Current Affairs / Politics

Crimean Self-Determination or Russian Annexation?

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are both introduced with articles on the right to self-determination. The principle of self-determination as jus cogens or an indisputable norm in international law nevertheless remains ambiguous, particularly relating to the legality behind the principle within the context of contemporary international life. The development of the principle was initially intended on overcoming the human rights impact colonialism had on those subjected to its authority in addition to the impact of decolonisation and post-colonialism had to international stability, economic relations and security as clearly stated in General Assembly Resolution 1514.[1] What is the relationship or distinction between State and Government and does the state itself possess the qualifications as embodied by the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States if indeed such qualifications epitomise a universal model of statehood and autonomy? This intricacy is further debilitated when entrenched with ideological discourse as a tool to construct hegemonic regimes rather than adhering to the constitutive conditions within international public law. This complexity is undoubtedly exposed with the annexation of Crimea [territory of the Ukraine] by Russian authorities, undermining the regulations of the United Nations Charter[2] and of jus ad bellum or the criteria that determines the legality of warfare and the use of force, along with the prohibitions and the application of self-determination contained by the authority of international law. From the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, to the referendum in Crimea that seemingly found the majority of the population in favour of becoming subjects of Russia, to the eventual deployment of Russian military personnel and annexation of the region with the intent of protecting its subjects from pro-Ukrainian extremists, is there a breach of Russia’ international obligations or is there credibility that can be considered legally tenable? It is the intention of this blog post on this gorgeous albeit cold Sunday afternoon to focus on the situation in Crimea by ascertaining Russia’ legal obligations regarding territorial integrity along with use of force, utilising a comparative approach on Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavia to ascertain the meaning of self-determination in international public law.

The principle of self-determination in international law embodies various doctrines such as sovereignty, statehood, territorial integrity and a number of other principles that negotiate and regulate the practice of international relations between existing and emerging nation-states. The onslaught of the first half of the twentieth century necessitated international corporation to prevent any repetition of violence, annexation or conquests and thus the development of the United Nations as an international body to deliver such measures and regulations was established. Notwithstanding the original and albeit failed attempt to institute the conditions that encourage peaceful, secure relations through the League of Nations,[3] the United Nations with its principle organs has successfully delegated compulsory resolutions with the intent of managing and recommending international peace and cooperation. The problem of effectiveness of enforcing international law, however, remains questionable though enforcement mechanisms that negotiate sustainable processes or sanctions to safeguard human rights principles that encourage changes to domestic laws and other initiatives that bind international law into constitutive characteristics and customary principles is gaining strength. “Nevertheless, there remains vast domains in which the central enforcement of international law is largely non-existent or, at best, sporadic.”[4] A clear example of this failure can be seen with the collapse of Yugoslavia during the last decade of the twentieth century, whereby notoriety of the UN Peacekeepers failing to protect the safe areas of Srebrenica ultimately led to the massacre of thousands of Bosniak boys and men.[5]

The transition of the former Yugoslavia – contained by six socialist republics and two autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina[6] – has since exposed the miscarriage of international organisations to manage adequate responses to emergency situations, becoming the stimulus to modify and enhance the mechanisms that define and regulate the substantive criteria of the principle of self-determination and the conditions that define statehood. One particular aspect of this relies on the concept of territorial integrity and the modalities that outline the legal characteristics between dissolution and succession. According to the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States 1933, a treaty that attempts to elucidate the general requirements within customary international law vis-à-vis statehood – the norms and exceptions of what frameworks self-determination, sovereignty and statehood – purports that a state as a person of international law should possess the qualification of a defined territory.[7] “[A] state is defined as an entity with a defined territory and a permanent population under the control of its own government, which as the capacity to engage in diplomatic relations with other states.”[8] Territorial integrity is contained in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter[9] along with Principle IV (Territorial Integrity of States) of the Helsinki Final Act (1975)[10] along with a number of bi- and multilateral agreements[11] that declares duties including non-recognition of territorial acquisitions or special advantages obtained by force.[12] Recognition as a criteria for statehood, the latter being the “plenary competence to perform acts, make treaties, and so on, in the international sphere,”[13] that is sovereignty within a defined territory is legitimate when founded on the evidential criteria as inferred within international law. Northern Cyprus, for instance, is recognised by the United Nations as territory under occupation and an infringement of Cypriot sovereignty[14] and conversely, the controversy regarding the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo from Serbia has raised a plethora of questions as to the legal precedent it has set particularly for the criteria of self-determination and de-jure recognition.

