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Here’s How to Think About Russia and the Ukraine Crisis

The Obama administration has imposed economic sanctions on Russian officials, and Russia has been suspended from the G-8. Some in the U.S. are calling for stronger punitive measures. Is this a bad idea?

Some punitive measures, including the targeted sanctions that have already been applied, may serve a limited purpose in expressing U.S. and European disapproval of the seizure and annexation of Crimea. Stronger measures, such as sector-wide sanctions on Russian finance, have the potential to be very damaging to Europe, Russia, and the global economy as a whole without effectively discouraging further Russian interventions in Ukraine.

There is not much evidence from past sanctions regimes that a regime can be coerced into giving up something that it considers to be very valuable, and based on Russian behavior over the last month there is every reason to think that it isn’t going to give up Crimea after having gone to such lengths to acquire it. Insofar as sanctions against Russia increase tensions, they make it more difficult to de-escalate the crisis, and the more expansive and punishing these sanctions are, the worse these tensions are likely to become.

There is the additional danger that Russia will retaliate against Europe and specifically against Ukraine by withholding energy supplies, and that would be very harmful to many European countries that rely most heavily on Russian energy. Sanctions can do significant damage to the Russian economy, but only at an extremely high price that Western governments probably aren’t and shouldn’t be willing to pay. For that reason, I’m not sure what stronger punitive measures will achieve that couldn’t also be achieved through less disruptive and costly measures.

Another factor that Western governments don’t seem to be paying enough attention to is the general lack of support for sanctions elsewhere in the world. China, India, and Japan all appear to be more interested in maintaining good relations with Moscow than they are in punishing it over Crimea, so sanctioning Russia could end up imposing enormous costs on Europe without having as much of a punitive effect as expected.

Sanctioning Russia could also have other consequences for U.S. goals on other issues that are not directly related to Ukraine or the former Soviet Union, such as the negotiations with Iran and the ability to supply and to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Many Westerners imagine that Russia seeks to thwart the U.S. at every turn. That isn’t true right now, but it could become the case if the U.S. and its allies resort to strong punitive measures.

What should the U.S. do in response to Russia’s actions and violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty? How should Europe respond?

It is appropriate to suspend military cooperation with Russia, and the U.S. and EU have already done some of the right things by condemning the annexation and expressing support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. However, reversing the annexation seems extremely unlikely, so trying to prevent the crisis from escalating now has to be the priority.

The current Ukrainian government should have no expectation that it will receive anything more than financial and humanitarian aid. Western governments need to come to an understanding with Russia that all outside governments will consider Ukraine to be a neutral country that won’t align with Russia or the West. Diplomatic efforts should be focused on dissuading Russia from sending any of its forces into Ukraine and on getting Russia to agree to respect the results of the May elections, so that it will acknowledge Ukraine’s new post-election leadership as legitimate.

The crisis in Ukraine came about in part because of short-sighted attempts to influence the country’s orientation, and it can’t be resolved as long as these attempts are ongoing.

What would George Kennan do?

That depends to some extent on which period of Kennan’s life we’re relying on for guidance, but those differences shouldn’t be exaggerated. Kennan is famously credited with authoring containment doctrine, but he was also much more perceptive about and sympathetic to Russia and Russians than most of the people that supported that doctrine in practice. Certainly, the later Kennan who warned against NATO expansion and unnecessarily provoking Russia in the late ’90s would advise the U.S. to take a much less confrontational approach than it has taken with respect to Ukraine. He would have been critical of Russian actions, because I suspect he would see them as self-defeating and reckless, but he would have been very wary of punishing Russia, since he would have had a keener understanding of their leaders’ motivations and thinking than most of those now demanding Russia’s “isolation.”

Kennan was a vocal opponent of the first round of NATO expansion that included Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, so it is not hard to imagine how much more forcefully he would have rejected the idea of expanding the alliance—and Western influence more generally—into the former Soviet Union.

In a 1997 diary entry, Kennan recorded his fears about current and future NATO expansion, which he saw as having “unjustifiable and terrible implications” and lamented that it portended a “total, tragic, and wholly unnecessary end to an acceptable relationship of that country to the remainder of Europe.” His New York Times op-ed from the same year described NATO expansion as “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold war era.”

