De facto states are conventionally perceived as illegal entities, usually ignored by the rest of the world and therefore also isolated and severely sanctioned in most cases. We investigate US foreign-policy engagement with Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, and Transnistria and explore when, why, and how interactions between the United States and “places that do not exist” has taken place. This is done by extensively using WikiLeaks diplomatic cables from 2003– to 2010 as a primary information source. We assume that by engaging and not recognizing, the US has sought to increase its leverage and footprint in conflicts that somehow affect its national interests. This engagement approach is presumably most successful when targeted adversaries turn out to be agents of peace and stability, or when strategic calculus outweighs the rationale for the conventional treatment of sovereign anomalies. Introduction The 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (hereafter NSS) defines engagement as “the active participation of the United States in relationships beyond our borders” (White House 2010, 11). Engagement with “the closest friends and allies,” “new and successful partners,” and “adversarial governments,” as stipulated in the NSS, has in fact always rested on a strategic mode of action, in which the building of interactions was instrumental in affecting changes in the target state (Lynch 2002). In this way, engagement was seen as a foreign-policy strategy of establishing contacts and building close ties with the government/civil society of the target state (Smith 2005). According to Henrikson (2013, 266), engagement is now “the dominant motif of US foreign policy.” Engagement may have great potential as a tool for modifying the behavior of regimes with which the United States has significant disagreements (Haass and O’Sullivan 2000). The intention behind engagement has been to undermine illiberal practices and promote change, while interactions with despicable regimes or activities under unusual legal and political circumstances remain unhindered (Smith 2005). Rather than the threat of punishment, engagement has relied on the promise of rewards to influence the target’s behavior (Schweller 2005). Its toolbox contains both economic (trade, aid, and credits) and political (implied recognition and membership) incentives; it may open up official channels of communication or remain merely at the people-to-people contact level. Overall, the widespread opinion is that engagement provides alternatives to punitive policies. This study takes advantage of the public dissemination of US diplomatic cables via WikiLeaks to investigate US foreign-policy engagement with a specific subset of “adversarial governments,” which are sovereign anomalies that we term de facto states (see Pegg 1998, chapter 2, for a detailed definition). We use this term to describe secessionist entities with contested sovereignties that control territory and provide governance over an extended period of time. They are typically seen as “pariahs, excluded from the mainstream channels of international diplomacy, existing in conditions beyond the pale of normal international intercourse” (Bartmann 2004, 12). Specifically, in this study we investigate US foreign-policy engagement with the five de facto states of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Somaliland, Transnistria, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and see how far engagement with adversarial “places that do not exist” may go—i.e., a sort of “normalization” (Berg and Toomla 2009), yet without becoming normal diplomatic practice and violating widely recognized codes of conduct. In terms of case selection, we have left out Kosovo and Taiwan as “borderline cases” (see Caspersen 2012, 10–12). The US recognition of Kosovo as well as the Taiwan Relations Act (1979) affords them comparably much higher status than any of our other cases. South Ossetia has been excluded because it is occupied by the Russian military and has never seriously been considered as a place to be engaged by the United States (see Cooley and Mitchell 2010). US engagement with de facto states is perhaps surprising given that the international community has provided strong diplomatic, military, and financial support to existing sovereign states since at least 1945. The principle of self-determination has been subjected to an extremely narrow interpretation, with the dominant emphasis instead placed on maintaining respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of widely recognized states even if such states have largely ceased to exist empirically (Jackson and Rosberg 1982). Thus, parent states argue that these “entities are illegal…they are based on ethnic cleansing and their leaderships lack any popular legitimacy” (Caspersen 2012, 41), with the result that “engagement remains in most cases tentative and restricted” (Geldenhuys 2009, 47). In contrast, our empirical investigation of the WikiLeaks cables demonstrates sustained and consistent US engagement with some de facto states and at least occasional engagement with others. To pursue engagement with adversaries often means testing their intentions, providing them the opportunity to change course, reaching out to their people, and mobilizing international coalitions. Following Paquin (2010), we even go further and assume that the driving force behind the US engagement with de facto states has largely been strategic calculus. It is by far and large the same leitmotif that has driven Great Powers in their inconsistent and opportunistic recognition approach toward sovereignty aspirants (see, e.g., Coggins 2014). By engagement, the United States has sought to increase its leverage and footprint in conflicts that affect its national interests. The rest of the study proceeds in the following manner. First, it provides background information on the WikiLeaks cables that comprise our data set, how they were coded, and which ones we particularly focus on in this study. The next three sections comprise the empirical part of the study and attempt to conceptualize foreign-policy engagement in unusual settings. More specifically, they address three interrelated puzzles that collectively explain US engagement with de facto states: a) how can the United States accommodate parent states’ concerns that tend to view any form of engagement as a creeping legitimation of secessionist entities? b) when is the right moment for the United States to engage de facto states that are conventionally perceived as illegal entities and are therefore often isolated and sanctioned? and c) why and how does the United States engage de facto states that are usually under occupation or immense domination by their patron-state supporters? A conclusion summarizes the theoretical and empirical findings of the study. Insights into the Diplomatic Correspondence Although de facto states are not “informational black holes,” it still remains difficult to find good empirical data on these entities for a variety of reasons, including remote locations, secretive regimes, and a lack of coverage by most international and non-governmental organizations. While using WikiLeaks cables as an information source may seem questionable since Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, a US Army soldier who leaked these restricted documents to the public, was convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses and sentenced to 35 years in prison, this documentation is now in the public domain and easily accessible to all interested parties. Diplomatic cables represent a wonderful source to uncover the general mood and tone of the US–de facto state relationship. We often see diplomatic conveyance and expression of appreciation, concern, or support equally standing next to third-party coordination practices. Whereas this kind of exchange ranges from face-to-face meetings to the reporting of the local media coverage, we find diplomatic recommendations, guidelines, and instructions to the State Department of particular importance for our study. In total, our data set comprises 544 leaked US diplomatic cables with a date range from February 27, 2003, to February 24, 2010. Following Pegg and Berg (forthcoming), we generated our data set using the cables.mrkva.eu browser. Our data set comprises the population of cables that have one of our case studies’ names in the title of the cable (in the case of the TRNC, we additionally searched “Northern Cyprus,” “North Cyprus,” “Turkish Cypriot,” and “Turkish Cypriots,” as US diplomats frequently use these terms as well). In total, we ended up with 174 cables for Abkhazia, 53 cables for NKR, 93 cables for Somaliland, 96 cables for Transnistria, and 128 cables for the TRNC. Searching for these terms on the “official” WikiLeaks Website (http://www.cablegatesearch.net) where the browser searches the entire contents of the cables will produce dramatically higher figures. As examples, our 174 Abkhazia cables compare to 1,878 cables and our 96 Transnistria cables compare to 591 cables generated via the cablegatesearch.net browser. Yet, we believe that our data set is justified because the vast majority of “missed” cables are of only peripheral or tangential relevance. Cables like a “missed” Somaliland cable noting that a deaf school has opened on the grounds of the Girls’ Orphanage in Djibouti City, which employs teachers who were trained in Somaliland (Djibouti 2004-10-04), are not really those we wanted to target. By limiting our search to cables that include one of these entities in their title, we believe we have captured the overwhelming majority of relevant cables. We coded 14 different variables (see Appendix A) across all 544 cables. US Action, the main variable of interest in this study, represents the US actions proposed or described in the WikiLeaks cables and is coded as hostile, supportive, or neutral to distinguish how the United States engages these entities. Inter-coder reliability was relatively high for US Action (0.89), and the average inter-coder reliability across all 14 variables was 0.94. Reflecting the generally informative nature of most diplomatic cables, the overwhelming majority of the WikiLeaks cables for all five of our de facto state case studies can best be described as neutral, with neutral defined as merely presenting information or restating long-held US positions. The percentage of WikiLeaks cables where the United States can be characterized as neutral range from a low of 71 percent in Somaliland to a high of 86.8 percent in NKR, with Abkhazia (73.6 percent), Transnistria (77.1 percent), and the TRNC (80.5 percent) more toward the center of this continuum (see Fig. 1). