At Window on Eurasia, Paul Goble writes about Moscow’s plans to take formal control of the tunnel that runs from Russian territory into South Ossetia, thus effectively annexing a part of Georgian territory:
Because of Russian power and its control of the situation on the ground, Moscow almost certainly will not only get away with this action but will be spared criticism by countries which in their desire to move forward in their relations with the Russian government want to put the Georgia affair behind them.
But Tbilisi has international law on its side. In 1931, in response to the Japanese invasion of China and Tokyo’s establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria, the United States articulated the Stimson Doctrine, which holds that the world must not recognize territorial changes achieved by force alone but insist that any change be by negotiations.
That principle, which was the basis for the US-led non-recognition policy with respect to the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, is the legal foundation of the unwillingness of the entire international community — except for the Russian Federation, Nicaragua and Hamas — to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.