As the battle comes to an end between Ukraine and Russia, and Russian President Putin makes every effort to ratify its treaties, what’s next for Crimea? President Putin has shown the world that he is not to be contested as he has not backed down, despite requests from the international community. What is he trying to prove? It is still possible in this day and age for Crimea like Scotland to gain its independence, from both Ukraine and Russia?
Youth throughout Scotland are eager to vote and make history in the upcoming referendum agreed between the Scottish and UK government to determine whether Scotland should become an independent country. Although it is said: never bite the hands that feed you, there comes a time when one has to boldly and fearlessly leave the nest and take on the world.
Can Crimea seek its independence?
The United Nations General Assembly in a media release on its Sixty-eight General Assembly Plenary 80th Meeting entitled General Assembly Adopts Resolution Calling Upon States Not To Recognize Changes in Status of Crimea Region reported that the General Assembly has affirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, underscoring the invalidity of the referendum of March 16, held in autonomous Crimea.
By a recorded vote of 100 in favor, 11 against, and 58 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a Resolution titled “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine”, calling on States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea or the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, and to refrain from actions or dealings that might be interpreted as such.
Also by the text, the Assembly called on States to “desist and refrain” from actions aimed at disrupting Ukraine’s national unity and territorial integrity, including by modifying its borders through the threat or use of force. It urged all parties immediately to pursue a peaceful resolution of the situation through direct political dialogue, to exercise restraint, and to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that could raise tensions.
The debate preceding the vote offered the first opportunity for the broader United Nations membership to express their view on the Crimea question. Many said the referendum had contravened international law, the United Nations Charter and Ukraine’s Constitution, emphasizing that they would neither recognize it nor the Russian Federation’s subsequent illegal annexation of Crimea.
The Russian Federation’s representative stated, however, that the referendum had reunified Crimea with his country: “We call on everyone to respect that voluntary choice.” The Russian Government could not refuse Crimeans their right to self-determination, he said, blaming the political crisis in Ukraine on the “adventurous actions” of provocateurs, which led to the reunification decision.
Several delegations explained their support for the text, with the Head of the European Union Delegation strongly condemning the illegal annexation, and the representative of the United States saying that the Resolution made clear that “borders are not mere suggestions”. Coercion could not be the means by which self-determination was achieved.
Others took issue with the resolution’s motivations, expressing regret that the Assembly had failed to consider the historical context of the geo-political dispute and the nature of the regime change that had occurred in Ukraine. Professor Alina Kaczorowska in her book Public International Law noted the definition of territorial sovereignty, as, “the right to exercise therein, to the exclusion of any other state, the functions of a sovereign.” Territorial sovereignty has two aspects:
- the internal aspect which concerns the authority exercised by a State within its borders over persons and situations/events that occur there. It also encompasses the right to dispose of the territory; and
- the external aspect which entails that a State must respect the territorial integrity of other States, i.e. must not interfere in another State’s internal and external affairs and must ensure the safety of foreign nationals present within its territory. This obligation is embodied in the principle of non-intervention.
Based on these rules of international law, Russia ought to abide by the principle of external territorial sovereignty and should not interfere in Ukraine’s (Crimea’s) internal or external affairs. However, Russia has failed to do so and has to the contrary entered Ukraine’s territory through use of force, which is forbidden under international law. It would also, appear that Russia has under taken the traditional approach of ‘divide and conquer,’ used since the era of ‘Christopher Columbus.’ Such conquest, Kazcorowska indicates is a historical method of establishing sovereignty over territory, now outlawed by the prohibition of the use of force as the basis for claiming title to territory.
Adam Taylor, a contributor to the Washington Post alluded to the fact that “Crimea is not Scotland.” He indicated, “due to the way that the referendum is being handled in Scotland, it’s results will be internationally accepted. Very few countries other than Russia are likely to see the results of Crimean referendum as legitimate. One thing both Crimea and Scotland have right now is a good deal of uncertainty.”
United States President Barack Obama has been very vocal on the issue. He stated, “there is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law. I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”
However, it could be argued that, ‘what’s done in done,’ as the efforts by the United Nations, the USA and the UK, have fallen on deaf ears. Sufyan bin Uzayr in his article, Crimea Joins Russia: What About International Law? notes that ‘… Russia’s swift military intervention and the Crimean referendum have shown that international law has its own share of hollow patches. At the end of the day, international law receives full compliance from the meek, half-hearted acceptance from the Mediocre, and zero respect from the Mighty. For the sake of humanity, let us hope that the people of Crimea have chosen wisely, even though the rest of the world is nothing more than a mute spectator.’ One can only hope that all around the world we will be more caring and loving towards our brothers and sisters, and lets hope like Scotland, Crimea will be able to seek its independence and be at peace.
© Karlia Carty 2014