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide US positioning toward de facto states Figure 1. View largeDownload slide US positioning toward de facto states Paquin’s (2010) study of US foreign policy toward secessionist conflicts defines support quite narrowly as just diplomatic recognition. Paquin (2010, 8) justifies this by arguing that “there is a major difference between granting diplomatic recognition and demonstrating solidarity through material and political means.” Coggins (2014, 12) similarly uses “formal recognition, an executive-level decree of sovereignty, unambiguous evidence that an existing system member accepts a new peer” as her dependent variable. We agree with the distinction both authors make between diplomatic recognition and everything else in the context of their studies but do not employ that distinction here. All of the entities examined remain unrecognized by the United States, so defining support in terms of recognition would falsely indicate no US support whatsoever. Instead, we define continued expressions of existing US policy in terms of non-recognition as neutral. Our supportive cables thus comprise all forms of support that fall short of formal diplomatic recognition. It is important to note that engagement is not conceived in solely positive, supportive, or accommodative terms. The NSS (White House 2010, 11) explicitly warns adversarial governments that choose not to abide by international norms that they will have to “bear the consequences of that decision, including greater isolation.” Henrikson (2013, 276) similarly emphasizes that “diplomatic engagement does not automatically entail political agreement or compromise,” while Kupchan (2010, 123) argues that “offers of accommodation may need to be balanced with threats of confrontation.” The ratio of hostile to supportive cables across our five case studies varies dramatically. Abkhazia has 27 hostile cables and just two supportive cables. NKR (5:1 ratio) and Transnistria (3:1 ratio) also feature much higher numbers of hostile cables than supportive cables. Somaliland, in contrast, has an almost even balance of hostile (13) versus supportive (14) cables, while the TRNC surprisingly has 22 supportive cables versus only three hostile cables. While fully acknowledging that engagement does not necessarily equal support, we do not find US hostility toward de facto states particularly interesting or noteworthy. It is no surprise that the United States (or any other sovereign state) is hostile to unrecognized secessionist entities. These entities are typically seen as unwelcome would-be entrants into an exclusive club of sovereign states that does not want to admit them. Furthermore, previous work by Pegg and Berg (forthcoming) has already examined positive, negative, and neutral cables as a collective whole and does not need to be repeated. Instead, we focus on the 44 supportive cables (8.1 percent of all 544 cables, with two for Abkhazia, one for Nagorno-Karabakh, 14 for Somaliland, five for Transnistria, and 22 for the TRNC) where the United States recommends or actually takes supportive action vis-à-vis a de facto state because this is what should be unexpected or unusual. Making Sense of Engagement: How to Accommodate Parent-State Concerns One important consideration for the United States to consider before engaging a de facto state at all, let alone in a supportive way, is the potential reaction of the parent state (the recognized sovereign state the de facto state is trying to secede from). There is significant variation across our five cases in terms of how willing parent states are to countenance engagement with de facto states on their sovereign territory. Greek Cypriots have to a large extent succeeded in isolating their northern counterpart internationally: TRNC exports to the EU are banned by a 1994 European Court of Justice ruling; there are no direct flights (except via Turkey); and regular mail has to be sent to the address “Mersin 10, Turkey.” Cyprus has usually relied on UN Security Council resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984), which view the TRNC as an illegal entity and urge other states not to recognize it. In the official view, attribution of any kind of validity to any law, court, or other organ of the TRNC must be avoided to safeguard the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus (see also Ker-Lindsay 2012). One reflection of this in the US WikiLeaks cables is that all mentions of the TRNC, its institutions, or its officials are always put in quotation marks (“President” Talat or “central bank”). Moreover, since 2004, when Cyprus acceded to the European Union (EU), it has become a veto player in determining the very nature and size of any foreign aid directed to the TRNC by the EU. Fabrizio Barbaso, the Commission’s acting Director General for Enlargement, noted that out of three sets of measures proposed by the Commission, only the “Green Line Regulation” permitting intra-island trade across the Green Line was adopted by the Council. The other two instruments, one for 259m Euros of assistance that would be spent directly in the north, and one for approval of procedures that would allow for direct trade between the rest of the EU and the north, were blocked in the Council by the Greek Cypriots (Brussels 2004-07-30). In the view of Greek Cypriots, the aid package should have focused only on economic development and not involved local “authorities.” They insisted that projects should be consulted with or even approved by them to ensure “island-wide planning” and rejected the idea that Turkish Cypriot enterprises could be eligible to apply for tenders. For Nicosia, it was easy to argue that direct trade from the north to the rest of the EU, rather than via the south, would promote continued division of the island (Brussels 2004-07-30), and they therefore insisted that the Commission not “sign” any documents that would have provided any kind of implicit recognition to North Cyprus (Brussels 2004-09-09). With Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria, there are no specific UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting recognition, but there is a high degree of international condemnation of secession. Perhaps the toughest position is advocated by Azerbaijan, which denies entry visas to all those who have visited NKR. The Azerbaijani side has tried to isolate this de facto state and lobby for international statements of support for its own territorial integrity, while also building up its armed forces in an implicit threat that it reserves the right to use military force to re-conquer the territory if necessary (De Waal 2010, 160). Four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884—all from 1993) have called for the withdrawal of local Armenian forces from the parts of Azerbaijan proper they occupy (Kelbajar, Agdam, and Zangilan districts) but not from the Armenian populated NKR. Azerbaijan has been loath to endorse any international effort to promote the development of Karabakh and regards any international engagement with Nagorno-Karabakh as a further challenge to its territorial integrity. One cable notes that “A looming obstacle to any of the expanded engagement we are advocating will be hostility from the ruling regimes. The fact that Aliyev considers NK’s and Armenia’s isolation a strategic point of leverage will prove particularly problematic” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). Baku fears that any type of engagement with Nagorno-Karabakh potentially helps the de facto state’s ability to build institutional capacity, which then might be exploited to further back its claim for independence (Smolnik 2013). Thus, even existing international humanitarian assistance comes under regular sharp criticism (Yerevan 2009-11-02). In light of the August 2008 war, Georgia has elaborated its own policy toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is torn between elements of isolation and engagement. This policy rests on the Law on Occupied Territories (2009), the Strategy on Occupied Territories: Engagement through Cooperation (2010), the Action Plan for Engagement on the Implementation of the Strategy (2010), and the Modalities for Conducting Activities in the Occupied Territories (2010). On the one hand, these documents acknowledge that engagement with these two entities is an inevitable component of conflict resolution and the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. On the other hand, they reflect concerns that engagement by international state and non-state actors could lead to “creeping recognition” (Fischer 2010). Even in Georgia, where this fundamental dilemma between isolation and engagement has