New York Times: phantom states should be offered path toward legitimacy

PanARMENIAN.Net – Daniel Byman and Charles King touch on the issue of ‘phantom states’ in an article titled “The Phantom Menace” published by The New York Times.

The 2008 war demonstrated the explosive potential created by the presence of phantom states: places that field military forces, hold elections, build local economies and educate children, yet inhabit the foggy netherworld between de facto existence and international legitimacy, the article says.

Phantom states stoke wars, foster crime, and make weak states even weaker. Nagorno Karabakh is lauded by Armenia and loathed by Azerbaijan, leading all sides to stockpile arms in case of renewed violence. The unsettled status of Northern Cyprus weakens the economic prospects of all Cypriots and strains relations between the European Union and Turkey, Northern Cyprus’s chief supporter. And although Somaliland has been an island of effective governance in anarchic Somalia, its unrecognized status has discouraged aid and investment, it goes on.

Leaders of phantom states champion the right to national self-determination while the countries from which they seek independence stress the need for stable borders. Stuck between these incompatible principles, phantom governments tend to point out uncomfortable precedents and double standards and latch on to foreign patrons. Indeed, most phantoms survive in part because of external support, it says.

If phantom governments behave well, they should be offered a path toward legitimacy by the world’s major powers. Economic and political reforms can proceed parallel to, and even bolster, discussions over sovereignty, the authors believe.