Did Russia violate international law in the Crimean crisis? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14388535
In a lengthy article in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the professor for law of the University of Hamburg, Reinhard Merkel, discusses the question of the legality of Russia’s action in the Crimean.

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.)
#14388556
Interesting article, though officially the Russian troops outside of the bases never existed but were local activists. So officially at least Russia would have gotten away with point four as well.

International law isn't real because it's unenforceable.


I'm sure North Korea will be delighted by this statement.
#14388674
Typhoon wrote:Interesting article, though officially the Russian troops outside of the bases never existed but were local activists. So officially at least Russia would have gotten away with point four as well.


This shows that, different from how the situation was portrayed in the West, Putin took great care to stay within international law, at least formally.

This sharply contrasts with Western action in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
#14388788
Personly I dont care what the international law said.
Russia claims that they have gotten a guarantee that NATO shouldnt expand to the east.
Firstly this is a lie.
Secondly why whould anyone mind that NATO expands? NATO is an allience that countries are free to join and leave whenever they desire.
Noone except the country themselfes should have anything to say about that.
The reason countries want to join NATO is because everyone is afraid of Russia. The only nation that people still feel is a serious threat.

In fact many countries here in Europe wouldnt have a defence at all if it werent for Russia. In Sweden were I live, we pretend that we have an army, when we in fact dont. The only one we pretend for is Russia.

Russia annexed Crimea because they said that the people there wanted to be Russian. Ok, I admit that that were probably true, and that the vote would have been something like 60% for annexation if it would have been cast democraticly, but with that logic the swedish part of Ukraine (one small village) would also have to vote if they would like to leave Ukraine or not.

They Ukraine people rose and threw out the corrupt government and Moscow dint like it! Thats what I belived happen. It was of course wrong of the EU
to force Ukraine to choose between EU and Moscow. However that is peanuts compared to what Moscow is doing.
#14388845
Staffan wrote:Personly I dont care what the international law said.

That is the position of the US, which considers that the law of the strongest applies.

Russia claims that they have gotten a guarantee that NATO shouldnt expand to the east.
Firstly this is a lie.

No, that is not a lie. East Germany was allowed into the political organisation of Nato on the condition that Nato forces would not be deployed East of the former iron curtain. Now, they are talking about deploying Nato forces to the Ukraine.

Secondly why whould anyone mind that NATO expands?

Any country targeted by Nato as "enemy" would very much mind.

NATO is an allience that countries are free to join and leave whenever they desire.

That is obviously wrong. The principal of mutual defense means that any conflict of any one member with another country can escalate into a regional or global conflict all Nato members have to participate in. Therefore, countries which have existing or potential conflicts with other countries cannot be admitted to the alliance. In 2006, Ukraine membership was fortunately vetoed by existing members, otherwise we would already be drawn into a military conflict with Russia.

Noone except the country themselfes should have anything to say about that.

As I said, that is completely wrong.

The reason countries want to join NATO is because everyone is afraid of Russia. The only nation that people still feel is a serious threat.

The argument of the West is completely hypocritical. On the hand hand, Western propagandists claim that Russia is a "threat", on the other hand, the same propagandists claim the Russia is weak and isolated. In fact so weak and isolated that now appears an appropriate moment to go for the final kill and aim for regime-change in Moscow or even a break-up of the Russian Federation.

When was the last time Russia invaded Sweden? It has always been the other way around: Swedes, Latvians, Poles, French, Germans, they all invaded Russia.
#14388874
International law is wonderful. Just a few questions though:

Has anyone got a phone number for the international police?
I'm in Somerset Britain, where's my nearest international court?
Where's the local office of the international law public prosecutor?
Where are the international law statutes listed? I've tried googling, but I can find databases of laws for England America, France etc, but nothing concrete for world law.
#14388893
Rich wrote:I'm in Somerset Britain, where's my nearest international court?
Where's the local office of the international law public prosecutor?
Where are the international law statutes listed? I've tried googling, but I can find databases of laws for England America, France etc, but nothing concrete for world law.


The UN charter serves as the body of international law. Read, for example, International Law:

The development of International Law is one of the primary goals of the United Nations. The Charter of the United Nations, in its Preamble, sets the objective "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained".

