Okay peaceniks, let's talk about what's going on in the Ukraine

Things are happening fast, so perhaps my description will be out of date by the time you read this. The Ukraine underwent a relatively peaceful* revolution, chasing the pro-Russia president out of the country and establishing an interim revolutionary pro-West government. 

One house of Russia's national legislature just authorized the use of military force to protect what it sees as Russian interests and to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Crimea region.

Peaceniks chant "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Well, then of course you wouldn't have a war, but a war isn't a party you can just not go to if it's being brought to you.

I'm not going to get more specific. I'm just inviting a discussion of the situation going on in the Ukraine. What should be done? What COULD be done?

* People have died, but it's nothing like some of the other conflicts going on now or happening in recent years around the world (Egypt, Syria, etc.)..

Tags: Crimea, Russia, Ukraine

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@Gallup's Mirror

Not to mention the harsh lessons they learned  the last times Germany and France thought Russia would be easy picking and tried to invade them.

Nothing new here, but what interests me is this. Doesn't Putin love pretending like he's a real tough hetero dude, what with his honorary judo ranks and insistence on showing his naked upper body? Why doesn't that closeted, tough guy just settle the matter in the ring with Vitali Klitchko? I'd actually watch that on TV without yawning!

Russia pounded Chechnya deep into the ground when it revolted for independence. And now Russia asks the world to respect the wishes of the people of Crimea. lol

An independence referendum is meaningless if the region is being occupied and the referendum is organized by an outside menacing force.

You should have told that to America and Nato when they were in Kosovo.  Except there the people had no vote in their independence and Nato was bombing them at the time.

Would Crimea joining Russia not actually be in the best interest of those living in Crimea. Even before all this trouble broke out Ukraine's economy was failing and far worse than Russia's, so joining Russia would be economically beneficial to them. Not to mention Ukraine is about to be sold out to the IMF and they will demand austerity and sell off Ukraine's natural resources for a fraction of what they are worth. Just look at what happened to Greece. There is also the fact that  the  majority of Crimeans do not even  consider the new government legitimate and want to join Russia. Lastly there is some worry about  the neo-Nazi's who have gotten into power in the new government including Deputy prime minister, minister of defence and minister of police and prosecutor general.. Ontop of that it really did not help that the  new government came into power and decided that their most pressing concern was banning Russian as a second language. The only reason it failed was because it was vetoed by the prime minister.

Would Crimea joining Russia not actually be in the best interest of those living in Crimea. Even before all this trouble broke out Ukraine's economy was failing and far worse than Russia's, so joining Russia would be economically beneficial to them. Not to mention Ukraine is about to be sold out to the IMF and they will demand austerity and sell off Ukraine's natural resources for a fraction of what they are worth. Just look at what happened to Greece. There is also the fact that  the  majority of Crimeans do not even  consider the new government legitimate and want to join Russia.

That's interesting and it may all be true, but I don't think it matters that much.

Russia took Crimea. I doubt it was over concern for improving the local economy. It's about strategically important land. The rest of Putin's reasons ('They speak Russian!') are window dressing. That's just not going to sell outside of Russia or Crimea.

The exclusive club of super-powerful people who rule the earth, as a general rule, don't go for separatism in geopolitics. Exceptions are made when it's temporarily self-serving, as Russia is doing in Crimea (but not doing in Chechnya) although these are rare today.

Imagine what would happen if, under national and international law, a group (ethnic or otherwise) within a country could draw borders around a geographical area and then declare-- exclusively for those within the new border-- a vote on who gets to control it.

Consider also, the number of separatist groups in the various regions of the world, such as Europe, which includes the Kurds in Turkey, the Azores in Portugal, Bavaria in Germany, and the Basque nationalists in Spain.

Even if these groups have legitimate reasons to go their own way (and some do) their wealthy masters aren't going to let them break the country apart based on a regional vote. The masters of the earth will accept breakaways within their own countries based on implied or actual use of force, but they rarely accept them voluntarily. Sometimes this means somebody else sends in an army, or the separatist group rushes into the open arms of a powerful rival, or the separatists have strength enough to force the issue.

If the masters of the earth accept this as international law outside their own borders, it's difficult to conjure reasons for not accepting it as the law within their own. So it's a quid pro quo of international law: separatists are mostly frowned upon. What's best for the separatists is considered as a secondary concern (if any). I don't see that changing.

I agree that those in power are vehemently against this happening in general but an argument can be made that America and NATO opened this can of worms in Kosovo.

""The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declaration of independence," Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, said in the clear majority ruling delivered in a cavernous hall at the Hague-based ICJ."

