Opinion: Ukraine – Next Steps

ukraineAn international affairs policy wonk could be forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early. After all, the last 72 hours have seen the Russian Federation occupy Ukraine’s Crimea, and apparently threaten to attack Ukrainian forces in Crimea if they don’t surrender. Such an action is in direct violation of the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, the OSCE’s Helsinki Final Act, and Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression. The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law.

Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.

President Putin has provided “protection of ethnic Russians” as his rationale. If this were accepted, not only would this legitimate Russian intervention in any of the former Soviet Empire, including the Baltic States who are now in the EU, we’d have regressed to mid-Victorian law. This was a time when, amongst others, Russian Tsars intervened to “protect” Orthodox Serbs and France asserted control over the Levant to “protect” Christians – providing a figleaf for their own imperial designs.

In any event, as Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe and is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, it is these bodies – and not the tender mercies of Putin – that should serve as the international protector of the rights of Ukraine’s ethnic Russians. And that Crimea was gifted to the Ukrainian SSR sixty years ago by Nikita Khrushchev is irrelevant: the borders of the USSR’s republics were repeatedly redrawn, and became international borders upon the USSR’s dissolution.

It is therefore massively disheartening to see commentators on the progressive side of politics pushing for the recognition of Russian gains in Crimea and in some cases, for the forceful division of the Ukraine. Indeed, our very own Lord Greaves, (though he doesn’t think Putin is trustworthy) called in an LDV comment on the crisis for the West to do a deal “on the lines of Crimea and no further” and proposed that “we will lean on the new Ukrainian regime to accept it.”

I’m sorry, Tony, but your suggestion is completely unacceptable. Not only does it reward aggression and Putin’s assault on the international order, as the UK guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, it directly reneges on a British commitment.

Instead, Britain and the international community should confront Russia. The west should continue to unambiguously support the Ukrainian people and the interim administration that is attempting to hold democratic elections this spring to replace Victor Yanukovich. We should always remind the new government of its responsibilities under the European Court of Human Rights. And our support should include diplomatic, financial and, in the event of a military attack, military aid; US Secretary of State John Kerry was quite right not to rule any option out at this time.

Putin’s Russia by contrast should pay a heavy price for its illegal adventurism. Britain has a strong interest in promoting the international rule of law and opposing aggression. As a liberal internationalist, I am proud that my party is a vociferous supporter of the international legal order and the rule of law.

Russia should be censured at the UN by being forced to veto a resolution calling for its forces to be withdrawn from Ukraine, but it should bear other diplomatic and economic costs. Russia should immediately be suspended from the G8 and G20, and the EU and allied state sanctions should consider targeted sanctions and visa bans against the Putin regime’s senior members and their families. And yes, if the worst happens and war breaks out, then we should keep our word from 1994 and be prepared to use force to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

 

* Toby Fenwick is a Research Associate of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), has written extensively on the UK Trident programme, and served on the party’s last Trident Working Group. This article is written in a personal capacity.

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70 Comments

  • The proposed military action against Syria was in violation of the UN charter. Our government was happy to attack without a UN resolution.

    “The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression.”
    “Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.”

    It follows, logically, that Lib Dems are international gangsters of the highest order.

    “As a liberal internationalist, I am proud that my party is a vociferous supporter of the international legal order and the rule of law.”

    Er, right.

  • I agree with almost all of this, except that I don’t see the point of suspending Russia from the G8 and G20. In any crisis, a priority is to keep talking, because not talking cannot do anything but make things worse. Even Russia will recognize that war is massively not in their interest, surely, so I don’t think it helps much to threaten things if it does.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '14 - 1:23pm

    “The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law. Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.”

    What a lot of nasty words! Putin’s actions are dangerous and to be resisted, but using language like this, and presenting a totally unbalanced picture of an unstable situation, does not help.

    Before Putin took any action, the new government in Ukraine seized power by coup d’etat. We might sympathise very much with their reasons, but those are the facts. It then proceeded to ban the official use of the Russian language, which the majority speak in Eastern Ukraine. Was that the action of a responsible government who should be left alone by the international community to get on with it – and, indeed, invited into partnership with the EU? If the West is to help, should it not seek compromise on both sides?

  • Geoffrey Payne 4th Mar '14 - 1:47pm

    From your strident rhetoric I was wondering what you would come up with, and I am not clear that what you are suggesting will alter much. Probably the most radical suggestion is to remove Russia from the G8 and G20. However if that happens the G8 and G20 will also pay a price for that.
    I agree that Russia is behaving in a totally unacceptable way. In the past if NATO took a stand that would be hugely significant. But today, post Iraq and Afghanistan we really should have learnt the lessons of overplaying our hand. Morally we should take action, and go to war and put right the wrong. But against Russia we simply can’t do that. As Rory Stewart argues, we are not morally obliged to do what we can’t deliver. We need to get used to that. It is not easy. There are many regimes in the world that are illiberal and repugnant. We can intervene to some extent. For example we should stop selling arms to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. But only in very small countries do we have the military solution to their problems. And we should be careful with countries like Russia that in our attempts to hurt them that they might hurt us more in return. For that is the limits of western power today, it is in rapid decline whether you like it or not.