The lack of clarity regarding self-determination and the UN Charter invoked the Council of the European Union to establish an Arbitration Committee[15] with Robert Batinter as president to answer pressing legal questions on subjects of concern related to the situation and ethnic violence advancing in Yugoslavia at the time,[16] namely to be a source of guidelines vis-à-vis the establishment of new States in Europe. Opinions that were put forward to the Commission following an initial request made by Lord Carrington on the subject of secession on the Social Federative Republic of Yugoslavia,[17] for which the Commission concluded that Yugoslavia was in the process of dissolution. This led to two vital opinions – for the intention of this subject – namely that of self-determination and the subject of borders. The determination of boundaries during the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia found the committee purporting through Opinion No. 3 of whether internal boundaries within the Former Yugoslavia are to be regarded as borders in public international law, the Commission responded purporting that whilst the external borders remained within the international principle of uti possidetis pursuant to the UN Charter and the Helsinki Accords[18] – the latter being the inviolability of national borders vis-à-vis territorial integrity[19] – internal borders were vindicated by the Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1974.[20] “Article 5 requires the consent of all republics and provinces before the borders of Yugoslavia can be altered,”[21] which, during a period of conflict and dissolution is complex. Jurisdictionally, the consequences of the opinions by the Arbitration Committee proved a failure to ascertain the ultimate consequences the subject of international borders along nationalist or ideological can have to the security and safety of minorities. According to Peter Ragan, on closer inspection particularly following Opinion 11 of the Reports[22] the Badinter Borders Principle should have been flexible enough to accommodate the impulse for secession rooted in ideological grounds and therefore more sophisticated measures could have prevented the likelihood of ethnic violence considering the lack of national homogeneity.[23]

“The case of a multinational unit within a federation in which a majority national group resolves that the federal unit will secede, recognition of that unit within existing federal borders is, on the evidence of the secessions and recognition of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, likely to facilitate violent ‘ethnic cleansing’. The result will be either a nationally homogeneous state, or a de facto partition of the state along national lines. Croatia serves as an example of the former and Bosnia-Hercegovina is an example of the latter. The consequences of applying the Badinter Borders Principle were disastrous for the SFRY.”[24]

It is perhaps essential to comparatively analyse ‘remedial secession’ under international law and its similarities or differences with the right to self-determination, namely the challenge of territorial integrity and the fragmentation of existing States vis-à-vis minority groups or peoples exercising their right to self-determination. International customary law on territorial integrity is reflected in the UN Charter[25] however GA Res 1541/1960, whilst elucidating outcomes relating to self-determination purported that integration with another state is a rightful part of the application of self-determination.[26] “Secession is the process by which a particular group seeks to separate itself from the State to which it belongs.”[27] Accordingly, Crimean and Russian authorities allege themselves legally justified for claiming the right to secession following the referendum that found the majority voting in favour of becoming subject to Russian federal authority whilst the international community view it as an “illegal annexation that followed Russia’s use of force in contravention of international law.”[28] International case law confirms that an adequate application of the principle of self-determination requires a democratic plebiscite or referendum.[29] Nevertheless, according to domestic Ukrainian law, the referendum held in Crimea was illegal; that whilst the autonomous status of Crimea provides administrative independence and the capacity to hold referendums but only so related to domestic matters. The Constitution of Ukraine clearly states that territory of Ukraine “within its present border is indivisible and inviolable” with Crimea an inseparable part or constituent.[30] Thus, a legal referendum would require a plebiscite involving all of Ukrainian territory, including Ukraine, and not just Crimea. In addition, regulations on how a referendum is to be held, particularly relating to the use of force whereby the presence of Russian military and control of public infrastructure during the plebiscite along with the language or wording of the question that ensures clarity to answer a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was not correctly adhered to, particularly since the referendum asked two questions in breach of Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice.[31]

