Ukraine crisis big test for 21st Century diplomacy

We have an old-fashioned crisis on our hands regarding events in the Ukraine.  It is a test of 21st-century diplomacy whether it can be resolved peacefully and with political foresight.

Current international law and global norms offer some guidance as to how the situation should be resolved.  But as with every crisis, there are conflicting issues at stake. The challenge is to cut a critical path of principle through a complex situation of fact.

The two cardinal principles that underpin our international community are these.

First, non-violence and peaceful settlement: no crisis has ever been resolved in the modern era through the use of force. If force is employed, the tensions are simply buried. The Crimea will be no exception.

Second, sovereignty and territorial integrity: no country has the right to unilaterally intervene in the domestic affairs of another.

There can be no surrender of these principles.  No subordinate reason can be advanced to overturn them.

Protection of civilians is not an automatic reason.  The principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ accords primary responsibility to a government to protect its own citizens.  If it is unable or unwilling to do so, it falls to the international community, acting through the UN Security Council, to step in.  The UN can intervene to protect those people if egregious abuses of human rights are occurring.

But that is not the case here. And the ‘responsibility’ doctrine does not extend to the right of a neighbour to invade in order to protect people who speak a certain language or follow certain customs. That is 19th century style – not 21st.

Yet this is what Russia has done, and that is the justification it has given.  It has claimed the right to intervene militarily in one portion of Ukraine, in order to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

That is not a valid legal basis for such an intervention. The increase of the Russian military presence in Crimea, beyond the bilateral agreement over the base, violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine and thus the UN Charter. It is, in short, an act of aggression. The Russian base accords Russia no special rights in Ukraine, any more than Okinawa does to the United States in Japan.

This is not to disregard the legitimate interests of Russia as a regional power in Eurasia. Nor is it to disregard the genuine needs of the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine.

It is simply to state the obvious – that aggression by armed force is not the way to solve these problems today.  And that applies equally to all countries when they, too, contemplate aggression, such as the illegal attack on Iraq by the US, Britain and Australia 10 years ago this month.

The Crimea is not simply an issue for Russia. It is a global issue – a human rights issue, a democracy issue, a self-determination issue.

President Putin must make it clear that Russia will not take military action against the rest of Ukraine, but will engage in dialogue with Ukrainian authorities through the UN Secretary-General’s peace envoy.  And the West must stop discouraging Ukrainian leaders from doing that.  States that talk, don’t shoot.

The Green Party supports the call of the UN Secretary-General for an immediate freeze on military deployment, a dialogue between Ukrainian and Russian leaders under UN auspices, initially without the US or the EU involved, then a referral to the UN Security Council.

6 thoughts on “Ukraine crisis big test for 21st Century diplomacy

  1. I don’t think Crimea was ever Ukrainian in spirit. It was handed over to the Ukraine, for administrative purposes, at a time when the latter was a part of Russia. It should probably have reverted to Russia when the Ukraine became independent. It should certainly be allowed to secede and do so now that an apparently anti-Russian government has been installed in Kiev.

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  2. “First, non-violence and peaceful settlement…
    Second, sovereignty and territorial integrity…”

    Forgive my cynicism, but The NZ government recognised Indonesia’s territorial integrity for years, then decided to change it’s mind and support the independence of Timor Leste, sending in troops in a show of force to guarantee that independence. Should we have respected Indonesia’s sovereignty?

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  3. What is missing here is the analysis that betrays the malevolent forces of the carbon market. Note that Europe was equally aghast and talking the big talk about sanctions and consequences when the Russians invaded Georgia. What was the effect of all those efforts- all of which are being replayed today? Russian troops are still in Georgia.

    We were told that modern elected governments integrated into the global economy would not engage in such aggressive invasions of sovereign nations. We are told that for all the negative consequences of integration in the the global carbon economy, the saving grace is that this system will deter countries from invading others.

    That promise was empty. The sword cuts both ways. Russia knows that the EU will lose interest. They are willing to whether the storm, and that the EU complaints will die down. They know because the 30% of the EU’s petroleum comes from Russia.

    And that is the invisible hand of the carbon economy in the crisis in Ukraine.

    Consider a new world order of green economies who unite economically in an alternative green autarky- giving most favorable trade status to other green nations and collectively being self sufficient without support from carbon trading partners.

    There are candidate nations in Europe who would join us. Substantially free or committed to dramatically cut carbon emissions, we would pool our resources so that EU countries would not be in fear of Russian Oil economic sanctions should they send peacekeeper observers to the Crimean Penninsula and the border areas of Ukraine. These EU countries cannot practically do this through the UN because Russia will veto it. But they can do it through the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe ). Australia is a participating member and could send observers. NZ is not yet a member but under the Green Autarky scheme, we ought to be participating members precisely for such assistance of brother green nations trying to do the right thing.

    The situation is complex. My sister in law was born and raised in Ukraine. Most of my family are Russian speakers, and some of them strongly support Putin. Historically it is true that Crimea is part of Ukraine mostly due to a capricious and at the time inconsequential move by Khrushchev to put the Crimea into the Soviet republic of Ukraine. For the greatest period of time, the Crimea was part of Russia.

    But so was Alaska. Graham Kennedy is absolutely correct that legally, the Crimea is part of Ukraine, and if Russia wants it back then they must negotiate a solution to resolve the question through democratic means. Part of this would require that military intimidation be removed, and this will not happen without international observers on the ground in Crimea. For example, it may be true that residents of the Crimea in free elections would vote to split from Ukraine and join Russia. But there is no way of insuring an unrigged election without international peacekeepers blocking Russian military control, and elections observers able to assure a free and fair vote.

    I suppose the implications are that contrary to by inclination to support non military solutions at nearly every opportunity, I would favor an increase in NZ’s military capabilities so that we could fulfill international obligations to help brother green economies be free of intimidation by carbon countries like Russia using their oil as a weapon.

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  4. I don’t think that the prohibition on invasion is an absolute of international law. There have to be situations where it is legal for one country to invade another, providing they can justify such an invasion either morally or legally. Crimea was handed to the Ukraine at a time when the latter was a Russian satellite. Presumably it was considered more convenient, for geographic reasons, to administer Crimea from Kiev rather than Moscow. I seems obvious, given Russia’s strategic interests in that territory, that that arrangement would last for only as long as the Ukraine remained within the Russian “sphere of influence”. The illegal seizure of power by a regime openly hostile to Russia would seem to negate any claims Kiev might have to sovereignty in Crimea.

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  5. Your article is a surprise to me, and it appear to many others.

    It is so far off the mark and may as well have been written by a Whitehouse puppet.

    Get a grip.

    There is massive evidence pointing to what is taking place. Another US sponsored derailment of Govt using sponsored protest and it appears hiring thugs to shoot people.

    I suppose the US/UK slaughter in Iraq was peacefully settled with discussion through the UN.

    But then how can you settle when blatant lies are used to promote destruction.

    Same scene, same players.

    I will be please when you have time to get up to date.

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