James points to the hurdles that confront any aspiring nation-state, and he is right that gaining international recognition and being seated at the U.N. are the most difficult barriers to new states fully entering into the international system. However, that does not mean that we won’t eventually have a flood of new separatist declarations of independence, and it doesn’t mean that pseudo-states that have already declared independence, such as Karabakh, won’t insist that the precedent of Kosovo is relevant to their own situation (as they already have done), and it doesn’t mean that other states won’t recognise the independence of separatist enclaves. Armenia has threatened to recognise Karabakh for obvious reasons, which would make any negotiations with Azerbaijan in the future all but impossible and could restart the Karabakh war. The conventional assumption is that Yerevan isn’t going to risk a backlash by doing this, but this underestimates how powerful a grip on the modern Armenian mind Karabakh has, and it definitely underestimates how important Karabakh is to the incoming president.
Even if no other state recognises Karabakh, its recognition will create a significant problem for stability in the Caucasus. No one except Ankara recognises Northern Cyprus, but that doesn’t mean that Ankara’s continuing recognition and support isn’t a significant hurdle to a resolution of the situation on Cyprus. Kosovo independence is already having the negative consequences opponents of recognition predicted, and it has been independent for just a month and a half. With more time, the precedent will be seized on by more and more separatists. They will either receive recognition from opportunistic and troublemaking states, or they will intensify attacks on the governments of the states they are breaking away from to draw international attention to their case. Either way, the Kosovo precedent will have led to greater instability around the world.