"As Putin knows, the US and Nato are not going to war to stop Russia turning Crimea or the eastern Ukraine into another South Ossetia – nominally independent, but under Russian control. To quote former US Secretary of State Jim Baker, speaking in the 1990s about the Balkans, “We ain’t got no dog in this fight.”
No, the US and NATO are probably not. As they did not in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia, a sovereign nation, to maintain South Ossetia as its puppet. Nor, arguably, should they have done then, and should they do now. But the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and other international bodies tied themselves in knots rather disgracefully on South Ossetia at the time, when a moment's thought makes clear that the invasion of a sovereign nation by another is to be justified on only very few grounds. One of those grounds is Responsibility to Protect. Which, for those who may be struggling to keep up, is broadly this:
- A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
- The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
- If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.
While R2P is a norm and not a law, it is firmly grounded in international law, especially the laws relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights and armed conflict.
Foreign policy is not an edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze. It should be based on a cold calculation of national interest.
Really? British national interest was not served by intervention in Sierra Leone. Does that make it wrong? Christopher? Christopher?
Russia did not invoke R2P in South Ossetia in 2008, and is not doing so in Ukraine now. The people of Ukraine are not being slaughtered, it would appear. Not now that Yanukovych has been ousted, and is under Russian protection in Rostov-on-Don in Russia, it is believed, leaving Ukrainians to count his chandeliers and marvel at his private zoo. But it remains a fact that one sovereign nation has invaded another. Now I do not expect there to be marches against Russian imperialism in Western cities, because those anti-imperialist marches only happen when it is the US doing the imperialism. I do not expect a NATO task force to go steaming into the Black Sea. But I do expect Russia to account for its actions. I do expect Russia to explain internationally precisely why Crimea needed its presence. Who was killing the people of Crimea? Who was threatening to do so?
In the meantime, I feel sorry for the paralympic athletes who will not have international support for the Games due to take place in Sochi.
Mother Russia, tell us what you want and why you are doing this. You know you must. Vladimir Putin, if you ever were a world leader you have lost that privilege. You are a dictator lashing out at apparent erosion of privilege.