  • One can tot up all of the inglorious imperial adventures in which the UK has been engaged (long before 1945), but that serves no purpose other than to throw dust in people’s eyes. The world is not a set of balance sheets where one bad act five or ten or a hundred years ago justifies, or renders impervious to criticism, another bad act happening today. Every international incident deserves to be judged on its own merits or lack of them. The involvement of Blair and Bush in Iraq yesterday cannot absolve Putin of blame for invading Ukraine today.

  • “The involvement of Blair and Bush in Iraq yesterday cannot absolve Putin of blame for invading Ukraine today.”

    Sorry, but your party supported an attack against Syria without a UN resolution. So, international law is something that only applies to certain foreigners you don’t like but not to yourselves?

  • Toby Fenwick 4th Mar '14 - 3:13pm

    Thanks to all for beginning an interesting debate.

    @David Allen – Stephen W is right, and even it was a coup d’etat, it would still not legitimate Putin’s action. The words are not comfortable, but then aggression isn’t a comfortable thing.

    @Steve: Syria would have been legal under the humanitarian exception outlined in the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine endorsed at the 2005 World Summit. None of the requirements for R2P have been met in Crimea.

    @Geoffrey Payne – The diplomatic levers are few, and the distance Putin needs to travel is great. G8 / G20 politicking is important to Putin personally, and with Sochi to host the G8 this summer, it would be a very public rebuke for the G7 not to turn up. We need to use all of our limited leverage to reverse the Russian position, which is why I did not rule out the use of force.

    @Caracatus: without speaking for the US, the UK has violated the laws of peace twice since 1945 by committing aggression: 1956 at Suez (with France and Israel) and 2003 in Iraq (with the US). The record of the UK has been pretty good, actually – and as the million who marched in 2003 showed, maintaining international legality is a cornerstone for the (very decent) British people. As I have said in these pages before (https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-is-tutu-right-on-tony-blair-30037.html) Blair should be stripped of his immunity, and tried, along with Hoon and Straw, for the crime of aggression.

  • Syria would have been legal under the humanitarian exception outlined in the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine endorsed at the 2005 World Summit.

    I’ve seen this claim made before about actions not authorised by the Security Council, and it mystifies me.

    If you look at what was actually agreed at that summit, you’ll see that it explicitly relates to action “through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII”.

  • Toby Fenwick If you substitute the word Gaza for the word Crimea, and substitute Netanyahu’s Israel for Putin’s Russia in your piece, would your conclusion be that–
    Netanyahu’s Israel should pay a heavy price for its illegal adventurism. Britain has a strong interest in promoting the international rule of law and opposing aggression. As a liberal internationalist, I am proud that my party is a vociferous supporter of the international legal order and the rule of law.
    Would you follow that with every sanction available against Israel and include a possible UK war against Israel?
    And if not, why not?

  • Toby Fenwick 4th Mar '14 - 4:58pm

    @John: Excellent Spectator Guide. My views on Israel / Palestine are clear and consistent – there needs to be a two state solution based on the 1967 borders with appropriate land swaps and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. See here: http://slightly-random-musings.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Palestine

  • Toby Fenwixk, you say your views on Israel are clear but you do not say why you apply one approach to Russia and another to Israel.
    If you are a proud internationalist and believe in the rule of international law, why does that not apply equally to Israeli aggression, illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian lands, illegally sending tanks into Gaza etc ??
    You seem to be prepared to go to war against Putin’s Russia tomorrow, whilst waiting an eternity for a “two state settlement” for Palestine.

  • Let’s hope the LibDems avoid the usual temptation to use this crisis as a way of criticising their favourite demons of other crises. We owe it to the Ukrainian people not to be so self indulgent.

  • Toby Fenwick 4th Mar '14 - 5:42pm

    @ John Tilley: I stand by my views on Israel/Palestine, and think that sacking Blair and backing Obama’s work would be a very good step. Let’s not fall into the trap of saying because we can’t solve everything we shouldn’t try and solve anything.

    @Imbroglio: Agreed.

  • “@Imbroglio: Agreed.”

    But that is exactly what you’ve just done by saying you want Blair sent to the Hague.

  • I don’t fancy planning military solutions in the dark’. Sanctions play out both ways. We can sanction Russia and they can hit back by turning the gas supply off. .

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Mar '14 - 7:04pm

    Mr Fenwick – With respect (and just to be clear here I do mean that) I think you are putting way too much faith in international law here. These mythic norms – sovereignty, self-determination, democracy, human rights, an R2P are not like common theft. They can not be optimised against each other, neatly codified in a nice tidy charter and overseen by some court that commands global respect and which can meaningfully enforce a ruling. One man’s self determination is a loss of another man’s sovereignty, one man’s human rights impinges on others.

    In a world of realpolitik we need to accept that the considerations of the ECHR are not the be-all-and-end-all. Indeed, there are entirely valid arguments why parts of Ukrainian society may not want to simply become the latest part of the EU periphery with all that entails. And things are not always consistent in a world of realpolitik. To use one example I’d be interested to know how the Russian government reconciles its stance on Kosovo with its stance on Crimea.