made operating in the secessionist regions more complicated by imposing limitations on the activities of third parties, things are changing. Somewhat surprisingly, the Georgian government has encouraged the United States to get more actively involved in Abkhazia. For example, in a letter to the US ambassador, Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili explained, “our policy towards the population on the occupied territories will be proactive with the special emphasis to establish and to reinforce ties between returning and receiving communities” (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). Although essentially permissive, the promoted engagement remained very restrictive with regard to the activities of international organizations and NGOs in the entities. It kept the wording (occupied territories) and refused to interact directly with the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali or Sukhumi (Fischer 2010). The United States is clearly cognizant of the sensitivities involved here. The US ambassador to Georgia notes in one cable that while “U.S. long-term goals are better served with an active presence in Abkhazia…. The devil really is in the details: choosing the right programs and getting them started without crossing political redlines on both sides will be at least as difficult as achieving the programs’ objectives” (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). In contrast, Moldova is more accepting of allowing links between Transnistria (TMR) and the outside world. When the US ambassador asked whether Chisinau would welcome a US initiative to meet with TMR President Igor Smirnov, it received a reply from Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan demonstrating full confidence that any such initiative undertaken by the US ambassador would be to the benefit of Moldova (Chisinau 2008-04-09). One may speculate that this official response to the US ambassador reflects indifference to Transnistria. Popescu and Litra (2012) have observed various opinion polls where the unresolved Transnistrian conflict ranks as the ninth or tenth priority for the population of Moldova proper. This stands in striking contrast to the much higher preoccupation with frozen conflicts in other post-Soviet countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Moldovan approach to Transnistria seems to be driven by cost-benefit analysis rather than the invocation of sacrosanct norms and principles of international law on sovereignty and territorial integrity as pursued by other parent states. The alternatives to a clear-cut engagement policy, such as setting up a hard boundary with Transnistria and/or denying Transnistrian enterprises access to external markets, are not in line with the current reintegration mood in Chisinau, as these would entrench the separation between the parent state and the de facto state and leave little room for maneuver (Cristescu and Matveev 2011). Somaliland is unique among our de facto state cases in that throughout the entire time we have WikiLeaks cable available to analyze, it has effectively not had a functioning or viable parent state whose concerns about engagement the United States could potentially take into account. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that there is only one Somaliland WikiLeaks cable that features any contact with a representative of the Mogadishu government (Addis Ababa 2007-07-13). This situation has started to change with the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as Somalia’s president in September 2012. Somalia and Somaliland officials have now held a series of talks (including at the presidential level) from 2012 to 2015, with Turkey having assumed a leading mediation role in the talks. Yet, in spite of the enduring uncertainty and a missing partner in the rump state of Somalia, Somaliland has been told to negotiate its sovereignty with Mogadishu since 1991. From the perspective of the Somaliland authorities, their previous union with the former Italian Somaliland is now long dead and will not be resuscitated. They have reclaimed the independence granted to them by the departing British colonial power on July 26, 1960 (five days before Italy granted independence to Mogadishu), and reaffirmed it overwhelmingly in a 2001 referendum. In their view, whatever government exists in Mogadishu has no legitimacy in terms of ruling their land. It is clear from our analysis of the WikiLeaks cables that the United States is cognizant of parent-state concerns and takes them into consideration at some level. Yet, it does not seem that parent-state sensitivities are the primary driver of US engagement decisions with de facto states. If parent-state concerns were the deciding factor in US engagement decisions, we would expect to see the most US engagement with Transnistria (supportive parent state) and Somaliland (no viable parent state to object), the least US engagement with Nagorno-Karabakh and the TRNC (active and consistent parent state objections), and Abkhazia (somewhat nuanced parent-state objections) somewhere in the middle. In contrast, if strategic considerations or the preferences of great power patron states (Russia in the case of Abkhazia, Turkey for the TRNC, etc.) were the driving factor in US decision-making, we would expect to see the most engagement with the TRNC (Turkey is a US ally) and Somaliland (no patron state, but Ethiopia is a US ally), the least engagement with Abkhazia and Transnistria (both supported by Russia), and Nagorno-Karabakh (supported by Armenia) somewhere in between. Our findings that the TRNC and Somaliland are the most engaged, Abkhazia and NKR the least engaged, and Transnistria slightly more engaged than either of its post-Soviet de facto state counterparts lend closer support to the strategic/great power interpretation than they do to the parent-state sensitivities interpretation. Exploring the Right Moment for Engagement The term “engagement” is closely identified in the US context with the Obama Administration. According to Henrikson (2013, 274), engagement “has become almost the name of Obama administration foreign policy.” Kupchan (2010, 120) similarly argues that President Obama is “making engagement with U.S. adversaries one of the new administration’s priorities.” Thus, an empirical hypothesis that we can test with the WikiLeaks cable is that as engagement is so closely identified with the Obama Administration that we should see a marked increase in engagement with de facto states starting in 2009. Our data set of cables from 2003 to 2010 is not perfectly suited to test this, as the bulk of the cables are from George W. Bush’s second term in office, with only the first year or so of the Obama Administration covered. Yet, we have enough evidence to reject this hypothesis. Rather than finding US foreign-policy engagement with de facto states as being Bush versus Obama driven, we instead find that it is largely event driven. The WikiLeaks cables clearly demonstrate that major shifts in the US foreign-policy approach toward de facto states usually occur in relation to important events. The three clearest examples of this are the Turkish Cypriots voting to approve the UN-sponsored peace process in Cyprus (2004), the Russo-Georgian war (2008), and Somaliland’s presidential election crisis (2008–2010). The fact that Turkish Cypriots, in contrast to Greek Cypriots, said yes to the Annan Peace Plan signified to the United States and other European powers that they deserved to be rewarded with a de-isolation outlook that was expressed most explicitly from 2005 to 2007. In order to counterbalance the increasing Russian influence in the South Caucasus, the US government brought Abkhazia more into focus in 2009. Somaliland saw positive support combined with various forms of threats and pressure in 2007–2009 to its more systematic state-building and ultimately successful but seemingly greatly threatened democratization endeavors. Even Transnistria, which is, in many ways, well engaged with the rest of the world, was noticed only in the context of a 2007 drought in Moldova. Ambassador Michael Kirby noted in his diplomatic file that a request to assist TMR authorities was “unusual and significant” but offered an unprecedented opportunity to build popular support and to improve prospects for further work in Transnistria (Chisinau 2007-11-26). Other factors explaining shifts in attitudes and the prevalence of a positive engagement mood had to do with a sober acknowledgment that previous isolation has not proven a fruitful strategy (Tbilisi 2009-09-08; Nicosia 2005-11-15; Nicosia 2005-12-28; Istanbul 2008-03-13) or that parent states either do not exist (Nairobi 2009-02-25; Nairobi 2009-06-11; Addis Ababa 2010-02-04) or actively support engagement (Chisinau 2007-10-25; Chisinau 2008-04-09) or had devised their own engagement strategy (Tbilisi 2009-09-08) to be deployed alongside US efforts. The previous lack of engagement was seen as reinforcing the existing siege mentality, empowering radicalism, and throwing de facto states into the arms of external patrons (Caspersen and Herrberg 2010). What follows is a closer look at various cases where we try to capture the right moment for US engagement. Here, the specifics of events in time scale and the people who were behind the decisions are important. When Relative Peace and Stability Are Inviting The US diplomatic cables paint a very positive picture of Somaliland, which has been successful in preventing pirates from running operations from its territory and in preventing the designated Foreign Terrorist Organization al-Shabaab from gaining a foothold in the region (Nairobi 2009-02-25). We also learn that Djibouti