He would likely have seen U.S. and EU actions in Ukraine over the last few months as being similarly misguided and unfortunate and would not have wanted the U.S. to encourage the overthrow of the previous Ukrainian leadership, not least because he would have been more sensitive to Russian concerns and more likely to anticipate Moscow’s hostile reaction. Kennan would probably have seen the Ukraine crisis from last fall until now as a grim vindication of his warnings about the effects of NATO expansion and Washington’s enthusiasm for promoting democracy overseas.

What is Putin up to? What’s the best way to counter regimes that break important international norms?

Putin appears to believe that he is countering undue and unwelcome Western influence in Russia’s vicinity, he thinks he is pushing back against decades of Western overreaching in this part of the world, and he is reacting to the overthrow of a more or less friendly government by political forces that he considers to be hostile to Russia.

He has come up with an ad hoc justification—the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers—that has been invoked for the purpose of justifying Russian action in Crimea, but it isn’t yet clear how much of this is just nationalist demagoguery for this occasion and how much it tells us something meaningful about future Russian foreign-policy goals. The principle that Putin articulated to defend the annexation of Crimea could be a very dangerous and disruptive one if it became an important part of Russia’s relations with its neighbors, but it is also possible that it was never intended to be applied in other places.

It isn’t very satisfying, but there is not a great deal that can be done to stop regimes from violating international norms if they are intent on doing it. When a regime runs roughshod over international law as blatantly as Russia has, that will inevitably have its own consequences for that regime’s ability to have normal relations with other states, and if it makes a habit of this behavior it will tend to make itself into a pariah.

The implications for NATO?

The annexation of Crimea will produce a short-term boost for the alliance in that it will force its members to remember that it is supposed to be a defensive alliance, and it may prompt some alliance members to take their own military capabilities more seriously.

If the alliance mistakenly concludes from this that it should continue expanding to the east, it will set itself up for additional unnecessary clashes with Russia that could end up fracturing the alliance. If it limits itself to focusing on the defense of the alliance’s Eastern European members, and gives up on military interventions outside of Europe, it could come out of this crisis in better shape than it has been in over the last few years.

What are the consequences of this crisis for the U.S.-Russian relationship? How will it affect negotiations with Syria and Iran?

The Ukraine crisis has been a disaster for the relationship between the two countries, and it may take a decade to repair the damage, if there is any interest on either side to make the effort to repair it. Even when relations were gradually improving and U.S.-Russian cooperation was producing modest results a few years ago, there was enormous resistance in both countries to a closer relationship, and now hardliners in both countries are going to be driving policy decisions in their direction for years to come.

This is great news for China, which stands to benefit in several ways from hostility between Russia and the U.S. It is also likely to benefit hardliners in Iran in that Russia will have fewer incentives to cooperate in pressuring Tehran on the nuclear issue and it will have a new excuse to undermine negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. Syria negotiations have been stalled from the start, but now Russia and Western governments will be less inclined to work with each other on making them a success. The effect on Syria’s conflict may not be that great, but any effect that there is will be a negative one.

Is this Cold War II?

It can’t be for the simple reason that Russia isn’t the Soviet Union and doesn’t really seek to revive anything like it in the future. Americans have no good way of thinking about a Russia that is neither tsarist nor communist, and so we are constantly resorting to comparisons with these earlier periods, but they are very misleading and cause us to misinterpret Russian actions on a regular basis. We may be seeing the beginning of an intensified great power rivalry between the U.S. and Russia in the former Soviet Union. This is as unnecessary as it is undesirable for the U.S., but it doesn’t begin to compare to a global, ideologically-driven rivalry such as the Cold War.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

Follow @daniellarison [1]

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "Here’s How to Think About Russia and the Ukraine Crisis"

#1 Comment By SDS On March 27, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

GOOD analysis…

“there is not a great deal that can be done to stop regimes from violating international norms if they are intent on doing it. When a regime runs roughshod over international law as blatantly as (_________) has, that will inevitably have its own consequences for that regime’s ability to have normal relations with other states, and if it makes a habit of this behavior it will tend to make itself into a pariah.