    None of this of course is to say that Russia should not be confronted over this issue – but let’s not kid ourselves that some grand declaration is going to cut any ice here. International law is a phantom, let’s not chase it.

    The wider question here is whether or not the present Ukrainian state is viable in its current form, but that is a can of worms and then some.

  • David Allen 4th Mar '14 - 7:41pm

    “A possibly stupid decision regarding the recognition of an official national language hardly justifies an invasion”

    No, it doesn’t, because two wrongs don’t make a right. However, what the Ukrainian government did was a blatant piece of aggression, over which Putin is merely playing tit-for-tat. For those who need analogies to bring things home, it’s as if the Belgian Flemish had outlawed French. Or, to produce a closer analogy by exemplifying the risk of conflict, as if our neighbours had imposed the Irish language on mainland Britain.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Mar '14 - 7:54pm

    David Allen – My understanding was that the language law had been vetoed by the Acting President, or has that changed since?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legislation_on_languages_in_Ukraine

    In any case, it is provocative sure, but I’d be very guarded about the idea that language laws should somehow need the approval of an outside state.

  • “Syria would have been legal under the humanitarian exception outlined in the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine endorsed at the 2005 World Summit.”

    I’m sorry, but you are not an authority on whether R2P gave legality to Syria. The best guide to ‘legality’ is that action is endorsed by UN resolution – without UN endorsement lawyers are divided in opinion, as with Syria and Iraq. Besides, whether something is legally justifiable isn’t the same thing as being practical and providing useful outcomes. How do you think a military engagement with Russia might play out and how do you think world opinion would judge us given some of our dodgy wars?

  • Jenny Barnes 4th Mar '14 - 9:54pm

    It would appear that the “people’s revolution” is more of a neoliberal pseudodemocratic coup. The last revolution, which created a democratic government, was called “orange” strangely enough.
    The South Eastern part of Ukraine, where most of the russian speaking population live, is also the area with most of the industry. Without it, northwest Ukraine would likely become a failed state. Someone should have thought this through before supporting the “revolution”.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/ukraine-genuine-revolution-tackle-corruption

    Ukraine is not part of Nato, while the Baltics are (probably much to Putin’s displeasure) http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/nato_countries.htm

    So the suggestion that “our support should include diplomatic, financial and, in the event of a military attack, military aid;” is IMAO a step to far. Military support for a NATO ally is one thing, but for a nation that is clearly not part of NATO would be much more problematic.

    I joined the LDs partly because of the stance on the Iraq war.

  • Jenny Barnes 4th Mar '14 - 10:01pm
  • I am amazed to come upon a thread in LDV where war with Russia is seriously put forward as an option for dealing with the Ukraine imbroglio and quite a few of the subsequent posters give credence to this. What planet are they all on?

    So far as the rights and wrongs of the situation are concerned how can anyone say Russia alone is in the wrong? Have we all forgotten the “agreement” of February 21, overthrown in a trice by unruly elements in the streets of Kiev – elements who were far too loosely encouraged and applauded by western governments who should know better, just as they were in Cairo. Democracy in my book means waiting for elections in order to depose unpopular regimes.

    Here is the full wording of the February 21 agreement – a real attempt to find a constructive way forward after the undoubtedly brutal actions by the authorities in Kiev. Note who signed an witnessed it.

    “Concerned with the tragic loss of life in Ukraine, seeking an immediate end of bloodshed and determined to pave the way for a political resolution of the crisis, We, the signing parties, have agreed upon the following:

    1. Within 48 hours of the signing of this agreement, a special law will be adopted, signed and promulgated, which will restore the Constitution of 2004 including amendments passed until now. Signatories declare their intention to create a coalition and form a national unity government within 10 days thereafter.

    2. Constitutional reform, balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament, will start immediately and be completed in September 2014.

    3. Presidential elections will be held as soon as the new Constitution is adopted but no later than December 2014. New electoral laws will be passed and a new Central Election Commission will be formed on the basis of proportionality and in accordance with the OSCE & Venice commission rules.

    4. Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe.

    5. The authorities will not impose a state of emergency. The authorities and the opposition will refrain from the use of violence. The Parliament will adopt the 3rd amnesty, covering the same range of illegal actions as the 17th February 2014 law.

    Both parties will undertake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares.

    Illegal weapons should be handed over to the Ministry of Interior bodies within 24 hours of the special law, referred to in point 1 hereof, coming into force. After the aforementioned period, all cases of illegal carrying and storage of weapons will fall under the law of Ukraine. The forces of authorities and of the opposition will step back from confrontational posture. The Government will use law enforcement forces exclusively for the physical protection of public buildings.

    6. The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Poland and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation.

    Kyiv, 21 February 2014

    Signatories

    Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine

    For the Opposition

    Vitaliy Klichko, UDAR

    Oleh Tyahnibok, Svoboda

    Arsenij Yatseniuk, Batkivshchyna

    Witnessed by

    For the EU

    Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish foreign minister

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister

    Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister

    For the Russian Federation

    Vladimir Lukin, Russian special envoy”

    Isn’t it eminently arguable that the peremptory overthrow of this agreement and the elected President created a dangerously volatile situation that Russia could not ignore?

