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Lukashenka on Ukraine

March 25, 2014

Stripping away all the journalistic fluff from this RFERL article, President Lukashenka is bang on the money when talking about Ukraine – as you would hope from a dictator ruling a neighbouring state.

Firstly he agrees with the entire world – less Russia – that the annexation of Crimea sets “a bad precedent” –  Of course it does, for international legal agreements such as the Helsinki Final Act (amongst a list of international agreements) have not only been challenged but clearly ruptured.

It may not be that President Lukashenka has any great concerns regarding the annexation of parts of Belarus, but he will have concerns regarding separatist movements within the Russian Federation that by extension may have detrimental outcomes for Belarus.

When it comes to recognizing or not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, Crimea is not an independent state unlike Ossetia or Abkhazia.  Crimea today is a part of Russian territory. You can recognize or not recognize that, but this will change absolutely nothing.

Nobody would dispute what he says – the reality on the ground speaks for itself.  The only thing really worthy of note is that by stating “Crimea today is part of Russian territory” may infer he holds a belief that may not always be the case – though it seems a very remote and distant prospect.

The next statement I will unpack into separate parts.

“Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest. So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.”

The first – “Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state” .  Here he is absolutely right.  The federalising of Ukraine will do nothing more than create a permanently unstable nation for decades to come.

Secondly – ” that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest.” 

As I have written before “The political choice offered once again – an officially neutral state that does not “Europeanise” too much and offend Russian sensibilities – or what is left of Ukraine (Lviv and a few surrounding fields that were once Galacia) can do as they will once the south and east have been secured by Russia one way or another.”

President Lukashenka also pushing an internationally recognised neutral status for Ukraine as part of the solution it would seem.

To his last point “So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.” – He is quite right.  The problem now being there is no trust.

Having seen the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum, The Russia-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty and more, simply raped of any meaning unilaterally by Russia – and to be frank rather feebly responded to by the Europeans and certain guarantors thus far – trust in Russia is at an all time low, and trust in a few western nations has been shaken too.

What possible guarantees of non-interference in exchange for non-block neutrality will now be accepted – and from who would Ukraine accept such guarantees in the belief they could be called upon, and a swift and robust response delivered?

The trust problem not only exists between Ukraine and Russia of course.  Who would act as guarantor for Ukraine now, when any guarantor can no longer trust Russia to act reliably and legally?

Sadly President Lukashenka offered no insight into the very serious problem of trust.

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13 comments

  1. I don’t see why the 1975 Helsinki Accords are even being cited. Those Accords were broken long ago in the 1990s when Sweden, Germany and Iceland became the first signatories of the Helsinki Accords to recognize the secession of Slovenia from fellow Helsinki Accord signatory Yugoslavia.

    There is no possible way that such an action (rather than continuing to push for Slovenia and the other republics to work things out within a federal and democratic Yugoslavia) could have been in the spirit of Article IV of the First Accord, the first two paragraphs of which read thus:

    The participating States will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating States.

    Accordingly, they will refrain from any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State, and in particular from any such action constituting a threat or use of force.

    If the Helsinki Accords were REALLY being followed in spirit then most of the 1975 borders would still be around as Western nations would have done more to push for solutions that did not destroy the unity of the states such as Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Following those Accords would have probably meant refusing to recognize any territory that seceded against the the agreement of the recognized government of the country it is seceding from (think Yugoslavia and possibly the USSR given that the Belarussian, Ukrainian and Russian leaders basically usurped power from the Soviet government as the Soviet Union was democratizing) and/or without actually obtaining the opinion of the people in question (think the Czech and Slovak republics which came into being without any referendum on separation and with public opinion in both republics being apparently broadly in favour of continued political union despite the politicians desire for separation because they couldn’t see eye to eye).

    But once the secession of Yugoslav, Soviet and Czechoslovak republics were supported the Accords were in essence dead (at least the First Accords). So why should the successor states to the original signatory states respect said Accords, when if said Accords were actually followed they wouldn’t exist as independent states today but have remained as federal units of the original signatory states?


    • The Helsinki Final Act all comes down to the negotiated and agreed resetting of international borders – and thus their international recognition – or not. To be quite blunt, declaring independence is no problem – the right to self determination is within the UN Charter. However which of those “new nations” came into being and then immediately seceded to another as is the case and was the plan with Crimea – effectively changing a bit of Ukraine into a bit of Russia?

      One thing to secede for independence (and seek international recognition) – quite another to simply change nationality without any dialogue with anybody else.


      • In theory, if declarations of independence are not a problem as you suggest then the reasons for such declarations are irrelevant. What does it matter if a territory declares independence in order to gain the legal powers implicit under such declarations to unite with another country?

        If Kosovo were to one day unify with Albania, would that action make their declaration of independence underhanded and illegitimate somehow even if that action occurred years after the original declaration? If not, then why would such action make a declaration somehow illegitimate if the actions took place only a day or two after the declaration of independence? If there is supposed to be some kind of time limit, in which ICJ judgement or advisory opinion can we find the exact time limit before states which have declared independence are allowed under international law to unify with other states?

        Again though, the Helsinki Accords (or at least the First Accord) was rendered meaningless in the 1990s when Germany, Sweden and Iceland violated it by performing actions against the unity of another participating state, Yugoslavia.

        Even if declarations of independence are not inconsistent with the UN Charter, it’s pretty hard to square that with the explicit terms of Article IV which states that member states are to “refrain from any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State”.

