EU sanctions and the next step up (the R2P) diplomatic ladder

February 20, 2014

Following on from one of yesterdays entries, it now seems likely that the EU Member States have reached a consensus on sanctions and that “EU sanctions” will be announced against certain people within Ukraine some time after 3pm Ukraine time.

An extraordinary EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting has been called for Thursday 20 February 14.00 CET Brussels by Baroness Ashton.

Certainly too little too late for more than 2 dozen dead Ukrainians many will state – especially so when it can be anticipated that many people will disappear between 6pm 19th February and 3pm tomorrow during an on-going nationwide “anti-terrorist” sweep by the authorities.

Perhaps too little too late to change the course of the Ukrainian President and those that surround and advise him – perhaps not.  Perhaps enough to make certain influential people within Party of Regions leave the President’s tent.   Time will tell – though time is not exactly the most generous and forgiving of resources in Ukraine at present.

Nevertheless, sanctions are a step on various ladders – including the contentious Right to Protect (R2P) – and that brings me to a tweet by Jacek Saryusz-Wolski

Most people see R2P only as boots on the ground, direct and physical intervention with no escalating stages before – wrongly of course.  There is much more to it than that – and much of that scale falling below direct and physical intervention falls within what used to be known as diplomacy.  Diplomacy itself a many layered art.

Yes I have written about R2P and human rights before – albeit quite a while ago. You would be disappointed if I hadn’t.

Now, some may take the tweet by my on-line friend to mean physical intervention – and perhaps when looking broadly at the general priciples of R2P, some can may argue that the Ukrainian authorities are currently failing on one or more of the 3 points below.

The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;

The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;

The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Certainly it is not difficult to make some form of arguement over the third paragraph with regard to the protection of certain protesting parts of the Ukrainian population – how robustly that arguement can be made is a different matter.  There may also be an arguement regarding humanitarian issues – the availability of treatment for the injured and their removal from hospitals by security forces an obvious prima facie issue.

Yet R2P sits uncomfortably with the UN Charter, particularly so when it comes to the hard issues of physical intervention on the ground.   Even more uncomfortably when you know that if the EU tries to go down the R2P route, Russia with its obvious vested interests in Ukraine, will wave the UN Charter during its guaranteed veto.

I have a lot of time and a great deal of respect for  Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.  He is certainly a good friend of a democratic Ukraine and vocal in his disdain for anything less – yet proposing old fashioned diplomatic escalation under the R2P banner is very likely to further muddy already muddied waters, making difficult problems yet more difficult.

That said, the EU needs to get in front of the Ukrainian destructive vortex as a matter of urgency, rather than reactively dealing with the turbulent swell.  Thus direct humanitarian intervention under the auspices of R2P naturally must remain both a threat and an option.


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