heavily relies on Somaliland as a buffer to the instability and violence that characterizes much of the rest of Somalia, and that Ethiopia also maintains strong relations with Somaliland to address security concerns and to maintain access to the port of Berbera on Somaliland’s northern coast. Hence, the goal of the United States should be to support and cooperate with northern Somalia’s governments (Somaliland and Puntland) to disrupt extremists’ movements and prevent northern Somalia from becoming another terrorist safe haven (Nairobi 2009-02-25). Diplomatic posts also draw deep contrasts between Somaliland, which has been an island of peace and relatively stable self-governance, and the rest of Somalia, which has lurched through wave after wave of civil war and intra-clan fighting (Nairobi 2005-09-02). The US ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, sees a Washington visit by President Riyale as an important opportunity to consolidate relations with a pro-Western regime in the Horn of Africa that not only seeks greater international engagement, but also views itself as committed to democracy, counterterrorism, and combating radical Salafism (Addis Ababa 2007-01-09). Not surprisingly, he recommends “enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation with Somaliand authorities” (Addis Ababa 2007-05-08). One specific example of security cooperation revealed by our cables is the US Federal Bureau of Investigation opening a “foreign assistance case” to help the Somaliland authorities investigate evidence recovered from a terrorist bombing in Hargeisa, with the US embassy in Djibouti serving as a conduit for any materials recovered (Djibouti 2008-10-31). The following year, Washington receives a message from Michael Ranneberger, the US ambassador in Kenya, suggesting an expansion of activities in Somaliland because the “time is ripe” and relative peace and stability in the country are inviting (Nairobi 2009-02-25). Ambassador Ranneberger specifically argues that “We must increase our counter-terror and law enforcement assistance and cooperation to the north to assist them and improve Somali-U.S. cooperation combating terror and piracy” and notes that “Both Somaliland and Puntland have mounted successful counter-piracy interdictions; with additional support they could do more” (Nairobi 2009-02-25). Rewarding the Peace-Building Party The attitude of the international community toward the Turkish Cypriots changed immediately after the referenda on the Annan Peace Plan, which was rejected by 76 percent of Greek Cypriot voters. After this reintegration failure, a clear tendency among EU, UN, and US leaders materialized to reward the Turkish Cypriots by easing the international embargo (Brussels 2004-07-30; Brussels 2004-09-09; Ankara 2005-10-20; Nicosia 2005-11-15; Nicosia 2006-07-14). The Prime Minister of Northern Cyprus was received by the European Commission and the US Secretary of State, an EU office opened its premises in the TRNC, and the United States considered a diplomatic upgrade of their liaison office in North Nicosia (Asmussen 2004; for more on EU engagement, see Kyris 2015). The WikiLeaks cables reveal the US ambassador to Cyprus meeting with TRNC President Talat at least five times in 13 months (2008-09-17; 2009-05-07; 2009-07-17; 2009-07-20; 2009-10-29, all Nicosia) and meeting with TRNC Prime Ministers at least four times during a similar 13-month period (2008-11-25; 2009-06-17; 2009-07-20; 2009-12-04, all Nicosia). While recognition was ruled out, many world leaders thought that it was time to begin undoing the previous emphasis on isolating and embargoing the Turkish Cypriots. Frustration expressed by Turkish government officials about the slow pace of progress did not remain unnoticed by US diplomats, who pointed out that “the largely secular community in the north offers an opportunity to reinforce support for moderate Muslims” (Nicosia 2007-09-13) and advised Washington to demonstrate concrete progress toward ending Turkish Cypriot isolation, even if it was not as rapid as the Turks would like (see also Nicosia 2005-11-15 and Istanbul 2008-03-13). For instance, the US Ambassador to Cyprus, Ronald Schlicher, explained the need for Turkish Cypriot engagement as follows: “To counter the loss of pro-solution beat, we must continue to preach a message of tough love to the Turkish Cypriots—supporting their economic development and working to end their isolation, but making it clear that our help and engagement is dependent upon a demonstrable commitment to economic reform, flexibility on the UN track, and an ongoing agenda of reunification” (Nicosia 2006-08-09). Although US efforts included only the $30.5 million Cyprus Partnership for Economic Growth (CyPEG) program, the elimination of ratios that disadvantaged Turkish Cypriot students in US-funded scholarships, and expanded visa validity for holders of TRNC travel documents (Cook and Sherwood-Randall 2006), there was still a widely shared hope among the Turks that if the United States provided symbolic leadership this would encourage others to follow suit and engage the Turkish Cypriots as well (Ankara 2004-09-14). Offering an Alternative to Russian Domination Shifts in the political mosaic of the South Caucasus after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, the new administration in the White House, and the initiation of the “reset” in relations with Russia established the need for American foreign policy to pursue new approaches in the region. Eventually, the Obama Administration had to pursue an uneasy policy: while encouraging the “re-engagement” of Georgia’s secessionist entities in the long run (Charap and Welt 2010), it wanted to decrease the role of the conflict as a main obstacle to cooperation with Moscow on other key issues (Suchkov 2011). The first publicly articulated regional priorities for the Obama Administration became available in June 2009, when Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon toured the region. A few months later, a delegation of State Department and Embassy officials made its first visit to Abkhazia in more than two years (Tbilisi 2009-11-09). Hillary Clinton became the first top-ranking American politician who publicly called the Russian presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia an “occupation” during her tour of the region in July 2010. Clinton advocated a political recipe for Georgia vis-à-vis Tskhinvali and Sukhumi. In order to re-engage the two breakaway republics, Georgia needed to set a positive example by focusing on internal development, fostering democracy, and promoting economic growth (Suchkov 2011). Around this time, Mitchell and Cooley (2010, 26) argued that “any strategy that does nothing with Abkhazia itself in the short term will only increase Russia’s links with Abkhazia and control over its territory. Though patience towards Abkhazia makes sense, it would be a serious mistake to isolate this breakaway region; now is the time for the Western community to consider increasing its political engagement with Abkhazia.” This would encourage the de facto authorities to keep looking to the international community and avoid putting all their eggs in the Russian basket. Similar observations were also made in US diplomatic circles. US ambassador to Georgia John Tefft reported to Washington that Abkhazia’s relationship with Russia had grown more complicated, with a significant proportion of the population, including among the leadership, having concerns about the extent of Russian influence. He then concluded that the longer the United States remains out of Abkhazia, the harder it will be to re-establish trust and cooperative relationships, and the more dependent the region will become on Russia. Finally, he recommended that the US government develop its own strategy because “One year after the US ceased nearly all aid to the breakaway regions in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia war, the time is right to re-engage with Abkhazia” (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). This was further justified because both the Georgian government and the Abkhaz de facto authorities supported engagement (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). In contrast, the United States was less active in Nagorno-Karabakh than it was in Abkhazia. Indeed, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict appears no closer to any resolution than when Obama took office in January 2009 (Ambrosio 2011). US embassy official Joseph Pennington concludes in his report that “the Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR) societies are in no mood at present to swallow the tough compromises that will be necessary for resolution of the conflict” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). Interestingly, he also warns in language similar to that employed vis-à-vis Abkhazia and the TRNC that the current isolation strategy engenders not greater sympathy for a return to Azerbaijani rule, but instead ungrounded expectations about NKR’s viability as a potential independent state. In advocating renewed engagement with NKR, Pennington argues that “One advantage to an expanded approach is that we can accumulate successes along the way, short of final resolution.” Beyond this, “Many confidence-building measures are also democracy-building steps, or promote fundamental human development goals” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). Making Sense of Engagement: Why and How? In this section, we examine three different questions that provide insight into the why and how of US engagement decisions. First, we consider engagement with de facto states as a strategy promoting democratization and influencing