The International Court of Justice's ruling that the Kosovan declaration of independence was 'not illegal under international law' has surely given a big boost to separatist movements the world over. The decision is likely to accelerate the splintering of countries that began with the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. It will lead to new wars of independence, with the death and suffering that invariably accompanies them.
Russia's puppets will, no doubt, use the ICJ decision to buttress their claims to sovereignty, even as Russia paradoxically condemns the loss of Serbia's territorial integrity. I'm sure that champagne corks are popping tonight in Tiraspol, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. Who knows, maybe Smirnov, Kokoite and Bagapsh will also now try their luck at the ICJ?
With respect to the legality of the decision, I'm not an expert. It's just possible that the Court is right, and there is no basis in international law to oppose the declaration of independence. If that's the case, however, then international law is broken and needs to be fixed quickly. National borders need to be established by enforceable treaties and be recognised by all states as inviolable. The alternative is a chaos which will be exploited by aggressive states to their own ends (not mentioning any names of course).
Even more important than the legality of the decision is its morality. The ICJ has just told the entire world that it's OK to run away from your problems rather than deal with them. Don't negotiate, just secede. Don't try to live in peace with your neighbour; instead build a high wall around yourself and pretend he's not there. Don't try to understand and engage people of other ethnicities, races and religions; instead, retreat into a community where everyone is like you.
Don't get me wrong. I was shocked by the evil that was committed by Milosevich's Serbia in the 1990s. I applauded the interventions of NATO to end both the Bosnian war and the Kosovan war, sparing thousands of human lives. But punishing a country whose rulers have gone astray is the sort of thinking that led to the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi Germany. It's far better to pursue reconciliation and rebuilding, with different cultures living side by side in a common state, mutually respecting each others legitimate rights. Not easy by any means, but far better than living a world made up of tiny little bantustans and wallowing in hatred.