  • I am amazed to see people who ought to stand up for liberalism, democracy, and the rights of small nations defending the imperialism of an illiberal autocracy. Perhaps their great-great-grandparents found excuses for Nicholas II as well?

    As far as the February 21 agreement goes, I cite the United States ambassador to the United Nations in her speech of yesterday:

    ‘In response to my Russian colleague’s comments, I’d just like to make a couple points. First, I’d like to address his point about to the legitimacy of President Yanukovych, and his point about the February 21 agreement, which he has made several times.

    ‘To be clear, we commend the work done by France, Germany, and Poland to mediate and to negotiate that agreement with Russia very much in observance, and we would have been prepared to support the completion of that agreement. Under its terms, President Yanukovych had 24 hours to sign the first piece of action pursued in the Rada – the changing of the constitution pursuant to the February 21 agreement. Not only did President Yanukovych not sign it, but as my Russian colleague reminds us, he left the city. Indeed, he fled the city; he packed up himself and his family, and he left the seat of the presidency vacant for two days while his country was in crisis. He also left vast evidence of corruption, vast evidence of the amounts that he had stolen from the Ukrainian people, and in that context, with 371 votes, the democratically-elected Rada voted Yanukovych out of office, with his own party turning against him. That’s the history.’

  • As far as Ukraine’s language laws go, it is completely false to suggest that any law was ever suggested, much less passed, that would have banned the speaking of Russian in Ukraine. The laws in question go to an internal dispute over the relative status of Ukrainian and Russian as national languages, something which largely affects the language of official documents produced at a supra-regional level.

    In any case, if the Oireachtas were to pass a law declaring Irish the sole official language of Éire, while one might well question its wisdom, nobody in his or her right mind would concede that such a law conferred on David Cameron any right or justification to conduct an invasion of Ireland.

  • A couple of people are amazed. Denis because there are people here in LDV suggesting war as a solution and David-1 5, who says —
    ” ..I am amazed to see people who ought to stand up for liberalism, democracy, and the rights of small nations defending the imperialism of an illiberal autocracy. Perhaps their great-great-grandparents found excuses for Nicholas II as well?”
    I am not amazed that Liberal Democrats are all over the place on these events.

    The simple lesson isthat you cannot define a political party by being “in the centre”. This is the fundamental weakness of Cleggism. What is the centre ground on The Ukraine? There is no centre ground. It is a myth, an illusion.

    The comment — “Perhaps their great-great-grandparents found excuses for Nicholas II as well?” may not have been a deliberate reference to Nick Clegg’s family background.
    Nick Clegg used to make mention that on his father’s side of the family he is related to Kira von Engelhardt, daughter of a Russian baron of German, Polish and Ukrainian origin, to Ignaty Zakrevsky, an attorney-general of the Imperial Russian senate. I guess an attorney-general of Imperial Russia was not in the “centre ground” of Russian politics and did indeed find excuses for the appalling Tsar and his “Special Advisor”, Rasputin.

  • The prevailing assumption that the UN Security Council is the ultimate authority needs challenged, not only does it feature Russia and China as permanent members, neither defenders of democracy nor human rights, but that a commitment to these isn’t necessary for membership.

    It is absurd to defer reasoning to a legal process governed, in part, by deeply unpleasant nations.

  • The prevailing assumption that the UN Security Council is the ultimate authority needs challenged, not only does it feature Russia and China as permanent members, neither defenders of democracy nor human rights, but that a commitment to these isn’t necessary for membership.

    I think you’re missing the point about international law, which really doesn’t have anything to do with support (or otherwise) for democracy. The whole edifice rests on the principle that each nation is sovereign and (apart from treaty obligations) other countries don’t have the right to meddle in its internal affairs. Funnily enough, that’s the same point that Russia is missing at the moment!

  • David-1 should not swallow US propaganda just as I do not swallow Russian propaganda. I think history will show that Yanukovych was in effect deposed by crowd action rather than taking some sort of bizarre decision to leave his post.

    As it is the Russians are now saying the provisions of the February 21 agreement could still be a way forward albeit Putin has made it clear that Yanukovych has no further part to play personally. Difficult though that would be, should it be ruled out if it steered things away from conflict?

    As to g’s contribution, how many nations would measure up to his test for UN Security Council membership -“defenders of democracy and human rights”. I am sure he must recognise how “deeply unpleasant” many throughout the world consider the conduct of the USA and UK in Iraq and elsewhere.

  • nvelope2003 5th Mar '14 - 12:13pm

    The only effective way to stop Putin would be by war. Does any sane person want a repetition of 1914-18, 1939-45 or all the terrible wars since then, with all the loss of life, suffering and subsequent economic collapse that ensued. If they do they need to be taken to the nearest mental hospital. This is a dispute between 2 peoples which is nothing to do with Britain but which is being whipped up by thos who benefit from conflicts, are unlikely to suffer any of the bad effects but will probably make money out of it. The only war that the UK should get involved in is one where we are attacked by a nation which we have a realistic prospect of beating. I do not think that would include Russia, China or the US but maybe Belgium or Denmark.

