The world of international relations can be compared to a market at which sovereign nations (and to some extent international organizations) buy and sell economic and geo-political interests, influence, recognition, aid, ideological beliefs, friendship and culture.
During the bi-polar world of the cold-war between the Capitalists (west) and Socialist (east) blocs, international relations were almost predictable; you either belonged to the west or the east.
Both blocs committed resources and other support to their spheres of influence commitment that directed local politics.
However many times the local politics did not mirror the politics in the influencing power; for example the United States despite its self proclaimed championship of democratic values and the rule of law supported some of the most inhuman and brutal dictatorial kleptocrats.
These include the likes of the late Mobutu, Suharto, Marcos, the apartheid regime in South-Africa, Arab autocrats and the South Korean military dictatorships ; so they could stay in power.
The Soviets and Chinese did not care about the fate of locals in their areas of influence, as long as governments in those areas cooperated with the Kremlin and Peking then.
There are rules that govern international relations; respect for the sovereignty of independent states and their territorial integrity, respect for international conventions and treaties, bilateral and multilateral agreements and protocols including United Nations resolutions.
These have, particularly after the second world war, been observed in the maintenance of world order especially during the cold war era, the most memorable event being the successful solution of the Cuban missile crisis. Here the threat of the possibility of the use of weapons of mass destruction was real, being resolved through diplomacy and not military intervention.
The fact that the stronger militarily have broken these rules with impunity, has been an exception; the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 unseating the government and replaced it with a puppet one led by Najibullah, the Vietnamese had earlier invaded Cambodia toppling the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, the Indonesians invaded East Timor and annexed it after the departure of the Dutch, and Tanzania invaded Uganda toppling Idi Amin in 1979.
The most glaring breach of the respect for the sovereignty of nations was arguably the US invasion of Panama, arresting a sitting president Manuel Antonio Noriega whom they have kept imprisoned in Florida since.
Sadam Hussein’s attempt at annexing Kuwait however back-fired leading to his downfall, prosecution and finally hanging.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia previously the dominant member of the union found itself with reduced economic, military and political power undermining its international influence.
Russians have always seen their country as a super-power of sorts; they denied Napoleon victory by abandoning and burning Moscow during his ‘ Moscow campaign’ and then ambushing his withdrawing troops during the bitter winter reducing his fighting capability by over seven hundred men.
Like London he never occupied Moscow, although embarrassed in the Crimean and subsequent wars as Russians prided themselves in the fact that they greatly contributed to the defeat of the Nazi Germany war machinery.
But they bore the brunt of the Hitler’s strategists all the way to the gate of Berlin costing them over twenty million lives.
During the Soviet times, the USSR with so many nations and nationalities bundled together in the union, China with its claim to Taiwan territory and restive provinces such as Tibet; and India with its troubled Kashmir were always against movements for independence anywhere whether Eritreans or Tamil Tigers.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and independence of erstwhile partner or satellite states Russians wallowed in self pity at their country’s loss of power and influence especially the embarrassing Soviet defeat at the hands of bands of Afghan and foreign Mujahedeen.
The defeat of Russians troops in Chechnya and Ingushetia where Generals were accused of selling their men and weaponry for cash and an economy in shambles.
Bullies many times set their own traps that finally catch up with them; Mobutu by assembling the defeated former Rwandan army and Interahamwe with their command structures intact while training, importing weaponry and holding millions of civilians hostage meters away from the Rwandan border set his own trap.
When the US built an alliance against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan they enjoyed world-wide support after the world trade center bombings after which the Taliban was a cruel organization that denied Afghans particularly women their fundamental rights but the alliance against Iraq did not materialize.
Can a foreign power recognize separatist movements in any part of world?
Say the Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka and bomb government troops out of Jaffna province; ethnic Somali Ogden from Ethiopia, Puntland and Somaliland from Somalia, Cabinda from Angola, Caprivi strip from Namibia, Qazamansi from Senegal , the Basque region from Spain, Tibet from China, Darfur from Sudan or separatist Quebec from Canada? Should Algeria bomb Moroccan troops out of Western Sahara (SAHARAWI) and recognize its independence?
Can one party bomb the other out of the disputed territories and claim independence for it between Nigeria and Cameroon, India and China, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ethiopia and Eritrea or Eritrea and Djibouti? Who will arbitrate future disputes and under whose mandate and moral authority?