…Fill in the blank…..

#2 Comment By James Canning On March 27, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

Looking back at the brief Russian war with Georgia in 2008, I think it may be possible for relations between Russia and the EU & US to mend gradually, assuming of course Russia does not send troops into Ukraine. Substantial common iterests continue.

#3 Comment By Red Phillips On March 27, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

“Some punitive measures, including the targeted sanctions that have already been applied, may serve a limited purpose in expressing U.S. and European disapproval of the seizure and annexation of Crimea.”

Where to begin?

First, the US should do absolutely nothing because it’s none of our business. (Ideally – see point two.)

Second, on what ground’s do we criticize or sanction Russia for an action that was in response to our action of fomenting a coup against the duly elected leader of Ukraine?

Third, doesn’t Crimea more rightly, historically and ethnically speaking, belong in Russia? So why is not the reincorporation of Crimea back into Russia a positive development?

#4 Comment By John Moser On March 27, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

Kennan wasn’t only an opponent of NATO expansion; he didn’t like the concept even in the late 1940s. In his view the Soviet threat was a political one; an old-fashioned military alliance, as if the Red Army were poised to surge into Central Europe at any moment (an idea he viewed as ludicrous) was a wholly inappropriate response.

#5 Comment By Michael N. Moore On March 27, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

Is is clear that the NeoCons have brought Zionism into the mix with the Ukraine.

There have been reports on the anti-Semitic histories of some of the anti-Russian groups that have made Americans hesitant to lend support. Today’s New York Times ran an add signed by Ukrainian Jews who supported the uprising in Kiev.

The add was sponsored by a “Canadian” group called “Ukrainian Jewish Encounter”. None other than our own Abe Foxman appears on the advisory board of the group.

FLAME, which runs adds supportive of Israel in the US media, is now defining Israel as the country that “secures NATOs southeastern flank”.

With NeoCons you can always count on one hand (NATO-Eastern Europe) washing the other (Israel).

#6 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 27, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

Not a word about the 1994 treaty guaranteeing territorial intergity of Ukraine in exchange for her getting rid of her nukes? It is amazing how little attention this minor detail is receiving. How are we (USA) to negotiate with Iran, for example, if we cannot guarantee Iran’s territorial integrity should Iran abolish the (alleged) nuclear program?
I’m not being snarky, I’m seriously asking this question.

#7 Comment By Daniel Larison On March 27, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

To answer the first question, the Budapest Memorandum was a non-binding agreement among the four governments. It isn’t a treaty, and it doesn’t contain any formal security guarantees from the U.S. and U.K. to Ukraine. Russia violated its commitments when it seized Crimea, but that is just about the extent of memorandum’s relevance here. That’s why I didn’t think to bring it up in any of the answers above. I found this to be a very useful discussion of the memorandum and its implications for nonproliferation elsewhere:

[2]

So far, the U.S. hasn’t violated the commitments that it made to Ukraine in that agreement. Iran may have other reasons to doubt U.S. pledges, but the Ukraine crisis shouldn’t have an effect on our ability to make guarantees that Iran can accept.

#8 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 27, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

Re the Budapest Memorandum…one might also mentions that in section one of the BM the US says it will abide by the Helsinki Final Act when it comes to Ukrainian sovereignty. If one looks at the Final Act, it includes provisions prohibiting assisting efforts at overthrowing the government of another signatory. As well as other provisions prohibiting various forms of interference with the internal affairs of another signatory. Ukraine and the USA are signatories. So, a pretty good argument could be made that the USA violated section one with respect to Ukraine long before Russia did anything. And, of course, the same argument could be made that the USA violated the relevant provisions of the Helsinki Final Act (which is considered to be “politically binding,” unlike the BM, which, as far as I can tell, is not considered to be binding at all) with regard to Ukraine in their own right.

Once again, the conveniently timed rediscovery of international law, international agreements, and international norms generally is amazing. Not only has the USA got dirt on its hands in this regard generally (Kosovo, Iraq), but it has dirt on its hands with regard to this specific, Ukrainian situation.