    As regards Tsar Nicholas II, he may not have been a very good ruler but he was better than those who succeded him, such as Lenin, Stalin etc and did not attempt to impose economic policies which ruined the economy and caused widespread death and destruction but like most rulers at that time he saw war as a legitimate weapon to rectify grievances and he and most of his family paid a terrible price for that, as did the rulers of other nations who foolishly saw war as the answer to their problems.

  • Julian Tisi 5th Mar '14 - 1:40pm

    @ John Tilley “The simple lesson isthat you cannot define a political party by being “in the centre”. This is the fundamental weakness of Cleggism. What is the centre ground on The Ukraine? There is no centre ground. It is a myth, an illusion.”

    I agree that “centrism” isn’t of itself a helpful way of describing a party’s set of beliefs. Likewise “equidistance” doesn’t help if just means “wherever Labour and the Tories are, then somewhere in the middle”. But as shorthand, it’s a start. It needs to be backed up by a philosophy though if it’s to have any meaning. On the economy it’s broadly “we believe in economic responsibility (unlike Labour) and fairness (unlike the Tories / UKIP)”. On Ukraine I agree there’s no middle ground between standing up to Putin and not standing up to him. But to be fair, the party leadership has been pretty clear that they’re on the side of standing up to Putin on the basis of the party’s belief in the primacy of international law and the principle of liberal interventionism. In the Iraq war Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell were always at pains to state that the party’s opposition to the war in Iraq was not down to some pacifist stance but down to the fact that war would be both illegal and unnecessary. The party’s stance on Ukraine is consistent with this.

    As for disagreement amongst rank and file liberals (such as expressed here) I’m actually glad that there is such disagreement. We’re talking about the possibility of war so it’s not something to be taken lightly. For my own part I broadly agree with Toby Fenwick. My one point of disagreement is that I think we’re right to rule out military options, partly because the cost/risk is way too high and partly because there are plenty of other options available.

  • Chris, do you think Russia, a permanent, veto wielding, member of the security council, is going to vote for any measure presented to the security council that criticises Russia for flouting international law?

    Of course it’s not, thus, the UN security council cannot be the arbiter of international law in this case.

  • John Tilley is correct in assuming that I had no knowledge whatsoever of Nick Clegg’s family history.

  • Zakrevskii is an interesting person. He was, curiously enough considering the topic of conversation, born, buried, and spent most of his professional life in Ukraine. He doesn’t seem to have been particularly popular with the Tsars, especially after he published articles eulogizing Émile Zola, the defender of Dreyfus, and questioning the French government’s handling of the matter — prompting protests from the French diplomatic corps and forcing Zakrevskii’s resignation from his post.

  • nvelope2003 5th Mar ’14 – 12:13pm begins to sound like Neville Chamberlain when he says —
    “….. This is a dispute between 2 peoples which is nothing to do with Britain …. … The only war that the UK should get involved in is one where we are attacked by a nation which we have a realistic prospect of beating. ”

    War is not a sane option ( never is) and I do not like isolationism either. But, as the German government has repeated in the last few days , it is a mistake to confuse diplomacy with weakness.

    Britain is part of the EU which borders on The Ukraine. A significant proportion of Ukrainians want closer links with the EU. So it is very much in our interests not to recognise that this is more than some far distant land of which we
    know nothing . But that oes nt have to mean wa. Things have moved on since the 1930s. Indeed things have moved on since the end of the Soviet Union. There are a large number of levers that can be used to convince Putin. These levers include a variety of sanctions both political and economic.

    It is incorrect to say that this is a dispute between 2 peoples. See my earlier references to Tatars in The Crimea.

    The Crimea may not be just a one way street for Russian expansionism. Not for the first time Moscow might be biting off more than it can chew. Putin might have got away with it in Georgia, but the jury is still out on the long term results of his violent approach in Chechnya. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was an even less successful attempt than the Bush-Blair invasion of 20 years later. Some of Putin’s rich oligarch chums might consider the lessons from 35 years of Russia sending in the tanks and start to wonder if the man in the macho publicity photos is really a reliable bet for the future.

  • Paul In Twickenham 5th Mar '14 - 3:26pm

    Being selfish about this whole thing, the domestic issue highlighted is the need for energy security. Why does Putin think he will get away with this? Because he knows that The West will always cave in to the threat of having the gas turned off.

  • Some information about gas, and the West’s experiences of doing without it. is available on Wikipedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia%E2%80%93Ukraine_gas_disputes

  • If this is true it is a game changer.
    http://rt.com/news/ashton-maidan-snipers-estonia-946/
    It certainly needs to be investigated further.

  • Paul in Twickenham, The Germans are rapidly developing their renewable sources of energy. If the rest of the EU were to do the same the reliance on Russian gas would be reduced.
    The Russians can cut off the gas to the EU but that cuts both ways, no gas to EU equals no cash to Russia

    David-1, I have now read a but more and I made the wrong assumption about which Tsar. He was in fact one of Tsar Alexander III’s top lawyers. Died in Cairo in 1906. Apparently he built a pyramid in his back garden . I wonder if it is still there.

