January 11, 2017

Analysis of the Practice of Reintegration (De-Occupation) of the Lost Territories in the Interests of Ukraine

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

Within the framework of damage control of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, of great importance for our state is the experience of reintegration (de-occupation) of a number of countries that at one time were divided, occupied or lost national territories for one reason or another.


In particular, this applies to Germany, which lost its territorial integrity following the Second World War. Thus, according to the Potsdam Conference (July 17–August 2, 1945), Germany was divided into four occupation zones: the USSR, the USA, Great Britain and France. At this, East Prussia went to the Soviet Union (today's Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation), while Alsace and Lorraine returned to France.

In late 1946, the US, UK and France's occupation zones were united, and that was the basis for the creation in 1949 of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). In response, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded in the same year under the patronage of the Soviet Union.

The Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany

The Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany

As a result of belonging to different military and political systems — of the West and of the Soviet Union — the FRG and the GDR were actually on the main line of confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (Warsaw Pact). Due to the FRG's joining the Western European Economic Union (the future EU), and the GDR's joining the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, united the controlled by the USSR countries of Central and Eastern Europe), economic relations between the two German states were actually broken too. At this, the GDR's leadership pursued a deliberate indoctrination of East Germany's population in terms of formation of its pro-Soviet communist ideology of negative attitude to the Federal Republic of Germany and to the whole Western Europe and the USA.

Despite this, the FGR's leadership did not give up the idea of reunification of the country, it was determined a strategic goal of the Federal Republic of Germany and declared in its Constitution. The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany called on all German people “to restore Germany's unity through free self-determination of the population of all its parts”. Article 23 of the Constitution provided for the extension of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany to other parts of Germany after their accession. At this, the Document provided for exclusively peaceful methods of achieving the goal in terms of proving the positive effects of the return of the German Democratic Republic into the unified German state.

Thus, the very first years of existence of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic showed significant advantages of the Western political and economic model over the Soviet-socialist way of life. Evidence of this was a significant superiority of the efficiency of the economy, and as a result — higher standards of living in the Federal Republic of Germany over the GDR. These differences were particularly evident after the worsening of the economic situation in the USSR in the early 1980s, which greatly weakened Moscow's ability to support its partners in the socialist camp.

The advantages of social standards in the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as the democratic nature of the political life of West Germany led to a high level of attractiveness for the majority of citizens of the GDR despite all the ideological efforts of the communist leadership of the country. However, the regime of the German Democratic Republic would block any possibility of rapprochement between the two German states, let alone their uniting.

This situation fundamentally changed with the beginning of “perestroika” in the Soviet Union, and the Warsaw Pact's and the CMEA's falling apart. Thus, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev gave up the rigid policy of confrontation with the West and allowed the unification of Germany in exchange for financial aid from the Federal Republic of Germany. For the first time this issue was discussed during Mikhail Gorbachev's meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Moscow in October 1988. In June 1989, as the result of Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl's second meeting (this time in the Federal Republic of Germany), a joint statement was adopted which consolidated the basic decision on the possibility of including the German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic of Germany.

Against this background, the demoralization of the communist regime of the GDR had weakened its power and increased the pro-Western democratic forces' activity. The largest-scale action with the participation of more than 1 million people took place in the beginning of November 1989 under the slogan of border opening and the GDR's integration into the FRG.

Under the pressure of the masses in autumn 1989 long-term leader of the GDR — the head of the German communists Erich Honecker voluntarily abdicated, handing his powers to his colleague E. Krenz. The new government of the GDR eased the regime of border crossing, and November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin was demolished completely. For its part, within the framework of implementation of Helmut Kohl's integration plan, West Germany increased its assistance to the German Democratic Republic in the financial, economic and humanitarian spheres.

At the same time, the real reunification of the two German states was made possible only after the parliamentary elections in the GDR in March 1990. The elections were won by the “Alliance for Germany”, led by the Christian Democratic Party of the German Democratic Republic, created by the model and supported by the similar political force of West Germany. The leader of the alliance L. Maiziere became the new leader of the German Democratic Republic.

New states of reunited Germany

New states of reunited Germany

May 18, 1990, H. Kohl and L. Mezieres signed an agreement on the establishment of a common economic space between the FRG and the GDR, which formed the basis for their economic integration. According to the agreement, on the territory of the GDR was introduced into circulation the currency (Deutschmark) of the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR's currency was abolished. In turn, the base of the FRG and the GDR's political and legal integration was the agreement on the establishment of a single electoral territory, signed in August 1990 which provided for holding elections in two German states under the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In August of the same year, the GDR's Parliament passed a decision on the accession of the country to the FRG. Immediately after this, an agreement was signed on reunification of the two Germanies. In September 1990, the agreement was ratified by the Parliaments of West Germany and of the German Democratic Republic. The document provides for the inclusion from October 1990 into the Federal Republic of Germany of five newly reconstituted East German lands, including Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and the territory of East Berlin.

