Washington D.C., January 29 – The international community must apply consistent policies to all territorial conflicts, argues a new report released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
In “Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupations, Protracted Conflicts, and Territorial Disputes,” two experts survey 10 territorial conflicts and how the international community has treated each case. This comprehensive report is co-authored by Dr. Svante Cornell, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council, and Professor Brenda Shaffer, a visiting researcher and adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
The report explores the following disputed territories: Crimea, Donbas, Cyprus, the West Bank, Kashmir, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, and Western Sahara.
Each case study explores the history of the dispute, the policies of the occupying power, and the international reactions to the territorial conflicts. A broad examination of these cases of territorial disputes reveals inconsistent standards and biases among the United Nations, United States, European Union, NGOs, and private corporations.
The case studies not only vary in the territories in question, but also in how the international community treats each dispute. “This study aims to provide decision makers in government as well as in the private sector with the means to recognize double standards,” says its authors. “Such standards not only create confusion and reveal biases, but also constitute a business and legal risk.”
The report explains: “The states that fully acknowledge their presence and take responsibility for the security of the territories and their residents – Israel in the West Bank and Russia in Crimea – have received the harshest condemnations, sanctions, and other penalties. By contrast, those that establish ostensibly independent proxy regimes can occupy other territories with little consequence.”
The authors argue that “current policies may be exacerbating” today’s protracted conflicts. “The decision to apply tougher policies only to one or two countries has emboldened or enabled others to take advantage of this system. Thanks to a recent spate of legal and political challenges, however, there is a growing awareness of these unfair policies and their incongruity,” they write.
The report also outlines how policies towards territorial disputes “have politicized bureaucratic functions such as customs regulations that otherwise might have remained purely technical matters.” Prof. Shaffer and Dr. Cornell review how the policies of the U.S., EU, UN, and corporations have addressed product labeling and loopholes in economic sanctions.
“This report ranks among the most comprehensive and dispassionate studies on comparative territorial disputes,” said FDD President Clifford May. “It synthesizes complex geo-political information into understandable language, helping the government and NGO communities, the media, and others concerned about global conflicts to see these issues more clearly through a myriad of policy lenses that may not have otherwise been apparent.”
The report offers eight policy recommendations that address dimensions of diplomacy, trade, media, and international fora. For example, the authors ask U.S. departments of Treasury, State, and Commerce to “focus on efforts to identify evasion of U.S. sanctions through territories controlled via proxy.” They highlight that through “inconsistent policy with regard to certificates of origin, sanctioned goods are likely reaching U.S. and European markets.” Other policy recommendations also address refugees’ “right of return,” aid policy towards settlements in conflicts zones, and the treatment of proxy regimes.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a Washington, DC-based non-partisan policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Visit our website at www.fdd.org and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.