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The Kosovo Crisis: A Dostoievskian Dialogue on International Law, Statecraft, and Soulcraft

PDF · Robert J. Delahunty & Antonio F. Perez · Jul-11-2012 · 42 VAND. J. TRANSNAT'L L. 15 (2009)

The secession of Kosovo from Serbia in February 2008 represents a stage in the unfolding of a revolution of “constitutional” dimensions in international law that began with NATO’s 1999 intervention in Kosovo.  NATO’s intervention called into question the authority and viability of the UN Charter system for maintaining international peace.  Likewise, the West’s decision in 2008 to support Kosovo’s secession from Serbia dealt another blow to the post-War legal rules and institutions for controlling and mitigating great power rivalry.   Russia’s later support for South Ossetia’s secession from Georgia demonstrated the potential that the Kosovo precedent has for destabilizing the internati

This Article takes the form of a five-act play, consisting of a series of speeches and exchanges between characters drawn from Fyodor Dostoievski’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. The dialogue moves on three levels.  The first level is that of “normal” international law—the characters engage in a prolonged debate over the legality of Kosovo’s secession that explores the usual modalities of international legal argument.  The intention here is to demonstrate that when the internal conceptual resources of international law have been exhausted, they yield no decisive answer to the question of the legality of Kosovo’s secession.  The second level is an attempt to grasp the consequences for the international order of Russia’s re-emergence as a Great Power and (even more basically) of the emergence of a “multi-polar” world.  The third level is an examination of the basic, but usually unstated, philosophical and theological presuppositions of “the Western idea” and “the Russian idea.”  The speeches in this final act of the drama intend to show how these two rival understandings yield corresponding views of the international order and, more particularly, of the proper scope and limits of international law.

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