Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty
International Law and Politics
Chapter Four: Territorial disputes
This chapter considers how and why territorial disputes start, and why some continue endlessly while others reach a solution. Although relevant, the usual explanations for these differences, such as strategic location of the territory, its economic value, homogeneity with bordering minorities or a goal of political unification fail to provide a satisfactory and comprehensive explanation. The chapter examines how the domestic context influences the regional and international dimension, and vice-versa. The hypothesis is that state leaders take into consideration external elements pertinent to territorial disputes as well as the internal situation, which links directly to their domestic political prestige.
Some territorial disputes escalate into conflict, usually when the claiming state threatens or resorts to the use of coercion (political, military, financial, etc.) to obtain the sovereignty over the disputed territory. The chapter argues that while international factors may explain the escalation into conflict they do not necessarily explain the reasons that bring about the disputes in the first place. Conversely, local and regional elements that give birth to these disputes are not sufficient conditions for their escalation. Empirical data supports these claims.