  • Another picture of the Zakrevskii pyramid: http://prostir.museum/images/egipt%20piramida.jpg

  • @David-1. Thanks for link to photo of The Clegg Family Pyramid.
    I really should pay closer attention to Jonathan Calder’s Blog.

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Mar '14 - 12:25pm

    Apologies for not replying sooner: internet meltdown. I’d encourage everyone to read the new Chatham House paper on the crisis: http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Meetings/Meeting%20Transcripts/20140306UkrainePolicy1.pdf

    @Steve: Not sure how you can judge my qualification to discuss R2P? And instead of playing the man, why would Syria not have fitted into the humanitarian exception of R2P?

    @ LittleJackiePaper; I may be placing too much faith in international law, but our response has to be calibrated and consistent with it. International law isn’t a phantom – just ask Radovan Karadicz – but it is developing from a weak base: it is sobering to think that in 1939 the conquering of territory was still an accepted legal norm outside of Europe.

    @Denis / nvelope2003: No one is suggesting war. What I am suggesting – and CH agree – is that force should not be removed from the table. The use of force is a last resort, but signalling that you won’t use it means that there is free hit for the opposition.

    @Chris / g: Memories fade quickly: the Security Council was deadlocked for much of the Cold War (it averaged 15 resolutions p.a. 1946-89), and then became very busy (averaging 62 p.a. 1990-2013). But the General Assembly dealt with some issues in the Cold War (see Uniting for Peace). This did not alter the SC’s powers , which obviously include interfering the sovereign affairs of states, but caused the veto wielders at least some embarrassment in supporting their allies/clients’ bad behavior (something done by east and west).

  • Let’s boil current events down to some semblance of reality.
    What kind of crazy world have we entered when the voice of Crimean people via a referendum is NOT valid, but the Molotov cocktail overthrow of a democratically elected Ukrainian government IS valid?

  • @Toby Fenwick
    “Not sure how you can judge my qualification to discuss R2P? And instead of playing the man, ”

    I did not judge your qualification to discuss R2P. You actually made no attempt to discuss R2P and neither did I. You made a bald statement about the legality that contradicts the uncertainty of expert opinion to which I pointed out that expert opinion is divided. That is not an ad hominem attack. It is an argument that demonstrates that your certainty about the legality of Syria is unjustified. It is a perfectly rational argument and one that should be allowed to be heard.

    A couple of seconds of research on the internet reveals how expert opinion was divided and, quite possibly, leaning towards the idea that action against Syria without UN backing would have been illegal. See, for example:

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/sep/12/would-us-strike-syria-violate-international-law/

    Can you please tell me why you think your certain opinion about the legality of Syria outweighs the uncertainty of expert opinion?

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Mar '14 - 5:32pm

    @John Dunn: By all means have a referendum on Crimean independence that is internationally supervised after a free and fair campaign. It is hard to see that a vote in the regional assembly under the current circumstances constitutes such a vote.

  • “By all means have a referendum on Crimean independence that is internationally supervised after a free and fair campaign”
    And do you have reason or evidence to believe that a secret ballot in Crimea, would not be free and fair? Why is the Scottish referendum not internationally supervised?
    “It is hard to see that a vote in the regional assembly under the current circumstances constitutes such a vote.”
    It’s hard to see how a Molotov Cocktail trumps a ballot box, but isn’t that exactly what has happened in Ukraine two weeks ago?

  • The acting government of the Ukraine (in place not due to “Molotov cocktails” but to a legal vote of the existing Rada) has opted to move to free elections sooner rather than later — on 25 May, in fact. Putin’s aggression and the attempted annexation of the Crimea are merely attempts to preempt any legal expression of the national will of the Ukrainian people.

    The so-called independence referendum is an exact copy of the steps taken by Stalin to annex the portions of Poland which he, in coordination with Hitler, had occupied in September 1939. To those who are unfamiliar with the history of the region, they were:
    1) Occupy the region with military force under the specious pretext of “protecting” the inhabitants (17 September 1939).
    2) Organise separatist assemblies under Soviet control (early October 1939).
    3) These puppet assemblies petition for annexation by Soviet republics (26-30 October 1939).
    4) The Supreme Soviet approves annexation (1 November 1939).
    5) The U.S.S.R. formally annexes the occupied territories (14-15 November 1939).

    So, you can sit around twiddling your thumbs and checking how closely Putin follows the Stalinist timetable for extinguishing freedom. Or you can stand up for a small nation against an aggressive superpower. Your choice.

  • nvelope2003 6th Mar '14 - 6:48pm

    After the 1914-18 war Poland occupied large tracts of land in Western Belarus and Western Ukraine which were not inhabited by Poles. Lord Curzon headed an inquiry into this and the Curzon line was the frontier of Polish settlement but the Poles refused to accept this and continued to occupy this territory, including the capital of Lithuania, until it was annexed by the USSR after the war of 1939-45. I am not suggesting that Stalin was right but there is another side to this story which needs to be told. After 1945 large parts of German speaking territory were annexed by the Communist Polish People’s republic in compensation for the loss of the eastern territories which they had no right to anyway but the west did absolutely nothing about any of this but rather connived at it. Huge numbers of Germans were expelled from places like Silesia and for many years after the war these expellees constituted a pressure group in the Western Federal Republic of Germany. Now there was not much sympathy for those Germans after the horrors of the war but were they any more guilty than any of the others who bombed and destroyed lives during this dreadful war. I do not think so as most of them were women, children and old people . You can form your own opinion.

