Chicago Journal of International Law


I will use one topic area-arguments over self-determination-and two cases-Kosovo and South Ossetia-to explore this relationship between the language of law and the practice of politics. This Article begins by briefly setting the background of the Kosovar and South Ossetian conflicts. Section III is a quick primer on the evolution of the concept of self-determination and its at-times difficult coexistence with the concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Section IV turns to the analysis of how legal argumentation was used by Russia, the US, and the EU in the cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia. Although I note the relative strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, I am less interested in who was right or wrong as opposed to what strategy was used (if any) in deploying the language of international law. I am especially interested in how Russia, in particular, has used the language of international law as a tool of public diplomacy in an attempt to spin the perceptions or "control the narratives" related to both Kosovo and South Ossetia. Finally, Section V considers how the rhetorical use of international legal argumentation goes beyond managing perceptions and can actually affect the evolution of the substance of international law.