#9 Comment By RadicalCenter On March 27, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

IDon’tMatter: excellent point. By breaking their promises to Russia about Ukraine and Eastern European NATO expansion, the US and European governments ensure that the Iranian regime would be foolish to trust their assurances this time around.

#10 Comment By Paul On March 27, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

Regarding the Helsinki Declaration, it is arguable that the US and EU violated its provision on non-interference with internal affairs by moving immediately to recognise a government that came into existence as a result of the violent overthrow of the previous government. The facts remain murky, but the case in favour of the US is not helped by the fact that it assisted the overthrow in the first place. There should have been a proper, public investigation of the circumstances of Yanukovych’s deposal and attention to the constitutional status of the new regime. This didn’t happen; instead the constitution was effectively scrapped and people who happened to be in the Rada assumed executive power, with the help and recognition of the US from day one. And then, instead of moving to stabilise the situation for purposes of elections, the EU, with US approval, rushed headlong into negotiating an association agreement with the unconstitutional regime–the very thing the previous legitimately elected government had rejected. These efforts to install and prop up an unelected, EU-friendly regime, which includes in coalition elements deeply hostile to ethnic Russians who are Ukrainian citizens, are arguably an ongoing, illegal interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

#11 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 28, 2014 @ 2:07 am

Daniel’s link provides good analisys of the ’94 treaty. Interstingly, it skirts around this issue: any use of force by Russia is implicitly (these days, explicitly) backed by her vast nuclear arsenal. Because without it, Russian army can maybe take on a tiny Georgia, but not much more (the reverse doesn’t hold: no-one should ever dream of invading Russia, nukes or not).
It’s not really the fact that Crimea ended up in Russia (NB: you all know that Crimea has no land border with Russia, don’t you? That it was getting such trifles as water and power from Ukraine?) that is so galling, but how rudely it was done. What was the hurry? Do you thing that maybe kicking a weaker neighbor when it was down and taking her backpak is just not a very good long-term plan?
If Russia wanted to unite the rest of Ukraine against it, and push it toward NATO, it couldn’t have dove it any better.

#12 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 28, 2014 @ 11:33 am

I Don’t Matter:

“What was the hurry”

I think Putin feared that the coup making hyper nationalists in Kiev would move to preempt him, if he didn’t ask fast. Send troops to Crimea, perhaps surround the naval base. Maybe even invite in NATO forces. After all, these ladies and gentlemen did not scruple to overthrow a legitimate, constitutional, elected president, and put a new government in place through the shoddy proceedings of a rump parliament. Moreover, their allies in the West have not exactly acted with the greatest of restraint. You say Ukraine was a “weaker neighbor” which “was down,” while Putin, perhaps, saw a neighbor intent on doing him harm, and perhaps calling in powerful outsiders to help do so.

And I’m not sure that at least some parts of Ukraine, such as the East and South, are any less pro Russia than they ever were.

And what you see as rash deeds done with undue haste, Putin might see as the minimal acceptable course of action done after patiently giving the Maidan “protestors” every chance to stand down. Indeed, one of Putin’s most repeated statements is that a deal had been worked out to allow new, speeded up Ukrainian elections in exchange for ending the protests, but that the West and the Maidan folk went ahead with their coup anyway.

In any event, there were possible downside to not acting, as well as the downsides, some of which you mention, in acting. It is not clear to me that Putin “blundered,” as some would have it, in his choice.

Some other points….Russia actually has treaty rights to have troops in Ukraine, so the passage of the troops through other parts of Crimea was not itself problematic…as to the Budapest Agreement (again, not “Treaty”), you can parse it all you want, but it is non binding, and Russia has not threatened to use nuclear weapons.

#13 Comment By Mohamed Cassam On March 28, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

Wonder why Americans have 100% amnesia about their invasion and smashing of Iraq? Yet rave about how evil are the Rus grabbing, re-incorporating, Crimea, a piddly piece of real estate. Outside the US, even in the EU and especially Germany, this hypocracy is often touted.

Gas exports to the EU can be reduced for a very short time. First these exports are #1 source of foreign exchange and Russia is desparately needs this income. Second, reducuing supplies will only speed up the EU’s efforts to develop new supplies via LNG and pipelines from North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean. LNG from US is 5-7+ years away.