International Law defines the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries. Its domain encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern such as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality, the treatment of prisoners, the use of force, and the conduct of war, among others. It also regulates the global commons, such as the environment, sustainable development, international waters, outer space, global communications and world trade.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the United Nations. Many multilateral treaties are adopted by it and subsequently opened for signature and ratification by member States of the United Nations.


The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands, is the judicial organ of the UN. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States.

With a UN mandate, the international community, or one or more countries, can enforce international law.

For Europe, there is the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The Court of Justice interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries. It also settles legal disputes between EU governments and EU institutions. Individuals, companies or organisations can also bring cases before the Court if they feel their rights have been infringed by an EU institution.

As a European, you also have to possibility to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.
#14388900
No but never mind about Europe. Say I'm in North Korea, Tibet, Bahrain or Congo and my human rights are not being respected where's the number for the international police that enforces international law?
#14389090
Rich wrote:No but never mind about Europe. Say I'm in North Korea, Tibet, Bahrain or Congo and my human rights are not being respected where's the number for the international police that enforces international law?

I have already replied. The ICJ has international jurisdiction:

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands, is the judicial organ of the UN. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States.

The law does not fall from the sky. It needs to be established by the members of a community (individuals or states) who comply with the law. If the most prominent member of a community, the US, does not recognize the ICJ and regularly violates international law by invading other countries without UN mandate, engages in extrajudicial renditions and killings, and generally disregards the laws of other countries, then the rule of law will be weakened.

Likewise, if the UK undermines the European Court of Justice, it weakens human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

Thus, the question should not be: where is the phone number? The question should be: what does your country, or what do you as a voter, do to support or undermine the rule of law? I think the answer is clear from your posts.

pikachu wrote:I see nothing in the article about the Budapest agreement in 1994, by which Russia was supposed to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. It was an international agreement and it would seem as if Russia had violated it by "allowing" Crimea to join RF.

If the agreement hasn't been adopted by the UN, it is not considered international law. There are innumerable agreements between two or more countries which are not considered international law.

Anyways, even if we consider that the post war borders in Europe should not be violated under the OSCE, that doesn't mean that the right to self-determination of people has been abolished. The Slovaks split from the Czech Republic. That did not violate international law. If the Slovaks had wanted to join another country, that would also not have violated international law.

By the same reasoning, the Crimean cessation by referendum followed by the union with Russia does not violate international law.
#14389210
Anyways, even if we consider that the post war borders in Europe should not be violated under the OSCE, that doesn't mean that the right to self-determination of people has been abolished. The Slovaks split from the Czech Republic. That did not violate international law. If the Slovaks had wanted to join another country, that would also not have violated international law.
Indeed, but there was a specific multi-lateral agreement by which Russia promised to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. It seems that by the letter of the agreement Russia could not have recognized the Crimean referendum as valid, it could not have recognized the declaration of independence of Crimea, and it could not have allowed Crimea to enter RF.

-Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
-Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
-Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.

Russia failed to do all three of these. I've heard Putin talk about the subject, and he said the following bullshit: "if a revolution had indeed taken place in Ukraine, then we are looking at the formation of a new state on the territory of Ukraine (like the formation of USSR on the territory of the former Russian empire), and with this state we are not bound by any agreements". This is obvious nonsense because of the principle of legal succession, and the fact that:
-Except for the 1994 security treaty, Russia considers every treaty it signed with Kiev to be valid for some reason. Including importantly the 2009 gas agreement.
-Even the USSR was actually considered bound by the agreements signed by the Russian Imperial government. Unilateral cancellation of some of these agreements by the Bolshevik government was not recognized by anyone and indeed led to foreign military intervention by a broad coalition of nations.

So it definitely seems to qualify as a violation of a multi-lateral agreement Russia had earlier signed. And I'm pretty sure I've heard somewhere that violation of international treaties IS considered a violation of international law.

