucasus, just as it will be used on the post-Yugoslav region.
We do not see any difference between the two situations whatsoever. Both situations have arisen as a result of a dissolution of Communist empires. Both saw an ethnic conflict. Such a conflict has very deep historic roots in both regions. Both regions saw violations of law and even crimes committed on both sides of the conflict. Both regions essentially have independently functioning state-like institutes.
No one can show us a single difference. This means that the applied principles in such situations must be universal.
Such statements although necessary to back the seriousness of the Russian position can backfire very dangerously for Russia itself, which has already fought two wars in the past thirteen years with the self-proclaimed Chechen republics. Despite the large amount of authority that has been brought back to the president in the past eight years away from the governors of Russia's 80+ regions, there are many regions within Russia who have eyed independence for quite some time. Stirring up that issue could be messy.