#14 Comment By Clint On March 29, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

The Budapest Memorandum is binding under international law,but that doesn’t mean it has the means to enforce it,

Under the provisions of The CSCE Treaty and the U.N.Charter and other sources of international law Russia’s obliged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

#15 Comment By American in Budapest On March 29, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

Always agreed with Kennan especially in regards to eastward NATO expansion but I’ve always been vehemently opposed to the US Military drawdown and presence in EUCOM.
Did everyone think after ’89 “well that’s that?”
I could go into all the stats that everyone here already knows but the most important point I want to make is that our present state of readiness for anything major is downright appalling I can assure you. I’m particularly concerned about all the holes, gaps and disconnects within our NIPR/SIPR networks.

#16 Comment By Bruce Oldemeyer On March 29, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

My concern is avoiding civil strife in Ukraine. Before culturally Russian and culturally Ukrainian folks start shelling each other’s neighborhoods, just give back what Nikita took in 1954. Before seething resentment boils over, just make it right. Yes, somebody loses. Somebody in Western Ukraine invested in Eastern Ukraine will lose some money. Two wrongs may just set this right and avoid Rwanda, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Iraq (think Kurd,Sunni,Shia all pissing on each other’s corn flakes but stuck in the same borders). All penis-waving aside, the long run view says get it over with and reunite Russophones.

#17 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 29, 2014 @ 11:54 pm

Clint:

“The Budapest Memorandum is binding under international law…”

Is it? Here’s the text of the memorandum:

[3]

Here is the US State Dept’s guidance on non binding documents:

[4]

This, and other sources that I have seen, as applied to the Budapest Memorandum, indicate, on balance, in my opinion, that the Budapest Memorandum is non binding.

“…but that doesn’t mean it has the means to enforce it.”

Yes, there seems to be no enforcement provisions at all.

“Under the provisions of The CSCE Treaty and the U.N. Charter and other sources of international law Russia’s obliged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Indeed, although, as I mentioned, the CSCE Final Act (not really “treaty”), aka the Helsinki Final Act, is not considered to be “legally” binding, although it is considered to be “politically binding.” Frankly, I don’t know enough about international law to be able to explain the difference.

As I mentioned, though, the USA was also a party to the CSCE Final Act, and thus it too was obligated to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the provisions specifically forbid granting assistance to revolutionaries.

The UN Charter is of course legally binding.

#18 Comment By Clint On March 30, 2014 @ 10:56 am

The United Nations Charter

Article 2, Principle 4:
“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.”

The Budapest Memorandum:
Article 2
“The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”

#19 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 30, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

Clint:

Right, those are the texts. But, again, according to the criteria in the US State Dept guidance, and the principles I have seen elsewhere (treatises, text books, documents like the State Dept’s but from other countries, etc), the language and circumstance of the Budapest Memorandum seem, to me, applying all of the criteria, to, on balance, make that document non binding. Do you disagree?

The text of the Memorandum that you quote does no more than “confirm” and “reaffirm” obligations that already exist, without the confirmation and reaffirmation. Binding documents are usually phrased more in terms of “shall,” than “reaffirm.” There is no formal “jurat” clause (eg Done on this day blah, blah, blah, at such and such a city, blah, blah, blah”), there is mention of “equal applicability” not “equal authenticity” (believe it or not, that matters!), there is no mention of “parties,” and the title of the document is “memorandum,” not “treaty” or “agreement.”

So, on balance, I think it is non binding.

Again, the UN Charter is binding, but that does not implicate the USA in any special way. A nation has, it seems, violated the UN Charter. Well then, the USA should raise that issue at the Security Council, as should every other nation, one would think. But the Budapest Memorandum does not obligate the USA or the UK to do anything more than that. Nor does Russia’s violation of the BM really add anything to its violation of the UN Charter, as the Budapest document is non binding viz a viz it as well.

#20 Comment By Clint On March 30, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

philadelphialawyer:

Again,I wrote,
“Under the provisions of The CSCE Treaty and the U.N.Charter and other sources of international law Russia’s obliged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

#21 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 30, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

Clint:

Yes, and I never said or implied otherwise. Or disagreed. But you also wrote this:

“The Budapest Memorandum is binding under international law…,”

which I disagree with, and have given you my reasons therefore. If you don’t want to defend that statement, that’s fine with me.

