Putin and International Law 248

By sending troops into the Ukraine, (others than those stationed there by agreement) Putin has broken international law.  That does not depend on the Budapest Memorandum.  It would be a breach of international law whether the Budapest Memorandum existed or not.  The effect of the Budapest Memorandum is rather to oblige the US and the UK to do something about it.

The existence of civil disturbance in a country does not justify outside military intervention.  That it does is, of course, the Blair doctrine that I have been campaigning against for 15 years, inside and outside government.  Putin of course opposes such interventions by the West, in Iraq, Syria or Libya, but supports such interventions when he does them, as in Georgia and Ukraine.  That is hypocrisy.  There are elements on the British left who also oppose such interventions when the West does them, but support when Putin does them.  You can see their arguments on the last comments thread: fascinatingly none of them have addressed my point about Putin’s distinct lack of interest in the principle of self-determination when it comes to Chechnya or Dagestan.

The overwhelming need now is to de-escalate the crisis.  People rushing about in tanks and helicopters very often leads to violence, and here Putin is at fault.  There was no imminent physical threat to Russians in the Crimea, and there is no need for all this military activity.  Ukraine should file a case against Russia at the International Court of Justice; the UK and US, as guarantor states, can ask to be attached as guarantor states with an interest in the Budapest Memorandum .  That will fulfil their guarantor obligations without moving a soldier.

The West is not going to provide the kind of massive financial package needed to rescue the Ukraine’s moribund economy and relieve its debts.  It would be great if it did, but with western economies struggling, no western politician is in a position to announce many billions in aid to the Ukraine.  The chances of Ukraine escaping from Russian political and economic domination in the near future are non-existent – the Ukrainians are tied by debt.  That was the hard reality that scuppered the EU/Ukraine agreement.  That hard reality still exists.  The Association Agreement is a very long path to EU membership.

Both Putin and the West are reacting to events which unfolded within Ukraine.  Action by the West was not a significant factor in the toppling by Yanukovich – that was a nationalist reaction to an abrupt change of political direction which seemed to be moving Ukraine decisively into the Russian orbit.  Ukrainians are not stupid and they can see the standard of living in former Soviet Bloc countries which have joined the European Union is now much higher .  Anybody who denies that is deluded.  Of course western governments had programmes to encourage pro-western tendencies in Ukraine, including secret operations. It would be naïve to expect otherwise.  Anybody who thinks Russia was not doing exactly the same is deluded.  But it is a huge mistake to lay too much weight on these efforts – both the West and Russia were taken aback by the strength and speed of the political convulsions in Ukraine, and everybody is still paying catch-up.

Which is why we now need a period of calm, and an end to dangerous military adventurism – which undeniably is coming primarily from Russia.  Political dialogue needs to be resumed.  It is interesting that even the pro-Russian assembly of Crimea region has only called a referendum on more devolved powers, not on union with Russia or independence.  However I still maintain the best way forward is agreement on internationally supervised referenda to settle the position.  The principle of self-determination should be the most important one here.  If any of the regions of Ukraine wish to secede, the goal should be a peaceful and orderly transition.  Effective military annexation by Putin, and insistence by the West that national boundaries cannot be changed, are both unproductive stances.




248 thoughts on “Putin and International Law

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  • doug scorgie

    3 Mar, 2014 – 8:24 am

    “Not a single bullet fired in the Crimea makes me feel as if there is a start for negotiations and if Germany is prepared to do the talking, so be it.”

    I hope your right Nevermind but watch out for a “false-flag” operation that can be blamed on Russia.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!


    ““Very sad to have to say this since I have been an admirer for some time. But poor Craig appears to have lost his former powers of critical reasoning. I know that he has had medical problems that were heart-related, but while the loss of such capacity can come about due to oxygen deficiency, it is more commonly associated with specific brain tumours. If I were a close friend I would encourage him to undergo a CATscan quite soon. Wishing him all the best but no longer listening to his current nonsense.”

    You may wish to have your eyes and ears tested as well as your sense of common decency. Much as I disagree with Craig on many things I can appreciate the consistency and the quality of his thinking.”

    Agree with ESLO.

    You may remember that when Mary called on Craig to post about Ukraine I introduced a note of caution onto the blog, saying something to the effect of ‘be careful what you ask for because it may well not turn out as you expected and so disappoint you’.

    And so indeed it came to pass. Some regulars came out in more or less civil dissent with Craig, other usually very prolific posters (Ba’al Zevul, Mr Scourgie, our young poetess, etc… mostly took care to keep their heads beneath the parapet, and yet others, unable to control their indignation and range, let fly with the insults: these ranged from ‘Craig has lost his marbles’ to ‘Craig has revealed his true neo-con nature and is part of the deep state, with a particularly shameful detour via ‘have you had a dram too much (at 13h34 above).

    If memory serves, it’s eerily similar – but on a grander scale – to the reactions when Craig came out with the statement that he was pro European Union. It was like the reactions of the Eminent guests when Sir Archibald Clark Kerr let off one of his renowned farts at a Washington cocktail party.

    Press on regardless, Craig. Most of your ‘guests’ don’t deserve you.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    DoNNyDarKo writes

    “Borders were changed in Kosovo, turning a province of Serbia into a quasi independent State!Not recognised by many.”

    Another good example of a half-truth, the poster no doubt relying on readers’natural trust (or perhaps laziness).

    In fact, as of now, Kosova is recognised by 108 out of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

    Most people would call that many.


    “Life is getting better, life is getting merrier!” (J. Stalin, ca. 1932)

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “Ukraine would be better off having an angry bear to protect them rather than being the front line of a NATO with no regard for them.I do believe they’ve been in this position before.”

    They have indeed! Problem is

    – the Angry Bear didn’t make much of a fist of protecting them in 1941..

    – ..but made up for it in 1944 when the NKVD and the political commissars came back.

  • Herbie

    habby says:

    “In fact, as of now, Kosova is recognised by 108 out of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

    Most people would call that many.”

    You weren’t saying that many more than that was many when it was Palestine.


  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    From N_ ‘s interminable musings:

    “In 1968 in London at the Grosvenor Square demonstration, which many people hoped would set off a ‘May 1968′ in Britain, people carrying cameras got thumped – and fucking rightly too.)”

    It’s interesting how people reveal themselves through the small, apparently insignificant details, isn’t it.

    1/. I happened to be there, but saw no cameras other than press ones. Were you there? Perhaps the chappie up the lamp post with a bird’s eye view of the proceedings?

    2/. Who was doing the alleged thumping – demonstrators or police?

    3/. Why do you think this alleged thumping occurred?

    4/. The recent incident where a newspaper seller was pushed by a policeman and died after he fell was caught on camera: this enabled a prosecution of said policeman. Do you think the fellow who did the filming should have been thumped, and if so, why?

    Looking forward to your rapid and reasoned response.


  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!


    “You weren’t saying that many more than that was many when it was Palestine.


    I believe I was asking how many states recognised Palestine and how many of them had diplomatic representation in Palestine (and where). Not quite what you claim I said.

    But feel free to rebut, together with the post in which I supposedly said that.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    “I think the ousting of Yanukovich was of doubtful legality. However if it were completely illegal, it still does not make it legal for another country to invade.”

    So – if not by force – how otherwise does one remove an illegally installed “Government” -given the practicalities of the situation ?


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