He concludes that:
- The union of Crimea with Russia does not constitute an act of “annexation” as claimed by Western politicians and media.
- The referendum did not violate international law even if it violated the Ukrainian constitution.
- Russia did not violate international law by accepting the demand for joining the Russian Federation because Russia is not bound by the Ukrainian constitution.
- The presence of Russian forces in Crimea outside the scope of lease for the Russian fleet violated international law. But that does not mean that the referendum (which was only possible due to the presence of Russian troops) is invalid.
Merkel (no relation to the chancellor) is concerned about the cavalier use of the term of “annexation”, which under Art. 51 of the UN Charta allows for the case of self-defense by the party concerned or by third parties even without resolution of the UN security council, as in the case of Saddam’s annexation of Kuwait.
A referendum and a declaration of cessation come under national and not international law. Therefore, they cannot violate international law.
International law does not apply to a referendum or declaration of cessation. This status of international law was confirmed four years ago by a legal opinion of the International Court of Justice for the UN plenary assembly in relation to the cessation of Kosovo.
International law does not prohibit cessation, neither does it provide for the right to cessation (because the signatories of this law are nations who have no interest in dismemberment). From a propagandistic point of view, this allows the statement that “under international law, Crimea does not have a right to cessation.” This is correct; however, the conclusion that the cessation violated international law is wrong.
The force of the Russian troops was not directed against the citizens or their parliament; it was directed against the Ukrainian troops or the central state, which could have prevented the referendum. That is why the Russian troops blockade the Ukrainian military bases and not the voting stations. Anyways, nobody in the West doubted that the result of the referendum corresponded roughly to the will of the people.
On Feb. 17th, 2008, the provisional civil administration of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. This violated resolution 1244 of the UN security council dated 1999, which guaranteed the integrity of Serbia after Kosovo had be put under UN administration following Nato intervention in Serbia, even though this was contested two years later by the International Court of Justice. One day after cessation, the UK, US and France recognized Kosovo as independent State. German followed three days later.
All things considered, Russian action constitutes a relatively minor violation of international law. Russia did not act in a reckless manner. In the long run, the current status of Crimea may anyways have been unavoidable. The way in which the change has been brought about may have prevented worse conflicts.
“Annexations” between states are something different and are typically grounds for military conflict. To talk about “annexation” in this context does not only confound the basics of international law, but also evokes a potential for legitimization in a dangerous manner. The West has suffered a loss of face of historic proportion due to a failed foreign policy. The West should not extend the collateral damage to the sphere of international law.
(This is a rough summary. A full translation would take more time.)