Topic: Making Russia responsible for internationally wrongful acts, such as the annexation of Crimea and latent aggression against Ukraine
Audience: The UN General Assembly
The UN General Assembly must decide and actualize an urgent decision on an international responsibility of Russia for the gross violations of international law due to annexing Ukraine’s peninsula of Crimea and committing a latent (undeclared) military aggression against the Ukrainian country in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Russia has committed two internationally wrongful acts: 1) annexation of Ukraine’s region of Crimea; and 2) latent (undeclared) military aggression against Ukraine by a way of sending its troops, weapons, military equipment and vehicles, military consultants, as well as financial resources to the pro-Russian rebels who fight against the Ukrainian security forces in the East of the country. Prior to start explicating the nature of the aforesaid internationally wrongful acts, it is vital to discern and construe the root causes of the problem at hand.
The following points are conceived to facilitate the scrutiny of prerequisites to the aforementioned internationally wrongful conduct of Russia. First, there is the clear and irrefutable evidence that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is not unique for the Russian Federation. If we explore the history of Russia’s participation in the modern warfare, it will be possible to find out the following fact. The similar scenarios of the Russian interference with internal affairs of other countries have been successfully actualized in Moldova (War of Transistria 1992) and Georgia (Abhazia and South Ossetia 2008) (Hughes, 2002, p. 107; Cohen, 2008). Hence, it follows that it is traditional for Russia to support separatist movements in the territory of its neighbors.
Second, as far as the Ukrainian case is concerned, it needs to be highlighted as follows. Russian officials formally consider the 2013 pro-European Union protests, 2014 Ukrainian revolution, and ousting of Ukraine’s President Yanukovich as the underlying justifications for the subsequent Crimean crisis and annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as the prerequisites to the 2014 pro-Russian unrest and war in the East of Ukraine (Kirby, 2015). Albeit Russia denies its role in the ongoing conflict in the East of Ukraine, Russian officials are prone to have recourse to the aforementioned historical events in their attempts, albeit unsuccessful, to explain the roots of the problem.
Despite the apparent controversies and complexities of the 2013-2014 historical events in Ukraine, there are the facts that are absolutely clear and irrefutable. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is one of these proofs. Russia’s failure to secure a border with rebel-held territories of Ukraine and refrain from backing a violent separatist uprising is another one. If the position of the official Russian Federation is analyzed more attentively, it is possible to arrive at the following conclusion. One of its major goals in Ukraine is to make Donetsk and Luhansk the fully autonomous regions (Fairfield, Wallace, & Watkins, 2015). It is a direct interference into Ukrainian internal affairs, which is carried out in violation of international law and without involvement of the international community.
To be more precise, Russia has committed a number of internationally wrongful acts; and, thus, it must be forced to responsibility and justice. According to the Draft Articles on the “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts”, the term internationally wrongful act is defined as either an action or omission, which is ascribed to the state in accordance with international law. It constitutes a violation of an international obligation of the State (UN “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts,” 2001, Article 2). While as the Ukrainian matter is being concerned, the following fact has to be emphasized. The Russian Federation has executed few omissions and actions that constitute some gaps of Russia’s international duties under a big amount of international documents. Such ones include as repetition from any applications of force or threats against other countries (UN Charter, 1945, Article 2 (4)), respect of the Ukrainian territorial integrity and its sovereignty, repetition from the use of force or threat against the Ukrainian state, and refrain from using some pressure related to economics on Ukraine to impact its politics. Moreover, there are some other international documents that concern immediate addressing the UN Security Council to give help to Ukraine if the country is threatened by an action of military aggression, repetition from the application of nuclear weapon against Ukraine (Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, 1994), esteem of other country’s borders and territorial integrity as inviolable (Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1975), esteem of independence, sovereignty, as well as territorial integrity (Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, 1997), some other duties under the 1999 Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers on the Black Sea Fleet Agreements , and on the Use of Airspace of Ukraine and of Airspace Over the Black Sea.