the composition of de facto state governments. Broers (2005) argues that as democratization is a prerequisite for conflict resolution, engaging de facto states as political systems subject to democratic transformation enables the development of genuinely participatory and pluralist politics, on which any future settlement must be predicated. Thus engaging de facto states should be seen as “consistent with support for democratic governance, rather than as necessarily inconsistent with adherence to the principle of territorial integrity” (Broers 2005, 68). Second, drawing from Lobell’s (2013) work on engaging adversaries through concessions, we can test a more specific hypothesis here, which is that the United States engages de facto states in order to affect their domestic political balance of power by aiding moderates and marginalizing hardliners. According to Lobell (2013, 262–63), one intent of “concession and inducement policies was to strengthen reformers or moderates in the political leadership or wings of power who were engaged in leadership struggles with hard-liners, and concomitantly,…to expand their base of support.” The desired end goal of such maneuvering was that it would ultimately assist “in realigning the foreign policies of these adversaries” (Lobell 2013, 262–63). Kupchan (2010, 131) similarly notes here that “doing business with autocracies has the potential to bring about regime change through the backdoor by weakening hard-liners and empowering reformers.” The third question derives from Cooley and Mitchell’s (2010) argument for de facto state engagement in a status-neutral manner, which would ideally reverse the isolation and break the dependence on patron states. Here, Ker-Lindsay (2014) is convinced that as long as engagement does not constitute recognition, and that recognition cannot be construed from any particular form of interaction, a wide range of initiatives can be undertaken. “Engagement without recognition” cultivates the logic of carving out a number of openings through which de facto states’ political elites, business leaders, and civil society can build ties to people in the rest of the world. Although this approach is designed to succeed only in a long-term perspective, it may be possible to test already if the general mood is pro-engagement and to what extent this affects conflict management. Engagement Seen as Democracy and Moderation Promotion The clearest evidence that the United States both actively promotes democratization and seeks to strengthen and empower moderates within de facto states comes from Somaliland and the TRNC. In Somaliland, the dominant issue of concern was the 2008–2010 presidential election crisis (see Richards 2014, chapter 7, on the background antecedents to this crisis), when President Riyale correctly feared losing a free and fair election and postponed that election repeatedly (he ultimately conceded defeat and peacefully transferred power after an election in June 2010). As the election crisis started escalating, Michael Ranneberger, the US ambassador to Kenya, urged a high-level diplomatic visit to Hargeisa to meet with President Riyale because “ensuring Somaliland’s continued democratic development should be a top U.S. policy priority for the Horn of Africa” (Nairobi 2009-06-11). The United States and other Western donors frequently pressured the Somaliland administration to hold internationally acceptable elections. The United States also had direct contact with Somaliland opposition-party leaders at least 17 times (see, for example, Nairobi 2009-09-23; London 2009-11-06) during the period of time covered in the WikiLeaks cables. At the peak of the electoral crisis, US diplomats issued 11 cables a month on Somaliland’s domestic politics in both August and September 2009. Cables relating to Somaliland’s domestic politics ultimately accounted for 45.2 percent of all of its WikiLeaks cables. The extent and volume of US diplomatic engagement in Somaliland’s presidential election crisis certainly supports Broers’s argument and lends at least some support to Lobell’s argument in that the United States presumably would not meet opposition party leaders so many times if it felt that the moderates were already in power and the opposition politicians were the radicals or obstructionists. The clearest support for Lobell’s argument comes from the TRNC. In one cable, US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher praises the “avowedly pro-solution” Republican Turkish Party (CTP)’s electoral victory in January 2004 and notes approvingly how “over the next 18 months ‘Prime Minister’ Talat successfully sidelined long-time rejectionist strongman Rauf Denktash” (Nicosia 2006-08-09). Later, the same cable maintains that “the challenge will be to encourage the Turkish Cypriots to avoid the temptations of Denktash-style rejectionism (largely responsible for 30 years of stalemate), and opt instead for creative pragmatism” (Nicosia 2006-08-09). Another cable describes TRNC deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Serdar Denktash as “a nationalist wing-nut” (2006-03-24, Nicosia). A few years later and just one week before TRNC parliamentary elections that the United States (correctly) believed Talat’s pro-solution CTP would lose to the more hardline National Unity Party (UBP), US Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic notes that “many in the international community have been searching for means to buoy pro-solution…forces” and argues that TRNC President Talat’s visit to Washington, DC, “constitutes just such a tool in our kit,” which should be employed “for maximum electoral bounce” (Nicosia 2009-04-14). Perhaps not surprisingly, a few months later the newly elected UBP Prime Minister Dervish Eroglu implores the United States not to interfere with Turkish Cypriot domestic politics (Nicosia 2009-06-17). In the final TRNC WikiLeaks cable, Secretary Clinton notes that “Washington analysts are closely monitoring the political situation” in the TRNC as presidential elections approach in April 2010 because “The outcome of these elections will likely affect the pace and trajectory of reunification negotiations, which could have significant internal and regional implications” (Washington, DC, 2010-01-22). There is much less evidence to support either Broers’s or Lobell’s hypotheses in the Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria cables. One TMR cable highlights the growing weakness of President Smirnov and argues that Speaker of the Supreme Soviet Shevchuk’s “receptive response” to Moldovan President Voronin’s confidence-building initiatives “contrasted favorably with Smirnov's knee-jerk rejection” (Chisinau 2007-10-22). The same cable goes on to note that “Shevchuk has presented himself as a reasonable interlocutor…open to negotiations with Chisinau” but ultimately concludes that “we are under no illusion that Shevchuk is a democrat” (Chisinau 2007-10-22). Two other TMR cables reference protests against the Smirnov regime, one of which “gathered an impressive number of protesters by Transnistrian standards” (Chisinau 2008-05-22), but neither advocates nor recommends any concrete US actions that would either help the opposition or challenge the regime in power. One senses that while the United States is presumably happy that “These demonstrations show a slow crumbling of Transnistria’s previously monolithic, Soviet-style governmental administration” (Chisinau 2008-06-16), it does not yet believe that Transnistria has a viable democratic system or that its moderates are worth supporting. The US position on Nagorno-Karabakh is quite similar. One cable refers to NKR’s “parliamentary elections” and “ministers” in quotation marks, in an obvious show of contempt for its electoral politics (Yerevan 2005-06-16). The same cable notes that one of NKR’s leading parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), maintains a “hard-line position on a possible resolution of the N-K conflict” as one of its “key issues” but seemingly finds little more encouraging in the conflict-resolution policies of any of the other three parties addressed in detail in the cable (Yerevan 2005-06-16). The story is much the same in Abkhazia, with the United States frequently disparaging the overall quality of democracy in Abkhazia (Tbilisi 2009-06-05; Tbilisi 2009-10-09), with perhaps the strongest statement coming directly from Secretary Clinton that “The United States regrets the decision to hold ‘elections’ in the Abkhazia region of Georgia on December 12, and recognizes neither their legitimacy nor the results” (Washington, DC, 2009-12-16). The United States also chooses not to engage in Abkhazia’s domestic politics as Lobell suggests by supporting moderates and undermining hard-liners because it does not have faith or confidence in the Abkhazian opposition. Some of its NGO contacts suggest “that the opposition would in general seize at any criticism they thought would stick, rather than articulate a coherent alternative platform” (Tbilisi 2009-11-09), a view reinforced by the US belief that “the foreign policy goals of the three major [presidential] candidates were virtually identical” (Moscow 2009-12-08). Thus, we find evidence to support Broers’s (2005) hypothesis that the United States engages de facto states as political systems subject to democratic transformation as a basis from which future settlements may emerge in two of our cases—Somaliland and the TRNC. We find little evidence to support his argument with Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Transnistria. Similarly, we find very clear and strong evidence to support Lobell’s (2013) hypothesis that the United States engages adversaries to boost