Saturday, March 1, 2014

Art. 2(4) and the Ukraine situation

I've been following, though not intensely, the developments re Russia/Crimea; this report has what seems to be the latest. For reasons of time (and lack of expertise on the region), I'll limit myself to one point. The news reports have been referring to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, under which Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nukes and Russia pledged to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. That's fine and all, but Russia is already required to do that under Art. 2(4) of the UN Charter. So the Budapest Memorandum seems to me, though I'm not an international lawyer, redundant on that point.

Also, one commenter at the WaPo said something like "why is the U.S. concerned about international law, given drones, Guantanamo, etc etc.?" That the G.W. Bush admin violated international law, and that the Obama admin may also be doing so in certain respects, is no reason to refrain from expressing concern/alarm when a country of some consequence appears to be violating one of the most basic norms of international society and one of the most basic provisions of the UN Charter. I'm aware there are all sorts of complications here, but the essential points, in terms of international law, seem reasonably clear. That's not to say anything about the policy questions, which I'm not going to do, not in this post at any rate.


hank_F_M said...


I think that Putin has been building a case that the change of government in Ukraine was illegal and they are responding to a request from the legitimate government.

Thinner than President Bushes Iraq justifications but if your are a veto carrying member of the Security Council it is enough.

The BBC an article about Ukrainian Ministry of Interior Troops guarding the border in Crimea to turn back "fascists" who want to support the central government. If true it could be setting up a basis for responding to a request from local government against the "illegal" regime.

Not good any way you cut it.

LFC said...

Well, as I understand it (from the piece I linked and others), Russian troops from the Black Sea Fleet (stationed in Crimea) are already guarding buildings and airports there, and the Russian Parliament has already given Putin its ok to do more should he want. So I'm not sure he even needs to bother w going through the motions of a request from the Crimean govt, though he may.

Sure, they are trying to build a case that the change in govt in Ukraine was illegal but it seems to boil down at least partly to 'interference by the EU and US in Ukraine's internal affairs' by allegedly funding or inciting the protests. As you say, a thin case.

That said, I wd not want to paint this as a pure good-guys-vs-bad-guys situation as things are almost always more complicated than that, and certainly are here. And I don't see much pt in demonizing Putin, as Brooks did or came close to doing on the NewsHr the other night, when he called Putin a narcissist with "an itch to destabilize the world." This is in Russia's 'near abroad', after all, which does not justify what it has done so far but does suggest to me that Brooks' language may be a tad overdone. I hold no brief whatsoever for Putin, whose authoritarian impulses are obvious, but I'm not sure that name-calling a la Brooks helps. Or calls a la Krauthammer (apparently, I didn't read the column) for some unspecified show of force. A WaPo editorial (that I didn't link) called for stiff diplomatic/ec. sanctions, but it's not clear any are available that wd have much of an impact.

There are analogies being drawn to the run-up to the Russia-Georgia conflict of late '08. Anyway, I obvs. don't know how this will turn out, but it may be that Crimea will become something along the lines of say S.Ossetia -- or maybe just end up w more autonomy within Ukraine. The presence of the Crimean Tatars just makes the sit. more volatile.

(None of the above is remotely original analysis, of course, but better to put these unoriginal thoughts in comments than in the post itself.)