I am not sure how you are supposed to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following?

  1. Are you in favour of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea reuniting with Russia as a constituent part of the Russian Federation? or
  2. Are you in favour of restoring the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea of 1992 and of Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine?”

The Russian authorities, in an attempt to justify the occupation of Crimea, claim the declaration of independence by Kosovo has set a legal precedent, confirmed during the Crimean proclamation of independence from the Ukraine in 2014, whereby “Putin referred to numerous Western states, which had recognised Kosovo’s right to self-determination… Putin presented a moral argument claiming that the same rights could not be denied to the people of Crimea.”[32] It is true that the International Court of Justice decision pertaining to Kosovo failed to adequately address the question of secession and the consequences of the declaration of independence from Serbia instead “limited the scope of its opinion to the question of whether the declaration as such violated international law.”[33] Many countries including Spain decidedly chose to not recognise Kosovo since it was clear that there existed a failure to reach an agreement followed by a U.N. Security Council resolution, which is a requirement for secession. Nevertheless, the ICJ clearly outlined the required processes vis-à-vis the legality and practice of independence with regards to international law. Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andrii Deshchytsia introduced a draft resolution recounting the referendum held in Crimea along with territorial integrity, whereby the referendum was officially declared by the United Nations to be invalid.[34] The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation claims that “territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force, and that any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a State or country or at its political independence is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter.”[35]

Historically, Crimea is known to be the hub of the White Army [anti-Bolshevik] during the Russian Revolution, where it retreated under the leadership of General Baron Peter Wrangel with the intent on developing a counteroffensive to defeat the onslaught of the Red Army [Bolsheviks] in 1920;[36] by 1921 following orders by Vladimir Lenin, tens of thousands of adherents of the White Movement that failed to escape Crimea to Istanbul or Europe were summarily executed without trial[37] in what became known as the Red Terror.[38] During this period, the Soviet government created Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) and additionally promoted the national identity of the indigenous Crimean Tatars[39] as they had served the Red Army and played an role in their victory. This was swiftly reversed during the Stalinist era that ordered the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars among other nationalities from the country to labour camps for allegedly collaborating with the German Nazis,[40] whereby during World War Two the Nazi regime successfully captured the region of Sevastopol[41] until 1945, where the Soviet Union reclaimed and transferred it as the Crimean Region of the USSR[42] from the original ASSR and downgrading it to an administrative division or oblast.[43]

