The Russian president, as many other observers, draws what could be seen as a compelling parallel between the de facto independence of South Ossetia and Kosovo. But he misses a central point in making comparisons, as historians will not fail to notice. The comparison is a central part of the historical sciences. But it is not being conducted to underline potential similarities, but to show how and why things differ. Its main attribute is to make a distinction. Comparing the cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia reveals a couple of important differences:
First: In Kosovo ethnic cleansing preceded the military intervention. In South Ossetia it is the other way around. The Russian intervention is followed by ethnic cleansing.
Second: The West did not want independence for Kosovo but ultimately accepted it, because there was no alternative strategy. Again its exactly the other way around in South Ossetia: The intervention of Russian forces, as by the way the Russian peacekeeping mission, was designed only to pave the way for the eventual independence of South Ossetia and Abchasia.
Third: NATO acted in Kosovo only after the international community and most notably the United Nations failed to take action. Russia never even attempted to bring the case to the United Nations before acting.