R2P Used to Justify Russian Intervention

by Dave Schuler on March 4, 2014

Bad policies have a way of coming back to bite you. Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is claiming a right to intervene forcefully in Ukraine as part of a right to protect:

Putin said what had happened in Ukraine was an “anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power,” and insisted that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation.

He also insisted that if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia’s help, Russia has the right “to take all measures to protect the rights of those people.”

The parliament in Ukraine is “partly legitimate,” he said, but the country’s acting President is not.

He also insisted that the forces that had seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, whose faces have been covered and whose uniforms were without identifying insignia, were not Russian regulars.

Putin said that there had been no need for the use of Russia’s military so far, with not a shot fired, and that any use of military force would be the last resort. He repeatedly cast any such intervention as a humanitarian mission.

Military action, he said, would be “completely legitimate” because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia’s duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.

“Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev,” Putin said.

Putin also took note of the double standard being applied by Western, particularly American, officials.

The notion of Westphalian states with sovereign powers within their own borders may be old-fashioned and obsolete but its replacements are being used to justify war everywhere on slim pretexts.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

... March 4, 2014 at 1:14 pm

He also insisted that the forces that had seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, whose faces have been covered and whose uniforms were without identifying insignia, were not Russian regulars.

Would whatever-the-KGB-is-calling-itself-these-days count as regular or irregular troops? ;)

PD Shaw March 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I cannot say that I’m up to all aspects of the R2P framework, but I do think it requires a story about why international norms were ignored. For example, I think it can be important if UN support is sought and denied, or if alternative international organizations that have U.N. support as regional authorities are utilized. A lot of R2P types appear to have a significant body of arguments pertaining to the legitimacy of the U.N. veto.

Also, it doesn’t help when Putin’s advisers threatened to partition Ukraine several a few months ago if Ukraine signed the EU agreement. Its about the agreement, not ethnic cleansing. There is a difference between a theory that may work in unexpected ways and a theory that is abused.

Dave Schuler March 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

There is a difference between a theory that may work in unexpected ways and a theory that is abused.

IMO the distinction between use and abuse is subjective.

... March 4, 2014 at 5:34 pm

For example, I think it can be important if UN support is sought and denied, or if alternative international organizations that have U.N. support as regional authorities are utilized.

A counter-argument for bypassing the UN (and similar bodies) is that by quick action a humanitarian disaster can be averted. One would then expect the nation to go to the UN (or similar bodies) afterwards, though.

Not saying that is the case here, but I can see making it.

DISCLOSURE: I don’t really care about the UN or its approval. It’s just a place for the major powers to either pretend that their favored actions have the stamp of legitimacy, or a chance for the great powers to stick thumbs in each other’s eyes.

Ben Wolf March 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Russia explicitly stated in its 2010 military doctrine the necessity and right to intervention should it judge ethnic Russians to be under threat. I find it interesting that almost no on commented on this at the time; apparently they thought Putin didn’t really mean it.

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