However, the practical implementation of the agreement had to be agreed with the countries-winners in World War II. At this, while the then US President George. W. Bush Sr. supported unification of the two German states, the British Prime Minister M. Thatcher and French President F. Mitterrand were seriously concerned about the prospects of the revival of Germany as a leading European state. Despite this, the sides did come to an agreement that allowed to harmonize the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany. The document was signed on September 12, 1990 in Moscow by the heads of the Foreign Ministries of Germany, East Germany, USSR, USA, France and Great Britain. One of its components was the FRG's commitment to sign an agreement with Poland on the confirmation of the border between the two countries.

October 3, 1990, the GDR formally ceased to exist, and its state institutions were liquidated or integrated into the appropriate structures of the FRG. In particular, the East Germany's Armed Forces and Police became part of the Armed Forces and Police of the FRG. At the same time, the public security organs of the former GDR (the so-called Stasi) were completely disbanded. Prime Minister of the former GDR L. Maiziere was originally included in the German government, however, after allegations of his connections with the Stasi he resigned.

Paying for Germany's Unification

Paying for Germany's Unification

Apart from unification of public authorities, the integration of the German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic of Germany also needed dealing with a rather complex issue of restructuring the East Germany's economy. In this context, the main problems were the low competitiveness of East German enterprises and a lack of investors willing to invest into their modernization. This forced the FRG's government to close most of the factories in East Germany, which led to a significant increase in unemployment.

To solve these problems, different measures were taken, including the employment of residents of the Eastern German lands in West Germany's companies, modernization and creation of new businesses in the former German Democratic Republic, as well as support to small and medium-sized businesses. Besides, to cover the additional budget spending, they introduced a special “solidarity tax”, which amounted to 7.5 % of the total taxes.

Special attention was paid to amending the Constitution of the united Germany, which concerned the new political realities in the country, as well as the demands made within the framework of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.

The reunification of the two German states created preconditions for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of the former German Democratic Republic, which completed the process of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Germany.


Occupied border regions of Croatia

Occupied border regions of Croatia

A fundamentally different — force method of restoring the country's territorial integrity was used by Croatia, which was a consequence of the peculiarities of the situation in which the country found itself. Thus, during the armed conflict in the Balkans in the first half of the 1990s, triggered by Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia's Armed Forces occupied several border areas of Croatia. At this, Serbia would justify its actions by “the need to protect ethnic Serbs from Croatian nationalists” (exactly like Russia does today regarding the Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas).

Further expansion of the conflict was halted by the United Nations, which deployed its peacekeeping forces in the region, in Croatia included. In 1992, a truce was signed between Croatia and Serbia, which led to the “freezing” of the situation around the occupied Croatian territories. This state was used by Serbia to create on their basis of the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) — a breakaway republic of pro-Serbian orientation.

In turn, a pause in the fighting allowed Croatia to strengthen the country and its Armed Forces, as a prerequisite for the restoration of the territorial integrity of the State by force — during the Patriotic War for Independence and Territorial Integrity of the Republic of Croatia. In 1995, as a result of a lightning military operation “Storm”, the Republic of Croatia regained control of the territory of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina and kicked the Serbian troops out of the country. In 1998, Croatia achieved the signing of the peace agreement and gained full independence.


Quite interesting is also the practice of Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan to resolve the conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Trans-Dniester and Nagornyi Karabakh, provoked and organized by Moscow during the collapse of the USSR in order to maintain its influence on these countries.


Thus, in order to resolve the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian problems, Georgia established the State Ministry for Conflict Resolution (in 2008 renamed the State Ministry of Reintegration of Georgia, and in 2014 — the Ministry of Reconciliation and Civic Equality).

Occupied territories of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia)

Occupied territories of Georgia
(Abkhazia and South Ossetia)

As part of its work, the Ministry conducts activities to ensure security in the conflict zones, to establish relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and to seek opportunities to return the breakaway republics into the Georgian state. At the same time, under the influence of Russia, both, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have actually refused in any form to return to Georgia and demanded recognition of their independent status, which has been categorically rejected by Tbilisi. At this, Georgia's position on this issue has been supported by the dominant part of the world community.

In the above-mentioned situation, Tbilisi focused its main efforts on South Ossetia, because of the close trade and economic relations of that region with the rest of Georgia, as well as specifics of its ethnic composition (40 % are ethnic Georgians and 60 % — Ossetians). With this in mind, under the State Ministry for Conflict Resolution, in South Ossetia was created a Georgian administration for Conflict Resolution, which took over full authority in areas densely populated by ethnic Georgians in the breakaway republic.