As the foregoing discussion must suggest, Russia’s acts, such as the annexation of Crimea and latent aggression as well as support of rebels in the East of Ukraine constitutes internationally wrongful acts. It has been ascertained that the Russian Federation has violated its international obligations under a variety of international documents. The question is how to make Russia responsible for the aforesaid internationally wrongful acts. In order to answer this query, it is essential to provide some solutions to a series of problems. The first issue is how to stop its ongoing commitment of internationally wrongful acts. The second sub question is how to remedy the situation in Ukraine when these wrongful acts of Russia are discontinued.
There are several ways out to the first problem. All of them may be categorized as military and non-military solutions. The latter ones encircle such measures as economic sanctions and global isolation of Russia. The former ones, i.e. military ways out, entail direct military engagement of third parties into the conflict in Ukraine. Although the aforementioned non-intervention solutions have already been implemented, it is impossible to notice that Russia is being experiencing a burden of responsibility for the internationally wrongful acts. The sanctions imposed against Russian officials by the United States and Europe seem to have very inappropriate and insignificant effects to make any difference in the Russian political direction (Smart Takes, 2014). They do not deliver a significant blow to the luxurious lifestyles of the Kremlin’s cronies. Besides, the US, Europe, and NATO do not take strenuous attempts to isolate Putin and Russia either politically or economically. No embargo on Russian weapon has been imposed yet. Even if the West imposes a stringent sanction, it will take time before Russia can experience the negative effects from it. With a flow of time, Ukraine is likely to lose its independence, territorial integrity, and thousands of lives of its citizens.
In view of the above facts, the military solution to the first problem appears to be much more effective that the non-military one. The truth is that the latter way out is unlikely to force Russia to a responsibility for internationally wrongful acts. On the other hand, an international military intervention in Ukraine has the potential to stop Russian advance and coerce it to reveal its actual plans towards the Ukrainian country and the rest of the world. However, it is unreasonable to think that the military solution to the issue of Russian ongoing commitment of internationally wrongful acts entails war with the Russian Federation. Actually, the conflict in the East of Ukraine is artificial and can be stopped with the involvement of the UN peacekeepers or EU police (DW “EU police as peacekeepers in Ukraine?” 2015).
It is imprudent to underestimate a potential role of peacekeepers in the Ukrainian crisis. The fact is that the conflict in the East of the country shows no sign of the de-escalation. Therefore, it is impossible to make Russia responsible for the current crisis unless the situation in the battlefield is taken under control and supervision.
The next question is how to remedy the situation in Ukraine when the internationally wrongful acts of the Russian Federation are discontinued. According to the Draft Articles on the “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts” (2001), it is incumbent on the state responsible for the wrongful acts worldwide not only to cease that act, if it is ongoing. However, it should also “offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition, if circumstances so require” (UN “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 2001, Article 31). Nevertheless, international law remains silent on how to force the responsible state to provide relevant guarantees and assurances of non-repetition. Prior to making Russia respond for the annexation of Crimea and latent military aggression in the East of Ukraine, it will be essential to establish and substantiate a causal nexus between the harm inflicted on the Ukrainian country and an official act or omission. The latter one can be attributed to Russia as the state in breach of its obligations.
Furthermore, it needs to be taken into account that the Russian Federation, as a violator, may have recourse to a number of defenses, such as force majeure (Article 23), state of necessity (Article 25), distress (Article 24), self-defense (Article 21), consent (Article 20), and distress (Article 24). In this case, it will be incumbent on the international community to provide valid and reliable evidence that Russia cannot utilize the aforesaid defenses.
The last but not least, Russia as an internal wrongdoer will be obliged to compensate all damage and harm inflicted as a result of annexation of Crimea and latent aggression in the East of Ukraine. This compensating process should be made in a form of reparations.
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After everything has been given due consideration, it needs to be generalized as follows. The current economic sanctions against Russia must be augmented. Moreover, it is recommended to send the UN peacekeeping force in the East of Ukraine in order to stop the proliferation of the Russian aggression. It is essential to ensure that the conflict in the East of Ukraine is ceased prior to proving the causal nexus between Russia’s official acts and harm. The next step is making the Russian Federation pay full reparation for the harm influence by its internationally wrongful acts.