  • Stuart Mitchell 6th Mar '14 - 6:49pm

    “So, you can sit around twiddling your thumbs and checking how closely Putin follows the Stalinist timetable for extinguishing freedom. Or you can stand up for a small nation against an aggressive superpower. Your choice.”

    Crimea is an autonomous republic which, until 60 years ago, was part of Russia. I find it bizarre that anybody would wish to deny Crimeans the same sort of referendum that the Scots will be having later this year.

  • Kissinger has some realism but also seems a bit out of touch – is the history of several centuries really so overpoweringly relevant? Perhaps the end game can be arranged so that everyone can believe they won?

    If the Crimean people really want to be part of Russia, then why can we not allow that – even support it? They will believe for a while that they’ve won, and Russia will believe it’s won – keeping secret whatever it’s hiding at Sebastopol while letting the West pay the huge cost of rescuing the rest of Ukraine, who will believe they’ve won by receiving the huge EU/IMF financial support they might not have received otherwise – a lovely jubbly target for oligarchic theft – and the EU will believe it’s won because it gave that support.

    Can it perhaps have all been planned this way?

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Mar '14 - 11:05pm

    @jedi: Indeed, Kellogg-Briand was an attempt to criminalise use of force in Europe, hence its alternative (and hubristic) official title of the ‘General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy’ only applied as between the members, largely in Europe. It was still legal to use force against non signatories.

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Mar '14 - 11:09pm

    @ imbroglio: as above, this is fine if there is an agreement to hold a free and fair referendum in Crimea. It would currently be impossible to hold such a referendum, making Russian withdrawal, potentially under international auspices, a key prior condition.

  • @Toby. Yes. A vote like that would normally be preceded by many years of political activity and argument, and with rather detailed discussions about what the change of sovereignty would entail. The apparently hurried way it seems to be happening suggests that the kind of process described by David-1 is happening instead.

  • nvelope2003 7th Mar '14 - 11:03am

    The BBC asked some Crimean students whether they wished to join Russia and they overwhelmingly rejected the idea. They said they wanted to remain part of Ukraine but with some more autonomy. One older person talked of joining Russia but even most of them did not like the idea though they spoke Russian, but they had never lived in Russia and did not wish to do so.The referendum might not give the answer Putin wants – what will he do then ? Probably try to get the eastern provinces to leave the Ukraine ? but even there many Russian speakers do not wish to join Russia. Those who do seem to be older people, mostly women if the pictures on the TV are true.
    Now appeasement is generally unpopular for those who have lived all their life in a largely peaceful Britain but despite that most applauded the concessions made to the IRA to end the Irish troubles.

    Neville Chamberlain has been criticised for allowing Hitler to occupy the Sudeten lands and Austria but these places were largely inhabited by German speaking people, always in the case of Austria and for many years for the Sudeten lands of Bohemia. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles ending the 1914-18 war was based on the principle of the self determination of peoples and apparently that is what those people wanted. Was it wrong to avoid war by accepting that apparent wish ? Of course Hitler’s invasion of Poland was totally wrong and Britain duly went to war though it did not help the Poles who in 1945 were handed over to the not so tender mercies of Stalin and the USSR for 45 years without being asked for their views.

    Putin is not Hitler or Stalin but he is a politician who wants to restore Russia’s former glory. Ukraine should not join Nato or the EU but be a buffer state. Russia accepted this for Finland and might do so for Ukraine.

  • I keep seeing this Russian-inspired talking point that the Crimea has been part of Ukraine for “only” sixty years. I don’t think that a tenth of the people using this talking point are even that old, but to put sixty years in context, here is a partial list of nations that have been independent for “only” sixty years or less:

    Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Togo, Guinea, Malagasy Republic, Mali, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Benin, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Sierre Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Algeria, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Gambia, Botswana, Lesotho,, Mauritius, Swaziland, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Comoros, São Tomé e Principe, Angola, Seychelles, Djibouti, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eritrea, South Sudan; Suriname, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Bahamas, Guyana, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda; Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives, Bangladesh, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Brunei Darussalam; Samoa, Nauru, Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau.

    Others could be added. The point is that “only 60 years ago” is not yesterday, and if everything that has happened within the last sixty years is reversible and susceptible to a do-over by a former controlling power, then what part of the world is safe? I cannot think of anyone this “sixty-year theory” would please except a few die-hard Imperialists in odd parts of the world. It is simply absurd.

  • “@Chris / g: Memories fade quickly: the Security Council was deadlocked for much of the Cold War (it averaged 15 resolutions p.a. 1946-89), and then became very busy (averaging 62 p.a. 1990-2013). But the General Assembly dealt with some issues in the Cold War (see Uniting for Peace). This did not alter the SC’s powers , which obviously include interfering the sovereign affairs of states, but caused the veto wielders at least some embarrassment in supporting their allies/clients’ bad behavior (something done by east and west).”