By 1954, however, the Soviet Union under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev issued a decree to transfer Crimea to the then Soviet Ukraine and legalised by the USSR Parliament, claiming that territorial proximity along with a moral gesture to celebrate strong cultural ties purposed the transfer.[44] “Article 77 of the 1978 Ukrainian SSR Constitution placed the Crimea and the two cities of Sevastopol and Kyiv under Soviet Ukrainian Republican jurisdiction.”[45] Notwithstanding any alleged political machinations by Khrushchev at the time that ultimately resulted in the Crimean transfer, the intention was to normalise and promote friendly relations analogous to the principles of international law in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.[46] The transfer was legally instituted in the then USSR Parliament despite allegations – as seen in the Crimean speech by Vladimir Putin in 2014 – that the circumstance determining the transfer was a personal initiative or mere formality rather than legally pertinent.[47] “Any allegations that the transfer of the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR was conducted in breach of the constitutional law of the USSR appear to be baseless after a study of the legal procedures followed in 1954.”[48] Russia has argued that the transfer itself was illegitimate not simply relating to the city of Sevastopol that it claims has since 1948 never been part of the Crimean region,[49] but namely that it defied the USSR constitution and thus the transfer remains null and void.[50] The attempt to determine a violation of legal procedures as applied by the Presidium of the Supreme Council in the Russian SFSR that approved the transfer of Crimea is substantiated by the view that the Presidium– consisting of 27 members and the highest authority at the time – only received 13 votes. “The Supreme Council did approve the transfer by unanimous vote, but it did so without a quorum present,”[51] however the other 14 voters were merely absent and thus no procedural breach occurred.[52] Thus the amendments to Articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution of the USSR whereby the Crimean region was deleted from the former article with further amendments to ensure full jurisdiction of Crimea by the Ukraine remains legal.[53]

The attacks against the legitimacy of the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine appear to be a smokescreen in an attempt to justify the legality of the occupation. This occupation was many years in the making and the internal conflicts within Ukraine established a chain of events that found both Crimean and Russian authorities encourage and eventually hold a referendum fashioned with problems that determined whether Crimean territory would be absorbed by Russia. Prior to the referendum, there were doubts as to the influence of Russia on Ukrainian political affairs, with increased tension following former president Viktor Yanukovych suspending original plans to sign an EU trade agreement. “Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was due to formally sign his country’s agreement with the EU, had a last minute change of heart.”[54] In addition, the response to peaceful pro-EU protests held at Independence Square – known as the Euromaiden – in Kiev, whereby riot police attacked protestors leading to mass demonstrations throughout the country[55] only worsened when parliament overstepped its legislative powers by changing the laws of association.[56] The pejorative of the anti-protest laws was to restrict freedoms of association and speech that only increased the tension of protestors, leading to several deaths and street clashes with police[57] and ultimately forcing pro-Russian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to resign following comments labelling the actions of protestors as ‘Nazi’ behaviour.[58] Regarding the latter, the suspicions of Ukrainian civil society was embellished earlier with developments of a language policy that attempted to change laws making Russian the second official language – the law later abolished – with comments from Azarov claiming Ukrainian is a ‘little Russian language’ that merely sparked controversy particularly to where his loyalty lied.[59]

The subject of self-determination in international law is wrought with complications, primarily because of its incredibly close relationship with politics. Whilst there remains no universally accepted definition of statehood, the International Law Commission did attempt to codify the theory of recognition vis-à-vis statehood, namely: “The political existence of the State is independent of its recognition by other States. Even before it has been recognized, the State has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its preservation and prosperity, and, consequently, to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate in regard to its interests, to administer its services and to determine the jurisdiction and competence of its courts of justice.”[60] This broad draft proposal was rejected as it was grounded in ambiguity that it could in the context of international law contain political repercussions.[61] The dichotomy between constitutive and declaratory approaches, namely that of recognition or that of meeting the legal criteria for statehood, only adds to the complication. It is clear that those territories experiencing decolonisation contain challenges particularly related to self-determination, with cultural divides and unstable political systems [it has been noted that democracy is not a static event but a political process that is developed over a period of time[62]] confirming that a salient transition to independence is inhibited. The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples itself proved conscious of the conditions that the process of civic liberation could threaten peace; “[a] ware of the increasing conflicts resulting from the denial of or impediments in the way of the freedom of such peoples, which constitute a serious threat to world peace.”[63]

I find it useful ending this post with:

“Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”[64]