"the adoption of the declaration of independence of the 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law  because international law contains no 'prohibition on declarations of independence'

I agree that those in power are vehemently against this happening in general but an argument can be made that America and NATO opened this can of worms in Kosovo.

Any argument can be made, but that doesn't mean it has merit.

"The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declaration of independence," Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, said in the clear majority ruling delivered in a cavernous hall at the Hague-based ICJ."

"the adoption of the declaration of independence of the 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law  because international law contains no 'prohibition on declarations of independence'

Crimea did not declare independence, they left Ukraine and joined Russia. But it doesn't matter.

The part that's illegal is that the Ukrainian constitution makes territorial integrity "a matter of concern for all the Ukrainian people". The whole country would have to vote on breaking it up, not just the part of the country that wants to leave:

"To protect the sovereignty and territorial indivisibility of Ukraine, and to ensure its economic and informational security are the most important functions of the State and a matter of concern for all the Ukrainian people." - Constitution of Ukraine, Article 17

International law recognizes the authority of constitutions as part of state sovereignty, but does not recognize the practice of drawing lines around certain people ("Russian speakers!") within a country as a means to break up a state:

"Cultural and ethnic affinities do not establish political communities for the purposes of international law. Apart from the peculiar context of the struggle to eradicate the international system’s original sin, Western European colonial domination of overseas territories, the self-determination right has operated in support of the territorial integrity and non-fragmentation of existing states– conceptualized as consummations of the self-determination of their territorial populations –at the expense of the secessionist aspirations of territorial sub-communities." - Roth, p. 13

In other words, under international law Crimea already had the legal right of self-determination as an autonomous republic within Ukraine, but it did not have the legal right to leave Ukraine.

But it's all academic. International law is unenforceable except by sanctions (which won't work), military intervention (which nobody will commit to), or both. Any country that's powerful enough can make up any reason it wants to break the law with impunity.

Could you imagine America doing any better if put in a similar situation? Say it was Moscow funding significant amounts of money into opposition groups in Mexico while Russia's  top politicians hand out cookies and encourage rioters whom end up violently toppling the corrupt but US friendly Mexican  government replacing it with a pro Russian one . Knowing America  there would have been bombs flying by now if Russia tried that. And yet Russia's reaction to this happening to them  has been remarkably restrained considering the US was prepared to start WW3 over Cuba.

Let's not overplay the idea that the great powers put a lot of value into consistency, unless it favors their goals. That goes for the US as well as Russia. Big country or small, attaining your goals and promoting your interests is the top value, not complying with international law. The US, at least, is frequently disadvantaged with trying to at least appearing to play the Good Guy role.

But don't kid yourself, if some foreign power were to cut off a supply line of something necessary for the functioning and/or competitiveness of the US economy, the answer wouldn't be, "How much will it cost us to get XYZ back?" It would be boots on the ground, drones in the air, or whatever was needed. The electorate wouldn't stand for less.

How interested do you believe the American people are in making sure the government complies with international law? 

Let's not overplay the idea that the great powers put a lot of value into consistency, unless it favors their goals. That goes for the US as well as Russia. Big country or small, attaining your goals and promoting your interests is the top value, not complying with international law.

Complying with international law, more often than not, does promote a country's best interests. The gains from invading a neighbor or supporting his dismemberment from within must be weighed against sanctions and military responses from other countries. Usually, it's not worth it, so international law is followed. Quid pro quo.

I did point out that self-serving exceptions are made. Putin either underestimated the international response or decided Crimea was worth sanctions from the US and EU.

That's not overplaying it. That's how it is.

But don't kid yourself, if some foreign power were to cut off a supply line of something necessary for the functioning and/or competitiveness of the US economy, the answer wouldn't be, "How much will it cost us to get XYZ back?" It would be boots on the ground, drones in the air, or whatever was needed. The electorate wouldn't stand for less.

Now that's overplaying it a little.

If a vital supply is cut off by force, it's an act of war no matter what international law says. But international law allows force to be met with force.

If the same vital supply is cut off without force, the electorate absolutely does stand for it. The Arab oil embargo of 1973 did severe damage to the US and European economies. Neither Nixon nor Carter nor the masters of Europe put boots on the ground in any of the twelve OPEC countries who cut off their oil supply.

How interested do you believe the American people are in making sure the government complies with international law?

It depends on the situation and the self-interest.

Americans are overwhelmingly against using military force to deal with Putin's adventurism in Ukraine, but the US government condemns it as illegal.

The Bush administration's odyssey into Iraq was illegal but at the time most Americans supported it anyway.

Talk specifics instead of generalities.

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