And I am not merely insisting for insistings’ sake, as folks here and elsewhere are making claims about the Budapest Memorandum that I think are untenable, and that, if true, would implicate the USA directly.

#22 Comment By Clint On March 30, 2014 @ 9:24 pm

philadelphialawyer:

The Obama Administration and The State Department disagree with and trump your personal opinion.

“The United States condemns the Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory, and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in full contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. This action is a threat to the peace and security of Ukraine, and the wider region.”

[5]

#23 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 30, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

Clint:

There is nothing in that statement that explicitly states that the Budapest Memorandum is binding. Certainly, Secretary Kerry did not suggest that the USA is “bound” to do anything as a result of having signed the Memorandum. General statements about “violations” of “obligations,” followed by a laundry list of various types of documents, such as treaties, final acts, memoranda, etc, is not the same thing as saying, plainly and simply, that a particular document is binding.

And, again, it is the State Department’s own general guidance on determining whether a document is binding that I am principally relying on. Of course, in a given instance, that guidance might be somewhat inconvenient, especially when it is “the other guy” whose “violation” is specifically being discussed.

Again, I will note that section one of the BM states that the USA will not violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, with such violations making reference to the CSCE Final Act. And, that that Final Act specifically prohibits abetting revolutionaries as well as generally forbidding interference in internal affairs. Did Secretary Kerry state, in your opinion, that that prohibition was “binding” on the USA?

I also question your notion of what the Secretary of State “trumping” my personal opinion. A question of law is not typically thought to be settled in a dispositive manner simply because a party to the dispute issues a statement thereon. And my “personal opinion,” as you put it, was based, as I said, on the US DOS’ own statements, as well as every other source on the issue that I could find.

Moreover, when the shoe was on the other foot, and long before the Ukrainian issue arose, the government of Belarus complained that the USA had violated the Budapest Memorandum:

“The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry claims that by imposing economic sanctions on Belarus Washington violates given commitments and, accordingly, undermines the reputation of the United States.

“In an interview…Andrei Savinykh…accused the United States in violating the commitments imposed to them by the Budapest Memorandum, reports BelaPAN.

“Let us recall that the so-called Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was signed on December 5, 1994 in connection with the accession of Belarus to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. According to Andrei Savinykh, ‘the United States voluntarily assumed a legally binding commitment to refrain from taking measures of economic coercion against Belarus.’ Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman states that the United States violated its commitment by failing to abide by the legally binding agreement….”

[6]

But the US Embassy in Minsk had this to say, on April 12, 2013:

“Repeated assertions by the government of Belarus that U.S. sanctions violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances are unfounded. Although THE MEMORANDUM IS NOT LEGALLY BINDING, we take these political commitments seriously and do not believe any U.S. sanctions, whether imposed because of human rights or non-proliferation concerns, are inconsistent with our commitments to Belarus under the Memorandum or undermine them. Rather, sanctions are aimed at securing the human rights of Belarusians and combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other illicit activities, not at gaining any advantage for the United States. [emphasis added]”

[7]

On pages K-6 and K-7 of this document:

[8]

can be found the Budapest Memoranda dealing with the Ukraine and Belarus, respectively. Other than the names “Belarus” and “Ukraine,” they appear to be identical. And, of course, they were signed on the same date and at the same place.

Strange that the Budapest Memorandum relating to Belarus would not be legally binding, while, somehow, the Ukrainian version is.

Moreover, other than one expert cited by Radio Free Europe (hardly a neutral source), I can find no credible expert claiming that the BM is legally binding (although one or two do speak of it being “politically” binding). And even he waffles quite a bit, talking about “complexity” and so on.