[1] “Convinced that the continued existence of colonialism prevents the development of international economic cooperation, impedes the social, cultural and economic development of dependent peoples and militates against the United Nations ideal of universal peace.” UNGA Res 1541/ 1960 (15 Dec 1960)
[2] See UN Charter Art 2, and Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, GA Res 225, 25 UN GAOR (1883rd mtg)
[3] Franz Cede, Lilly Sucharipa-Behrmann, The United Nations: Law and Practice, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, (2001) 5
[4] Donald Earl Childress, The Role of Ethics in International Law, Cambridge University Press (2011) 57
[5] United States. Congress. House. Committee on International Relations. Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, The betrayal of Srebrenica: why did the massacre happen? Will it happen again? Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fifth Congress, second session, Volume 4 (1998)
[6] Marie-Janine Calic, Dietmar Neutatz, Julia Obertreis, The Crisis of Socialist Modernity: The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (2011) 135
[7] Article 1
[8] Mario Silva, State Legitimacy and Failure in International Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, (2014) 15
[9] “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
[10] Helsinki Final Act (1975), Part 1 (a); also see Principle III (Inviolability of Frontiers).
[11] Christian Marxsen, “The Crimea Crisis: An International Law Perspective”, ZaöRV 74 (2014), 367-391
[12] Linda J Pike, Encyclopedia of Disputes [Installment 10], Elsevier, (2014) 470
[13] James R Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (2nd Edition)
[14] John Quigley. The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict. Cambridge University Press (2010) 164.
[15] What became known as the Badinter Arbitration Committee, in 1991.
[16] Council of Ministers, EU, Joint Declaration on Yugoslavia, 27 August 1991
[17] Opinion No. 1 of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia (1992) 31 ILM 1494
[18] Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe: Questions Relating to Security in Europe — Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States, 1 August 1975, 14 ILM 1292, principle 4 (‘Final Act of Helsinki’).
[19] Jure Vidmar, Democratic Statehood in International Law: The Emergence of New States in Post-Cold War Practice, Bloomsbury Publishing (2013)
[20] Peter Radan, “Post-Secession International Borders: A Critical Analysis of the Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Commission” [2000] MelbULawRw 3; (2000) 24(1) Melbourne University Law Review 50
[21] Richard F. Iglar, The Constitutional Crisis in Yugoslavia and the International Law of Self-Determination: Slovenia’s and Croatia’s Right to Secede, 15 B.C. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 213 (1992)
[22] Opinion No 11 of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia, 16 July 1993, 32 ILM 1587, 1588 (‘Opinion No 11’).
[23] Peter Radan, supra
[24] Ibid
[25] United Nations Charter, supra
[26] Nikolaos Ioannidis, “Constitutional Prohibition of Secession under the Prism of International Law: The Cases of Kosovo, Crimea, and Cyprus”, Edinburgh Student Law Review, Vol. 2, Issue 4 (2015)
[27] J Crawford, “State practice and international law in relation to secession’ (1998) 69(1) British Yearbook of International Law 85
[28] Kristina Daugirdas and Julian Davis Mortenson, Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 108, No. 4 (October 2014), pp.783-842
[29] Nikolaos A. Ioannidis*see Saar and Scotland.
[30] Article two constitution, Article 134
[31] Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice
[32] Janne Haaland Matlary, Tormod Heier, Ukraine and Beyond: Russia’s Strategic Security Challenge to Europe, Springer (2016) 226
[33] Christian Marxsen, The Crimea Crisis: An International Law Perspective. ZaöRV 74 (2014), 367-391 Also see, Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, ICJ Reports, 425 et seq.
[34] GA/11493 100-11-58, A/68/L.39, Territorial Integrity of Ukraine
[35] A/RES/68/262
[36] By Eduard Martynovich Dune, Diane Koenker, Stephen Anthony Smith, Notes of a Red Guard, University of Illinois Press (1993) 262
[37] M. Landa, Maximilian Voloshin’s Poetic Legacy and the Post-Soviet Russian Identity, Springer, (2015)
[38] R. J. Rummel, Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocides and Mass Murders Since 1917, Transaction Publishers (1996) 38
[39] Brian Glyn Williams, The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation, BRILL, (2001)
[40] Agnia Grigas, Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire, Yale University Press, (2016) 62
[41] Paul Robert Magocsi, History of Ukraine – 2nd, Revised Edition: The Land and Its Peoples, University of Toronto Press, (2010)
[42] Matteo Nicolini, Francesco Palermo, Enrico Milano, Law, Territory and Conflict Resolution: Law as a Problem and Law as a Solution, BRILL (2016) 160
[43] Op. Cit., Ferran Requejo, Nagel Klaus-Jürgen
[44] Roman Solchanyk, Ukraine and Russia: The Post-Soviet Transition, Rowman & Littlefield (2001) 165
[45] Ferran Requejo, Nagel Klaus-Jürgen, Federalism Beyond Federations: Asymmetry and Processes of Resymmetrisation in Europe, Routledge (2016) 179
[46] See GA Res 2625
[47] Address by President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin addressed State Duma deputies, Federation Council members, heads of Russian regions and civil society representatives in the Kremlin [March 18, 2014], The Kremlin, Moscow.
[48] Oleksandr Zadorozhnii, Russian doctrine of international law after the annexation of Crimea: Monograph, Yuri Marchenko, 84
[49] Until recently, Article 65 of the Constitution of Russian Federation had confirmed the jurisdiction of Sevastopol to the Ukraine and therefore the Codes in Ukrainian law were applied to Sevastopol. Also see Article 133 of the Constitution of Ukraine .
[50] Op. Cit., Matteo Nicolini, Francesco Palermo, Enrico Milano, 146
[51] Marin Katusa, The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, John Wiley & Sons (2014) 78
[52] Oleksandr Zadorozhnii, Russian doctrine of international law after the annexation of Crimea: Monograph, Yuri Marchenko, 84
[53] Matteo Nicolini, Francesco Palermo, Enrico Milano, Law, Territory and Conflict Resolution: Law as a Problem and Law as a Solution, BRILL (2016) 151
[54] Dick Leonard, Robert Taylor, The Routledge Guide to the European Union
[55] Gideon Rose, Crisis in Ukraine, Foreign Affairs (2014) 52
[56] Elizabeth Wood, William Pomeranz, E. Merry, Maxim Trudolyubov, Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine, Columbia University Press (2015) 18
[57] J. L. Black, Michael Johns, The Return of the Cold War: Ukraine, The West and Russia, Routledge, (2016) 240
[58] Op. Cit., Crisis in Ukraine
[59] Michael Moser, Language Policy and Discourse on Languages in Ukraine Under President Viktor Yanukovych, Columbia University Press, (2013) 378
[60] ILC, Preparatory Study Concerning a Draft Declaration on the Rights and Duties of States, (Memorandum submitted by the Secretary-General) A/CN.4/2, 15 December 1948, 55–6.
[61]
[62] See Gero Erdmann, Marianne Kneuer, Regression of Democracy?, Springer Science & Business Media, (2013) 37
[63] GA Resolution 1514
[64] Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960