moderates and undermine hardliners from Northern Cyprus. There is also some evidence, albeit not as strong, to support this proposition from Somaliland. We again find little evidence to support this from any of the three post-Soviet de facto state case studies where the United States seemingly does not find the moderates credible enough to merit engagement. Engagement Seen as Empowerment of Civil Society The second question we consider is to what extent US engagement with de facto states extends beyond traditional governmental actors to include civil society. This is certainly how engagement is portrayed. The NSS (White House 2010, 12), for example, states that the United States “will pursue engagement among peoples—not just governments—around the world…[and] will make a sustained effort to engage civil society and citizens….” Henrikson (2013, 267) similarly notes that engagement “covers multifaceted involvement with other countries’ nongovernmental elites and populations” and is thus “also a state-to-society mode of interaction.” If these views of engagement are correct, we should see evidence of diplomatic contact with de facto states extending far beyond government to government interactions. As with the question of engagement to promote democratization, we find clear evidence to support this proposition from both Somaliland and the TRNC. In both of these cases, in addition to multiple and repeated high-level governmental contacts, the United States also frequently engages with private citizens (Djibouti 2004-06-17; Nicosia 2006-10-13) and businessmen (London 2009-06-02; Nicosia 2006-06-27) in both locations and with diaspora members from Somaliland (London 2008-11-10). In contrast to our findings on engagement and democratization, though, we also find some evidence to support this proposition from our three post-Soviet de facto states. In NKR, one cable suggests the United States “encourage broader societal discussion of what peace might look like, the compromises it might involve, and the benefits it could bring” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). In order to do this, the United States “should engage journalists, civil society representatives, emerging youth leaders, former combatants from both sides, and other opinion leaders, promote cross-border exchanges (in third countries if necessary) and equip these advocates with the information and training to argue the case for negotiated settlement and integration” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). Engaging civil society is seen as offering positive opportunities for tangible gains, even if those gains fall short of resolving the conflict. The United States also appears willing to engage Abkhazian civil society. On one fact-finding trip to Abkhazia in 2007, US officials met with a variety of civil-society representatives, including the president of the Abkhazia Chamber of Commerce and the Chair of the Abkhazian Union of Business Women (Tbilisi 2007-10-17). In trying to figure out the complicated logistics of engaging Abkhazia without implying recognition of its claimed sovereignty, US Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft noted that “cross-community interaction, especially among the youth,” was one idea favored by a number of Georgian officials and elites and argued that “Perhaps the easiest programs to re-introduce would be U.S. government exchange programs…and other Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau offerings” (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). The ultimate justification for considering these and other “edgier” engagement options is that “engagement with the de facto authorities, and the population of Abkhazia overall, will ultimately serve to prevent Russia from assuming complete control of the region and to keep the door open to eventual reintegration with the rest of Georgia” (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). Finally, in contrast to its politicians, Transnistrian civil society is also seen as worthy of US engagement. A request for US drought assistance to Transnistria is justified as being “in our national interest” because “Assisting Transnistria at this crucial moment will show U.S. moral and humanitarian support for the people there” and represents “a unique opportunity to build goodwill” (Chisinau 2007-11-26). In addition to the immediate funding of corn seed, the United States and its local partners “are exploring prospects for reprogramming ongoing bilateral resources to better engage associations of Transnistrian farmers in a program of longer-term assistance” (Chisinau 2007-11-26). One of the justifications for a request to set “a ground-breaking precedent” by including Transnistria in Moldova’s Millennium Challenge Corporation’s road-building initiative is that “Moldovan experts from both sides of the river are working together on health, agricultural and civil society projects and will now engage on transportation issues” (Chisinau 2008-06-24). As with engaging Transnistrian government officials, Moldova also supports the broader US efforts to engage TMR civil society. In one cable, Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan tells the US ambassador that “A recent statement by the Transnistrian Chamber of Commerce commented with some jealousy that Moldova was benefiting more from EU preferences than Transnistria was” (Chisinau 2008-10-29). The significance of this for Stratan was that “Now that legitimate Transnistrian businesses were honestly earning Euros…Transnistrians were developing a taste for ‘European butter on their bread’” (Chisinau 2008-10-29). Thus, we find support for US engagement with broader civil societies from all five of our de facto state case studies. Engagement Without Recognition Finally, the third question we consider in this section is Cooley and Mitchell’s (2010) argument for de facto state engagement that only by finding new and creative ways to integrate these territories with the actors, institutions, and norms of the international community can one address the problems of clientelism, isolation, and dependency and thus prevent their sovereign recognitions being used as instruments of geopolitical statecraft by regional powers—a policy they term “engagement without recognition.” US engagement with the Turkish Cypriot community was designed to support a resolution of the Cyprus problem while at the same time advancing other issues of broader national interest. These included tackling issues such as illegal immigration, infectious diseases, trafficked persons and drugs, intellectual property protection, and various security concerns. Whereas the Greek Cypriots were unwilling to cooperate with Turkish Cypriot authorities in the fight against such global threats for political reasons and the Turkish Cypriots were unable to take meaningful action on their own because of the poorly trained, underequipped, and underfunded institutions of their unrecognized state, the US embassy in Nicosia proposed specific measures that would help prepare the Turkish Cypriots to be full partners in a united Cyprus (Nicosia 2005-11-15). In some instances, direct contacts with Turkish Cypriot authorities were not only unavoidable but also very much expected. In pursuing the “engagement without recognition” policy, the embassy advised the US government to systematize mid-level contact between TRNC and US authorities from outside the island by regular visits to the north (Ankara 2005-10-20). In May 2005, the US Congressional Turkey Study Group flew directly to Ercan Airport in the TRNC from Istanbul and conducted a series of meetings. In fall of the same year, Turkish Cypriot legislators met with members of the Congressional Turkey Study Group in Washington, DC (Cook and Sherwood-Randall 2006). These contacts laid the ground for a more sustained political dialogue, including high-level meetings between Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton and TRNC prime minister and president Mehmet Ali Talat. With Abkhazia, the United States recommends a policy of “engagement without recognition” as one where Abkhazia would be given the opportunity to engage with the West in a status-neutral manner on a number of political, economic, social, and cultural issues. The Obama Administration does not believe this policy downgrades Georgia’s importance or sacrifices it for better strategic relations with Russia. Indeed, US officials have had little official contact with de facto authorities outside the Geneva talks, and they are urging restoration of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but in the context of “strategic patience” (Phillips 2011, 16). In this way, US diplomats in Tbilisi advise finessing policy statements to neither suggest any loss of support for Georgia’s territorial integrity nor alienate potential Abkhaz partners. They advocate the launch of programs that will offer genuine benefits to communities on both sides of the administrative boundary line (and therefore be supported by both sides) and promote increased contact between the communities while remaining politically acceptable to both sides (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). Initially, US officials found that their Abkhaz counterparts “expressed what seemed like sincere interest in engagement activities with the United States” and were seeking to “identify activities that avoid the status question” (Tbilisi 2009-11-09). However, it appeared that a statement reaffirming US support for Georgian territorial integrity in broad policy language was received by local Abkhaz organizations as objectionable and discouraging their participation (Tbilisi 2009-09-08). Although the “engagement without recognition” policy