Russia’s Adverse Possessions
“Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as “squatter’s rights”, is a legal principle in the Anglo-American common law under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land—may acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission (licence) of its legal owner.”
When I planned this newsletter, I couldn’t decide whether to write about the record low inventory of homes, rising mortgage rates, or the lack of affordable housing.
Now, none of this is first on my mind. If you are a regular reader of my newsletter, you know that I write about more than real estate. Because I grew up in Germany, what’s happening in Europe still hits home with me. What follows is a thumbnail sketch of historical facts. If I got anything wrong, please let me know.
Consequences of Break-ups
What happened this week in Eastern Europe was unimaginable fifteen years ago. Thirty-one years ago, the break up of the former Sowjet Union in 1991 was heralded as the end of the cold war. However, the breakup of any status quo also creates uncertainty. How will the independent parts react? Will someone try to put them together again?
After a divorce, there may be newfound freedoms, but there lies also uncharted territory ahead, including the consequences for the extended family.
The Break-up of Eastern Europe
Remember Yugoslavia? The death of strongman Marshal Tito in 1980 set into motion the breakup of communist Yugoslavia into several independent countries. Along the way, long-held ethnic animosities caused much suffering and death. The painful separation process ended only in 2008 when the Republic of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
Russia at the conference table
That same year, in April of 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit was held in Bucharest, Romania. One participant was none other than Vladimir Putin who came for bilateral Russia-NATO discussions. (The history of NATO, the expansion into Eastern Europe, and the resulting tensions with Russia are well chronicled on this BBC website.)
Russia back into an adverse possession
Only four months later, in August of 2008, the relations between NATO and Russia were tested when Russia invaded Georgia, a war some considered the first European war of the 21st century. Russia annexed a fifth of the former Sowjet Republic – an adverse possession.
Can’t we just be friends?
Perhaps not. In early 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Another adverse possession…
One year later, in 2015, the United States tried to bring Russia back to the conference table. In an act of diplomatic bravado, Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red “reset button.” He pointed out, however, that the word on the button said “overcharge” instead of “reset” to which Hillary replied, “we won’t let you do that.”
We now have an “overreach” instead.
Adverse Possession: Adversaries again
Seven years later, with the then Vice President Biden now President, the relationship has been reset to a new low. Putin’s Russia is attempting an adverse possession of Ukraine.
My sister lives in Germany. She is afraid. We both know that the German Government has tried to become friends with Russia. Today, Germany relies on Russia for much of its energy needs. The former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Putin, is a director of the state-owned company Gazprom and has been chairman of the Russian energy company Rosneft since 2017.
Gazprom is also the sponsor of Schalke 04, one of the most venerated German professional soccer clubs. Protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the club has canceled the relationship and removed the logo from their jerseys.
I wish it would be that easy to stop this adverse possession and remove the Russian troops from Ukraine.
Published originally as the 133rd issue of The View from the Street.