16 thoughts on “Crimean Self-Determination or Russian Annexation?

  1. Thank you for sharing your view of the sovereignty of the Ukraine and the self-determination of Crimea. I, personally, would like to see Crimea within the sovereign borders of the Ukraine. However, because I do not live in either place, I have no vote; only opinion. I am full of opinions; they are free to wander and often go out on their own without any checks or balances. My opinion on the United Nations is that the organization has squandered both its intent and its power due to each member acting parochial for their own interests. It is truly a shame.

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    • Organisations like the United Nations have both benefits and certainly a plethora of failures, but I think this falls into the problematic realm of justice being penetrated or influenced by politics. Hence this subject, which has interested me since the concept of ‘self-determination’ in international law being judicial nevertheless has an extremely close relationship to politics and we can clearly see the political agenda of Russian authorities manipulating the judicial for its own benefit. Unfortunately, because international law is not yet powerful enough to enforce mechanisms required that would protect human rights norms, it becomes dependent on nation-states to adhere to its obligations . This ultimately weakens the prospect of advancing friendly relations. It is also a problem when legal language is not clearly or adequately explained; the ICJ outcome for Kosovo could have done better to explain as could the Arbitration Committee on the Former Yugoslavia, which could have prevented the deaths of thousands of people.

      It is important to have opinions, as long as they work in line with common sense and are adequately supported with facts. Ideological or aggressive beliefs have no place in my world 🙂

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  2. some countries exist as such simply because they are the result of wars or colonisation and therefore have structural flaws. Yugoslavia was one ,and it can be said Crimea is too, given its history that you clearly describe. If one accepts the fact that despite the presence of soldiers etc the Crimean people wanted to be part of Russia there must surely be some sense of recognition of that. I take a quote from your fascinating article about yourself and beliefs,
    “This is the paradox of wisdom: that in order to be careful discerning and choosing the right action in earnest, the process of reaching this without betraying the sincerity of the intention requires a type of regulation or codified rules. But codified rules and regulations lead one toward servtitude rather than attaining an independent will and desire to find and lead a life of wisdom”
    I agree but does that only apply to the individual or should the underlying intent be applied to nations and the ordered world as well? Perhaps Crimea should be allowed to go just because it wants to?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is certainly a difficult one to answer and though I do agree, the referendum must be done with adequate adherence to the international plebiscite regulations. If secession is truly the desired outcome for the people of Crimea – taking into account the indigenous Tatar population that suffered quiet cruelly during the Stalinist era and that they themselves have opinions that require recognition – the circumstances that led to the referendum was not adequately adhered to and must be done correctly. No Russian authorities in the region placing pressure on local authorities, clarity viz., the question that has either a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer, involving all of the Ukraine and Crimea as part of the referendum etc &c., than that way a clearer process has been done and done so incorporating the ‘friendly relations’ protocol to avoid any future hostilities.

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    • Thanks for your response and there are many that would agree with you. Considering the many failures regarding the referendum along with the political upheaval/situation in Ukraine prior to it, it is not difficult to believe that it has less to do with self-determination from a legal perspective and more to do with the Russian political agenda. My perspective is to ensure that all international legal processes are adequately adhered to so as to prevent potential conflict or violence because the rights and the lives of all people are important to me. The Arbitration Committee’ failures on explaining borders is an example of how important clarity is.

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  3. Undoubtedly, the Russian interests in Crimea have nothing to do with self-determination, but are rather based on strategic geopolitical concerns. To grasp the strategic significance of the Crimean peninsula, one has to only look at the map. Demographically, though, the population has been predominantly Ukrainian, ever since Stalin’s engineered genocide of the Crimean Tatars. Whether Crimea should be autonomous or a part of the Ukraine is for the Crimean population to decide, but the forcible annexation to Russia is no better than the forcible deportation of the Tatars during Stalin’s regime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are precisely right when discussing the Crimean Tatars and certainly the current situation has reignited the same concerns for the indigenous minority. This concern is reflected by the population currently living in the Ukraine who were ineligible to vote but in addition, according to domestic law, Crimea itself is legislatively a part of the Ukraine and thus they should have been included in the referendum process, notwithstanding the intimidation of Russian authorities in Crimea at the time. Whilst Crimea is an autonomous region, their independence regarding such plebiscites are more so related only to local matters. Perhaps it is geopolitical, obvious with the ongoing pressure around naval issues around the black sea and Turkey, and that is a frightening matter to say the least.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. But in all of this what should happen of the people of Crimea, ignoring Russia and Ukraine decided for example they wanted to be entirely independent, or to stay with Ukraine or to be Russian. What then? The world order would prevent what is an expression of popular will?

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  5. Pingback: Crimean Self-Determination or Russian Annexation? | Where do We go from Here?

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