only indirectly touched upon the situation in NKR, US embassy in Yerevan official Joseph Pennington advises in one cable that “We do need to get people talking about sensitive subjects, like how Karabakhis would integrate returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Azerbaijan; we should marshal available resources to identify and articulate the economic costs of regional fragmentation and isolation; and we need to help these societies imagine a future characterized by economic and social integration, not just in the region, but of the region with Euro-Atlantic institutions” (Yerevan 2009-11-02). This would help Karabakhis to be exposed to ideas and decision-makers from the region and beyond. The United States has cooperated intensively with de facto authorities in Somaliland since 2001. Our cables reveal frequent and high-level meetings between US diplomats and Somaliland government officials, frequently centered around two main topics: security/counterterrorism cooperation and Somaliland’s democratization process. The United States had direct contact with Somaliland’s President Riyale at least 11 times (see, for example, 2007-01-09, Addis Ababa; 2008-11-05, Nairobi; 2009-11-02, Nairobi). It also had direct contact with two different Somaliland foreign ministers at least 23 times (see, for example, 2004-09-01, Djibouti; 2007-08-22, Nairobi; 2010-02-04, Addis Ababa) during the time period covered in the WikiLeaks cables. Yet, Somaliland is not acknowledged as a sovereign state, and so US diplomatic relations with the Somaliland authorities can only be informal in nature (Nairobi 2009-02-25). Michael Ranneberger, the US ambassador to Kenya, proposes increased education, and economic and good governance assistance. To bolster Somaliland’s counterpiracy capabilities, US diplomats in Nairobi suggest increasing law enforcement, legislative, and maritime security support. USAID has provided funding for a variety of good governance initiatives in Somaliland (Nairobi 2009-02-25). Much of the annual US aid to Somalia went to Somaliland, including support for former Foreign Minister Edna Adan Ismail’s hospital for women (Addis Ababa 2007-01-09). The United States also proposes increased funding to the UN Development Program’s Rule of Law program to expand police and judiciary training initiatives to Somaliland; to enhance the democratization process in Somaliland through increased support; and to increase access to basic education in Somaliland by rehabilitating community primary schools, training additional teachers, and increasing support for non-formal education, to name but a few (Nairobi 2009-02-25). How well this policy can be implemented, given significant constraints on US travel to Hargeisa (Nairobi 2008-09-03; Nairobi 2009-10-14; contrast with Richards 2014, 1) and the US decision to formally recognize the government of Somalia in January 2013 (the first time it has recognized a Somali national government since 1991), remains to be seen. The US government does not seem to have a special “engagement without recognition” policy on Transnistria. However, as noted above, it has tried to approach de facto authorities there on an ad hoc basis, particularly in the context of responding to the 2007 drought that hit Moldova (Chisinau 2007-11-26) and including Transnistria in the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) as part of the Moldova compact program, thus emphasizing the territorial integrity of Moldova. The MCC compact was supposed to (1) be a unitary program for all of Moldova; (2) help break down barriers between the two sides of the Dniester; and (3) remove internal barriers to permit free movement along MCC-reconstructed roads (Chisinau 2008-06-24). While highly cognizant of setting “a ground-breaking precedent” and well aware of the numerous difficulties and uncertainties of including Transnistria in an MCC compact, US officials believe these costs are significantly outweighed by the real benefits such an approach can generate. US Ambassador to Moldova Michael Kirby notes in this regard that “The Transnistrians made a high-level policy decision to engage with the US Government…and Chisinau officials are becoming more flexible in their dealings with Tiraspol” (Chisinau 2008-06-24). Thus, we find the most significant evidence for a US engagement without recognition policy in Somaliland and the TRNC with additional support coming from Abkhazia and, in more nascent or less fully developed forms, from Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. Conclusion Our analysis of the WikiLeaks cables reveals that the conventional wisdom that de facto states are typically shunned as illegal pariahs is wrong. The United States, at least, regularly engages these entities on a wide variety of different subjects. Although it does not recognize them, its interactions with de facto states are not uniformly hostile. They are sometimes warm, friendly, and supportive. The WikiLeaks cables also demonstrate that the United States does not treat all de facto states the same. It is quite capable of distinguishing between them and calibrating its relationships with them accordingly. Some de facto states (Somaliland and the TRNC) are engaged more directly, more frequently, and more supportively than others (Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and Transnistria). The preferences of the sovereign parent states from which these de facto states are trying to secede vary dramatically. Moldova is repeatedly shown to be open to US engagement with Transnistria, while Azerbaijan and the Republic of Cyprus have more actively tried to isolate and stigmatize the de facto states (Nagorno-Karabakh and the TRNC, respectively) in their de jure recognized territories. Somaliland did not have a viable parent state to express a preference one way or the other for the entire period covered by our WikiLeaks cables, and Georgia, in the case of Abkhazia, has shown some movement away from the isolationist end of this continuum and toward the engagement end in recent years. Our findings demonstrate that the United States is cognizant of parent-state preferences and takes them into account but that those preferences are not determinative of its willingness to engage de facto states. Strategic considerations arguably play a greater role in influencing US interactions with de facto states. Although engagement is frequently portrayed as a signature initiative of the Obama Administration, whose eagerness to engage adversaries is contrasted with the George W. Bush Administration’s supposed reluctance to engage, our analysis of the WikiLeaks cables does not support this interpretation. Instead, we find both the Bush and Obama Administrations engaging de facto states on a somewhat regular basis. The WikiLeaks cables suggest that US engagement decisions are often reactive or opportunistic, driven by specific events or crises (the Turkish Cypriot yes vote on the Annan Plan, the Russo-Georgian war, Somaliland’s electoral crisis, and drought in Moldova) rather than any larger grand strategy. We find substantial evidence from Somaliland and the TRNC that the United States regularly engages in the domestic political processes of de facto states, with at least some evidence that it does so, as Lobell (2013) suggests, in order to bolster moderates and marginalize hardliners. In contrast, we find no evidence of this in any of the three post-Soviet de facto states. In those cases, the United States clearly evinces profound skepticism about the legitimacy of the domestic political process. It is also seemingly frustrated at the lack of committed democrats or moderates that it might find worth engaging in those polities. In contrast to this split, however, we find the United States willing to engage civil society in all five of our de facto state case studies. Such engagement is most regularized in Somaliland and Northern Cyprus, but it is increasingly seen as one of the best starting points for moving toward conflict resolution in our other three cases. This broader engagement with civil society across all of our cases clearly supports the argument that engagement goes beyond just state-to-state interactions to include state-to-society interactions as well. Finally, the idea that US foreign policy toward de facto states can or should be characterized as “engagement without recognition” receives its most sustained support from Somaliland and the TRNC, some support from Abkhazia, and more nascent support from Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact that US engagement is typically reactive and conditioned by specific events or crises does, however, suggest that, under certain conditions, engagement without recognition could become the norm even in places like Nagorno-Karabakh that the United States has to date shown the most hostility toward. For obvious and logical reasons, the vast majority of foreign-policy analysis to date has focused on sovereign states and, more specifically, on great powers. Yet, there is a growing recognition that sovereign states increasingly share the political stage with a wide variety of entities, including autonomous regions; de facto states; dependent, internationalized, or leased territories; governments-in-exile; and micro-states (Berg and Kuusk 2010). Innovative scholarship has highlighted the existence of and the profound questions raised by such things as the growing use of extraterritorial islands to deny potential asylum-seekers access to sovereign territory (Mountz 2011), the continued persistence of stateless enclaves that are simultaneously bounded by and excluded from the sovereign state system (Jones 2009), and the practices of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which