#24 Comment By Bianca On April 4, 2014 @ 2:35 am

Spent some time listening to the speaches of UN members on the Resolution on Ukrainian teritorial integrity, and Crimea. It was educational. Most of the nations that abstained did so because of the discomfort witht the resolution that does not take into consideration that teritorial integrity, that is, war of aggression, is contradicted with UN Charter on the right of people to self-determination. Also, mentioned was the circumstance under which the Kyev government was replaced, the legality of the government, and its insistence that it was not a coup, but a revolution. The revolution has even a name — the Revolution of Dignity. It has been pointed out to the Ukrainian represetantives that such stand has consequences, that is, it indicates that the new regime is not guaranteeing the international obligations of Ukraine signed before the revolution, and it likewise removes the obligation of other contries to recognize treaties.

The article implies that Russia should just recognize the elections, and all will be well. I would not jump to this conclusion, as some nasty demons have been taken out of the bottle, and cannot be put back. Some VERY disturbing information about BOTH parties in power — the Svoboda and the Fatherland — has surfaced on their websites, and are circulating in various media, but not in the West. These are horrifying ideas and threats, such as Svoboda party suggesting the manner in which they plan to exterminate over 8 million people, not just Russians and Jews, but Hugarians, Tatars, Romanians and Bulgarians. The power will be given to local commanders to “put together lists” for executing people, without seeking higher approval. Fatherland Party with the current head of govermnent Yatzenyk is on record through his boss, and presidential candidate Tymoshenko that in a taped phone convesation discusses the need to nuke Russia as well as Ukrainian Russians. These are all frustrations of the children and the grandchildren of Ukrainian nazi’s that were more cruel to local population then Hitler’s army — and they are not reconciled to the loss to Russians. As a country that has several nuclear power plants — it is IMPORTANT to find the way that the extermists do not get hold of it. The Army has disintegrated, police does not exist, only the new “national guard” that consists chiefly of the fighers of the Right Sector. Ukraine’s entire aministrative sistem has crumbled, and outside of Kyev, there is not much control of regions. This looks more like the case of the break up of Yugoslavia, and perhaps much better resolution would be to use the Bandinter Commission recommendations for the break up of the country, and voluntary association of its regions, provided they cannot change the current administrative borders. One cannot just imagine that given what is going on in the regions that some elections are going to fix all that. You must have some CONTROL over the territory before you can organize elections that are valid. It is not clear how can the population that the regime hates have a voice in selecting candidates or even voting.

Pottery Barn rule. We broke it, so it looks like we will have to pay for it. I just hope that we are not going to get into the macho game, and risk nuclear war, on purpose or othewise. What a mess.

#25 Comment By Evgeniy On April 4, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

Im sorry, if an apperaence of russian citizen offend someone here. But id like to thank all of people reading this for their constructive critique and opinion, its such a relief to read people who can think for themself(Im really sorry, if my english isn’t adequate enough for you). As for myself, I don’t understand why are we still so hostile with America when we can help each other SO MUCH, we are so similar its scary, and this whole after Cold War period was a big let down for Russia, even though more conservative people of US share our view on many things, nowadays USA seems just a den of sin… Our people always had a more conservative moral Code, and it was true for US in 50-70th, but now, I don’t want even start on how your and our own coutry degraded in this aspect… WE SHOULD BE TOGETHER!

#26 Comment By Bill Jones On April 4, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

Russia, of course, should and undoubtedly will continue to strengthen ties with China and India.

The US and its morons, the Obama’s, Clinton’s, Kerry’s, Graham’s, McCaine’s etc
will continue in pissing money away.

#27 Comment By James Marshall On April 9, 2014 @ 10:50 am

And don’t forget, you GOP war hawks here, it’s Ukraine and not the Ukraine and it’s not next to Ireland.

#28 Comment By LinaGross On September 22, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

This is crazy!!Just Putin has big ambitions.Look what he’s doing with Ukraine.UN said nearly 2,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine in the past five months, amid growing evidence of Russian involvement in intensified fighting. Putin is now very unpredictable. Why he won’t just do an Anschluss on Ukraine is beyond reason. His credibility is waning.Putin should go all the way to Kiev now and establish back his prestige. Otherwise he is just a mad man.Every day i watch the channel and I worry about what’s happening right now. More and more people die with each passing day…war is terrible. And tell me what is the fault of children?How many children remained without parents? Many families lost house and relatives. Do you doubt that Putin mad men?

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