    None of which in any way affects the point I made – that the summit you referred to agreed the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine only for actions authorised by the established UN procedures. The text of the agreement clearly provides no legal basis for states to take action without proper UN authorisation.

  • David Allen 7th Mar '14 - 12:43pm

    Kissinger, of all people, has some very wise words (age finally brings maturity?):

    “To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system.”

    Reading this thread, I applaud those – Toby Fenwick amongst them – who show an ability to listen to other points of view and modify their own stances accordingly. That’s what it’s going to take, internationally, if this is to be resolved. Every side has a point. No side is wholly in the right.

    Russia is misbehaving – but its interests have been trampled on, and they need to reduce their losses. The question is how.

    Handing back Crimea, on the understanding that the rest of Ukraine stays united, might eventually be something like a solution. But there are problems. Do the Crimeans really want it? Even if a majority do, what about the Tatar minority? And in the “rest of Ukraine”, will the Western side dominate and repress the Russian-speaking east, perpetuating instability?

    A diplomatic solution can’t simply be to hand Crimea back. It has to be contingent on a free and fair referendum, on the Russians first pulling the troops out, on guarantees for minorities, on a lengthy timescale for debate but with a publicly declared and promised end date. Both sides need a partial win.

    And when it’s all calmed down, the EU need to take a good hard look at what Sir Peter Tapsell called its planned expansion toward Mongolia. What was thought of as internationalism has turned into an international threat. Next accession state Turkey? Not if we don’t want another powder keg!

  • David Allen makes some good points, not least onTurkey and EU membership.
    Some comments in this thread have already been overtaken by events.
    The Putin state propaganda that was echoed in some earlier comments in this and another thread in LDV can now be seen as just part of a carefully planned Russian Government campaign of lies to cloak their annexatiion of The Crimea.

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Mar '14 - 2:36pm

    David-1
    “I keep seeing this Russian-inspired talking point that the Crimea has been part of Ukraine for ‘only’ sixty years… to put sixty years in context, here is a partial list of nations that have been independent for ‘only’ sixty years or less:”

    You’re muddying the waters there, conflating “being part of” with “independence”. Ukraine never even existed as an independent state until 1991.

    “if everything that has happened within the last sixty years is reversible and susceptible to a do-over by a former controlling power, then what part of the world is safe?”

    Curiously you seem less bothered about the fact that the result of the last Ukraine presidential election has been subject to a “do-over” by a bunch of protesters in a square in Kiev.

    I hold no brief for Russia, but it’s clear that Russia has some perfectly legitimate interests in Crimea (some of them assured by treaty). Given that nobody can deny that Ukraine is in a state of political chaos, and given that the Russian “invaders” have shown a remarkable amount of restraint so far if invaders is what they actually are, then I’m not at all convinced that Russia has overstepped the mark in protecting its interests. I think the West needs to stop taking sides here and, if it wants to help, do what it can to facilitate the people of the Crimea (and elsewhere) determining their own future. Crimea is an autonomous state – to deny them a say on their own future would seem indefensible to me, but that’s exactly what the Ukraine government and the West seem intent on happening.

  • @Stuart Mitchell — since virtually every statement of fact you have made is false (including “I hold no brief for Russia”) I don’t see that you’re interested in a discussion, or deserve a response. Nonetheless you have done an important service in illustrating the corrosive effects of Russian propaganda on the Western mind.

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Mar '14 - 7:27pm

    David-1

    I’m very interested in a discussion – one that involves recognising that this is a complex situation, politically and historically, that can’t be simplified into black hats and white hats. You on the other hand sound like Franz Liebkind railing against verdammt propaganda if anybody tries to see any of this from the Russians’ point of view.

    Earlier you came up with a long list of places that have been allowed to practise self-determination. You apparently fail to see the irony in wanting to deny Crimea the same.

    “since virtually every statement of fact you have made is false”

    Which is of course what people say when they can’t rebut any of it.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Mar '14 - 7:53pm

    @Chris: there are routes around the UNSC – Uniting For Peace, most specifically. R2P is a fudge, but it was clearly designed to deal with large scale crimes against humanity where the UNSC is deadlocked.

  • “there are routes around the UNSC – Uniting For Peace, most specifically. R2P is a fudge, but it was clearly designed to deal with large scale crimes against humanity where the UNSC is deadlocked.”

    Well, as I keep pointing out, the text agreed by the summit you referred to specifically relates to action “through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII”. So it would not have rendered action against Syria legal in the absence of UN authorisation, as you claimed it would.

  • Toby Fenwick 8th Mar '14 - 3:34pm

    Chris: It would have been similar to Kosovo. The Russians may have put a text up for a vote, but it would’ve been vetoed, and in any event would’ve been unlikely to get 9 votes (ie, it would’ve failed anyway, irrespective of the vetoes). R2P is certainly better when linked to a Ch VII resolution – all uses of force, including self defence are. But if R2P requires a Ch VII resolution then it brings nothing to the party; this was clearly not the intention, leading to the conclusion that it does not require explicit Ch VII authorisation.

    http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/publications/core-rtop-documents

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