The West's moral framework does not apply to ethnic disputes, writes Aris Roussinos in UnHerd.

Like the melting of permafrost, the waning of empires awakens long-dormant ethnic conflicts, already defining the international politics of the 2020s. Russia’s war to deny Ukraine nationhood was launched on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians from Ukrainian domination. In the past few weeks alone we have witnessed Azerbaijan’s invasion and ethnic cleansing of Karabakh, Serbia’s sabre-rattling over Kosovo following the appearance of suspiciously well-armed ethnic Serb militants, and now Hamas’s bold and unprecedented incursion into southern Israel.

Not all ethnic conflicts, based on the rival aspirations of different peoples for control of the same territory, end in war. But once blood is spilled, it is hard to return the damaged polity to the banal concerns of everyday governance as long as final mastery of the land remains unresolved. Even where attempts at democratic politics are imposed on the warring parties — as in Lebanon, and Northern Ireland — ethnic rivalry swallows the democratic process whole, freezing armed conflict but causing stagnation and deadlock as each side coalesces around its perceived protectors, anxiously tracking threatening changes in the demographic balance.

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