        Declarations of independence are not inconsistent with the UN Charter, but Germany, Sweden and Iceland were not the ones issuing declarations of independence. Slovenia was. Instead what they were doing was recognizing that declaration. So unless the UN Charter actively requires UN member states to recognize declarations of independence made by territories without the blessing of the country they are seceding from, then what Germany, Sweden and Iceland did was plainly contrary to the Helsinki Accords as they were under no obligation to recognize Slovenia because of the UN Charter. Under the UN Charter, Slovenia’s declaration was not illegal, but reading Article IV of the First Helsinki Accord, it would seem that Germany, Sweden and Iceland were obligated to refrain from recognizing that declaration until at least Yugoslavia’s own government did so (as by recognizing it they would be carrying out an action contributing to the non-consensual breakdown of the unity of Yugoslavia which was a participating state of the Helsinki Accords). Clearly Yugoslavia did not agree to Slovenia’s independence when Germany, Sweden and Iceland recognized it, so how then can there have been “the negotiated and agreed resetting of international borders” as you say the Helsinki Accords are all about and all ultimately boils down to?


      • The question of recognition is entirely a matter for any sovereign state whether any secession was lawful or not.

        Just because it was lawful does not mean it would be recognised – hence there is no international institution that recognises Kosovo for example. Not all in UN, EU, NATO, Muslim international orgs recognise it and to be quite blunt – ever will.

        Just because any secession may be unlawful doesn’t mean it won’t be recognised by some either.

        Declaring independence is far easier than being recognised – which then effects FDI, trade, tax, allows or disallows entry to international orgs etc.

        As for Kosovo ever joining Albania, whilst that is extremely unlikely in any event, Kosovo had no immediate intention (nor has it) of joining Albania when it declared independence – unlike Crimea which effectively flipped sovereign title within a few days – the entire point of declaring independence prior to acceding to Russia rather than simply being swallowed without that step was to try circumvent the Helsinki Final Act.

        A question of intent.


      • You can’t circumvent something in 2014 which has been dead in spirit and effect since 1991. That’s like trying to circumvent laws which have long since been stopped being enforced (like the law which made it an offence to fail to report the presence of grey squirrels on your property).

        The rest of your post is fairly strong. But the Helsinki Accords have been so dead that even in the current crisis the main players on all sides have not or have barely mentioned it. For the simple reason that they long since stopped adhering to it in practice. Were they actually of any relevance again, the Budapest Memorandum should have been redundant for instance.


      • Unfortunately the Helsinki Final Act dies only when repealed/scrapped/struck down officially – and whilst it still officially exists then it should be adhered to with integrity by all. One transgression may justify another transgression to some – but it does not legitimise either.

        If we are to say a law is dead because it has been broken several times and thus we should not abide by it any longer, how much law would remain? There are few laws domestic or international that have not been broken.


      • You can keep harping on about it, but when the Helsinki Final Act’s OWN signatories don’t even so much as mention it as a joke, that should tell you how much real weight it has had since the 1990s. You’re only fooling yourself if you think that a law is only dead when scrapped. Laws die when they are no longer enforced (and they may sometimes experience brief or permanent resurrections if they are enforced again). And if ALL the signatories to a law no longer enforce it then it dies. The official repeal or scrapping in that case is tantamount to the burial of the law, not its mere death.


      • As you wish – but I’ll bet you the Helsinki Final Act is relied upon again and as long as it is – it is not dead.


      • I would bet you a beer on that 🙂

        To demonstrate that laws can be dead but not have been repealed there is an 1856 law that helps people to obtain an early release from imprisonment for debt. That law was still on the books for over 100 years despite an 1869 law which ended debtors’ prison. According to what you had said that 1856 law is apparently still “enforceable” despite the fact that there is literally no way to do so:

        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/calls-for-dead-laws-to-be-repealed-7618201.html


      • There is also a by-law in the city of York that you can still shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow but nobody does. Why because Common Law of murder would still be in force.


      • Actually as far as most anyone can tell that law about being able to shoot a Scotsman doesn’t actually exist: http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/6754/is-it-legal-to-kill-a-scotsman-in-york

        Quote:

        The source for most of the laws listed on the survey for 10 stupidest laws is this book: The Strange Laws of Old England [Hardcover] by Nigel Cawthorne as stated in the BBC article

        On page 197 the search results (only preview) show as below

        And in York, it is said, it is perfectly legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow ..

        Whats interesting is that a subsequent amended BBC article of the same ‘most ludicrous laws’ listed 7 of these and left out this one with the comment.

        This is an amended version of an earlier story which included several examples of laws from the survey which we have been unable to verify, and these have been removed.
        So in summary, this may or may not have been there once upon a time, but now seems to be a local legend rather than a stated law.

        It definitely does not appear in the search results of the UK Statute Law database

        And in any case even if it did exist, legally speaking it is not possible to shoot a “Scotsman” because in the eyes of the law there are no Scottish nationals or English nationals anymore, only British nationals. So even if I did happen to shoot a guy holding a bow and arrow in York’s ancient city and that guy happened to have been born in and grew up in Scotland, my defence in court would fall apart not only because I would be charged for murder, but because legally there have been no “Scotsmen” since 1707. So it’s not possible for me to shoot one and claim the protection of that by-law (a by-law which by the way nobody can seems to actually find a physical copy of and as such which probably is more local legend than real by-law). I would have simply shot a British national and that British national is most definitely not covered under that legendary York by-law as being a person one can shoot.


      • There may be after the referendum


      • Lol! After the referendum you say?

        The Scottish nationalists are going to need a little extra oomph to get a victory (and maybe some vote rigging). Almost every opinion poll has shown the “Yes” vote trailing the “No” vote and undecideds tend to have a nasty habit (from the point of view of the Yes side) of sticking with the status quo when they are uncertain…the status quo of course not being an independent Scottish state.



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