has established a state-like polity in exile even though it lacks entirely in recognition and controls no territory (McConnell 2009). Our investigation of US foreign policy toward de facto states represents one cut at trying to analyze the broader tapestry of relations between sovereign states and sovereign anomalies of various forms and suggests that the diplomatic landscape is far less monochrome and more varied than is typically presumed. One might wonder why this matters, as many of these sovereign anomalies remain relatively small or peripheral actors. Yet, in spite of this, they have demonstrated considerable persistence. Updating Caspersen’s (2012, 12) figures, the five cases considered in this study have been in existence for an average of 27.4 years (Abkhazia 1993–2016; Nagorno-Karabakh 1994–2016; Somaliland 1991–2016; TMR 1991–2016; TRNC 1974–2016). Adding her two “borderline” cases of Kosovo (1999–2016) and Taiwan (1971–2016) would bring this figure up to 28.43 years. Other cases like the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the Palestinian Authority also suggest that a diverse and variegated international system extending far beyond widely recognized sovereign states is likely to characterize world politics well into the future. If de facto states and other such entities are not disappearing, then the international community will have to deal with them on a variety of different matters. Although US engagement with de facto states may be varied and opportunistic, its implementation in practice has demonstrated clear alternatives to isolationist measures and shown the limited utility of relying exclusively on punitive sanctions in order to cope with the collision of hard facts on the ground and international norms and principles. It has also illustrated some of the opportunities that may exist to bring adversaries closer to each other’s incompatible positions even when dealing with contested or unrecognized sovereignty. Limited and flawed though it may be, third parties including the United States seem not to have any better options than to engage with de facto states and promote stability in the short term and hopefully increase the prospects for conflict resolution in the longer term. Eiki Berg is Professor of International Relations at the University of Tartu. He has published widely in leading peer-reviewed journals on bordering practices, identity politics and de facto states in post-conflict settings. He is co-editor of Routing Borders Between Territories, Discourses and Practices (Ashgate, 2003) and Identity and Foreign Policy: Baltic-Russian Relations and European Integration (Ashgate, 2009). During the years 2003–2004 he served as MP in Estonian Parliament and observer to the European Parliament. Scott Pegg is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at IUPUI. He is the author of International Society and the De Facto State (Ashgate, 1998) and the co-editor of Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (Palgrave MacMillan, 2003). He has published articles in such journals as African Affairs, Community Development Journal, Geoforum, International Studies Perspectives, Resources Policy and Security Dialogue. His current research interests focus on de facto states and the resource curse. Authors’ note: The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees and Tijen Demirel-Pegg for their many helpful comments on earlier drafts. We also thank the Estonian Research Council and its institutional support scheme for the project on “Political Community in Flux: Identity, Sovereignty, and Democracy in a Transforming World” (IUT 20-39), which has enabled continued research on deviant sovereignty cases. Appendix A Variable Description Year Year the cable was issued (2004, 2006, etc.) Date Month and date the cable was issued City Specific city of US embassy where cable originated from (Moscow, Nairobi, etc.) Location Where the US embassy is (parent state, patron state, neighbor, regional, international) Engagement Direct (US official meets or contacts a de facto state official), indirect (US meets with other governments or organizations about the de facto state), none US Level The level of US engagement reflected in the cable—Secretary of State, State Department official, ambassador, embassy official, etc. De Facto State Level The level of de facto state engagement reflected in the cable—president, prime minister, cabinet minister, lower official, civil society, none Parent State Parent state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Patron State Patron state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Third Party US directly engages other countries or organizations: yes or no Initiator Who initiates the contact: the US, the de facto state, parent state, patron state, neighbor, other, unclear, or none Issue The main issue covered in the cable: security, conflict management, economic, status/recognition, foreign relations, domestic politics, other Specifics More specific or detailed description of cable’s main focus US Action The US action taken or suggested is supportive, hostile, neutral, or unclear Variable Description Year Year the cable was issued (2004, 2006, etc.) Date Month and date the cable was issued City Specific city of US embassy where cable originated from (Moscow, Nairobi, etc.) Location Where the US embassy is (parent state, patron state, neighbor, regional, international) Engagement Direct (US official meets or contacts a de facto state official), indirect (US meets with other governments or organizations about the de facto state), none US Level The level of US engagement reflected in the cable—Secretary of State, State Department official, ambassador, embassy official, etc. De Facto State Level The level of de facto state engagement reflected in the cable—president, prime minister, cabinet minister, lower official, civil society, none Parent State Parent state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Patron State Patron state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Third Party US directly engages other countries or organizations: yes or no Initiator Who initiates the contact: the US, the de facto state, parent state, patron state, neighbor, other, unclear, or none Issue The main issue covered in the cable: security, conflict management, economic, status/recognition, foreign relations, domestic politics, other Specifics More specific or detailed description of cable’s main focus US Action The US action taken or suggested is supportive, hostile, neutral, or unclear View Large Variable Description Year Year the cable was issued (2004, 2006, etc.) Date Month and date the cable was issued City Specific city of US embassy where cable originated from (Moscow, Nairobi, etc.) Location Where the US embassy is (parent state, patron state, neighbor, regional, international) Engagement Direct (US official meets or contacts a de facto state official), indirect (US meets with other governments or organizations about the de facto state), none US Level The level of US engagement reflected in the cable—Secretary of State, State Department official, ambassador, embassy official, etc. De Facto State Level The level of de facto state engagement reflected in the cable—president, prime minister, cabinet minister, lower official, civil society, none Parent State Parent state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Patron State Patron state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Third Party US directly engages other countries or organizations: yes or no Initiator Who initiates the contact: the US, the de facto state, parent state, patron state, neighbor, other, unclear, or none Issue The main issue covered in the cable: security, conflict management, economic, status/recognition, foreign relations, domestic politics, other Specifics More specific or detailed description of cable’s main focus US Action The US action taken or suggested is supportive, hostile, neutral, or unclear Variable Description Year Year the cable was issued (2004, 2006, etc.) Date Month and date the cable was issued City Specific city of US embassy where cable originated from (Moscow, Nairobi, etc.) Location Where the US embassy is (parent state, patron state, neighbor, regional, international) Engagement Direct (US official meets or contacts a de facto state official), indirect (US meets with other governments or organizations about the de facto state), none US Level The level of US engagement reflected in the cable—Secretary of State, State Department official, ambassador, embassy official, etc. De Facto State Level The level of de facto state engagement reflected in the cable—president, prime minister, cabinet minister, lower official, civil society, none Parent State Parent state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Patron State Patron state officials are contacted/informed/engaged: yes or no Third Party US directly engages other countries or organizations: yes or no Initiator Who initiates the contact: the US, the de facto state, parent state, patron state, neighbor, other, unclear, or none Issue The main issue covered in the cable: security, conflict management, economic, status/recognition, foreign relations, domestic politics, other Specifics More specific or detailed description of cable’s main focus US Action The US action taken or suggested is supportive, hostile, neutral, or unclear View Large References Ambrosio Thomas. 2011. “Unfreezing the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict? 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Foreign Policy Analysis – Oxford University Press
Published: May 4, 2016
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