From wikipedia: "Under article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, public international law has three principal sources: international treaties, custom, and general principles of law."
"International treaty law comprises obligations states expressly and voluntarily accept between themselves in treaties."
"One significant part of treaty making is that signing a treaty implies recognition that the other side is a sovereign state and that the agreement being considered is enforceable under international law. "
etc.
#14389337
pikachu wrote:1) Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
2) Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
3) Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics."
Russia failed to do all three of these.
That is subject to debate:
1) Yes. That could be seen as a violation of the political agreement, except that I don't believe a simple "memorandum" can nullify the right to self-determination for all times.
2) Perhaps. The use of force applied in Crimea was minimal and aimed at blockading armed forces that would presumably have prevented the referendum.
3) No. Russia is under no obligation to grant favorable conditions to Ukraine. In fact, Russia would be entitled to cut off oil and gas supplies if it is not paid.

if a revolution had indeed taken place in Ukraine, then we are looking at the formation of a new state on the territory of Ukraine (like the formation of USSR on the territory of the former Russian empire), and with this state we are not bound by any agreements.
I note that your Putin quote is in the conditional. Thus it is a hypothesis which he doesn't necessarily adhere to.

I think there are many cases in which a regime change is followed by a cancellation of obligation entered into by the previous regime. But it goes without saying that this should be the object of an international agreement.

-Except for the 1994 security treaty,
The Budapest Memorandum is a "political agreement." It is NOT a "security treaty" and it is NOT an "international treaty. There was an "assurance" of territorial integrity but not a "guarantee" which would have bound the signatories to take action against any violation of the agreement. The US Senate wisely objected to signing an "international treaty" that would have forced the US to intervene militarily in case of violation.

And I'm pretty sure I've heard somewhere that violation of international treaties IS considered a violation of international law.
As I said, the Budapest Memorandum is NOT an "international treaty".

Under article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, public international law has three principal sources: international treaties, custom, and general principles of law.
Even if an international treaty can become the source of international law, the treaty itself is not encoded into law. Besides, there is no "international treaty", as I mentioned above.

Thus, formally, there is no violation of international law. An "international treaty" can be interpreted by the ICJ in the light of international law. But first of all, the signatories have to enter into negotiations to try and find an agreement that is acceptable to all. But I guess that will have to wait until there is a legitimate government in Kiev.
#14389368
The Budapest Memorandum is a "political agreement." It is NOT a "security treaty" and it is NOT an "international treaty
Can you link a source to this, as in a source that confirms that the 1994 agreement is not an international treaty? And what is the difference between international treaty and an international political agreement, anyway?

There was an "assurance" of territorial integrity but not a "guarantee" which would have bound the signatories to take action against any violation of the agreement.
That has absolutely no bearing on whether it is a treaty or not, I hope you realize that, so it's not really relevant. Far from every treaty specifies exact mechanisms let alone guarantees of punishment in case of non-compliance.
#14389376
I have to add that memorandum was broken before Russian military intervention in Crimea by USA and Britain. As they threatened sanctions against Ukraine. The Budapest Memorandum prohibits any signatory country from doing that. So in that sense one can argued that the status of it was annulled as it was a bilateral agreement.

I also read that it was not a treaty bond agreement, as it was not guaranteed by any party. Or something like that.
Last edited by Plaro on 10 Apr 2014 23:21, edited 1 time in total.
#14389378
pikachu wrote:Can you link a source to this,
Just have a look at the relevant Wiki page, but it should be on thousands of other pages on the memorandum too.

It seems trivial to most people, but in legal terms the exact term used is important. The use of "memorandum" is no accident. These things are worked out by lawyers who carefully weigh the legal implication of each word. The Budapest memorandum clearly does not have the status of an "international treaty," even if people frequently confound the two.
#14389390
Just have a look at the relevant Wiki page, but it should be on thousands of other pages on the memorandum too.

Can't you be arsed to provide a link then if it's so easy?

Some sources casually refer to it as a treaty, but others make a point of specifying that it is not one so perhaps the latter have it right.

"While it commits all parties “to refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the 1994 agreement is not a treaty, has no enforcement mechanism and doesn’t require action by any signatories if it’s violated."
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-0 ... louts.html

In that case you are correct. Whatever though, it violates the memorandum and is pretty clearly a fairly dirty and aggressive thing to do against another country. The US and NATO do the same all the time of course.

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