Through the said body, with the help of the EU's funding, a number of programs were implemented to provide assistance to the local population (to both Georgians and Ossetians), and to develop the region, including construction of schools, hospitals and retail establishments. Besides, the Georgian Police Forces and Peacekeeping units from the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict (included the peacekeeping forces of Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia) ensured the safety of Georgian settlements in South Ossetia.

Along with this, in order to be able to deter Russia, Georgia's leadership took significant measures to strengthen the national Armed Forces, as well as to deepen relations with the US and NATO with a view to joining the Alliance. Besides, with the assistance of the US and the EU, Georgia implemented successive reforms of its political and economic systems, which allowed for the positive dynamics of development of the Georgian economy.

The results of Tbilisi's activity to address socio-economic problems of both, Georgia itself and South Ossetia, the Georgian state increased its attractiveness for the population of the breakaway republic, especially against the background of the total corruption of the separatist regime and its total failure to provide the minimum acceptable standard of living in the region. In turn, this created a real prospect of falling of the pro-Russian South Ossetian authorities, which was the reason for Moscow's actions to provoke an armed conflict in the breakaway republic and bringing in its Armed Forces in August 2008.

In the course of an armed aggression against Georgia, Russia occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and a number of Georgian areas outside them and conducted ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories. The West's pressure on Moscow helped stop further advance of Russian troops into the depth of Georgia's territory. At this, the so-called “Medvedev-Sarkozy agreements” (at that time the Presidents of Russia and France) were achieved, which provided for a cease-fire, withdrawal of forces of the parties to their original positions, and deployment in the conflict zones of the OSCE Observation Missions. However, apart from the ceasefire, Russia did not comply with the agreements and, moreover, recognized the “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and deployed its military bases on their territory. At this, all Georgia and its Western partners' demands to Russia to fulfill the conditions of the agreements have remained unanswered.


The self-proclaimed Pridnestrovskaya (Trans-Dniester) Moldavian Republic (PMR)

The self-proclaimed Pridnestrovskaya (Trans-Dniester) Moldavian Republic (PMR)

Moldova's authorities act in a similar way. For example, in order to address the whole spectrum of issues related to the settlement of the Trans-Dniester conflict, Moldova created the Ministry of Reintegration of the Country. As in the case of Georgia, it implemented a series of European Union's socio-economic programs in the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovskaya (Trans-Dniester) Moldavian Republic (PMR). Besides, an important factor in the PMR's integration into the economic and legal system of Moldova became the access of Trans-Dniester enterprises to foreign markets (including to European ones) only after their registration in the relevant Moldovan government bodies (as subjects of economic activity of the Moldovan State).

At the same time, Moldova's leadership has consistently advocated the withdrawal of Russian troops from Trans-Dniester and turning the Russian military peacekeeping mission in the zone of the Trans-Dniester conflict into the Civil Police Mission of the OSCE or the EU. These Chisinau's demands have especially got intensified since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, after which Moldova has actually blocked the possibility of rotation and re-arming of the Operative Group of Russian Armed Forces in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova.

Negotiations on the settlement of the Trans-Dniester conflict and the definition of the status of Trans-Dniester as part of Moldova were conducted both at the bilateral level between Chisinau and Tiraspol, and in the five-sided format, which included Moldova and Transnistria (parties to the conflict), Ukraine and Russia (the guarantors of security and the negotiation process), and the OSCE (the mediator). However, the talks had actually failed, except for purely economic issues, because of the fundamental disagreements between Moldova and Trans-Dniester (de facto, Russia standing behind the PMR) on the status of the breakaway republic. Thus, the PMR demands recognition of its status as an “independent state” and equal negotiating party, which is categorically rejected by Moldova.


Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Qualitatively different approaches to solving the problems of restoration of its territorial integrity are used by the leadership of Azerbaijan, due to the actual preservation of the state of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagornyi Karabakh, as well as the peculiarities of the situation in the region.

For example, Baku supports the idea of peaceful solution to the conflict, which is being implemented within the framework of the negotiation process with Armenia (usually with Russia's mediation), as well as in cooperation with the OSCE Minsk Group (Germany, Belarus, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia). Within the framework of negotiations, Baku stands firm on non-recognition of Nagornyi Karabakh and the impossibility of a direct dialogue with it on an equal footing.

However, due to the uncompromising position of Erevan supported by Moscow, Baku continues the transport and economic blockade of Armenia, and also takes consistent steps to build up its military potential in order to obtain opportunities for a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Azerbaijan's military spending already exceeds the entire state budget of Armenia). At the same time, the situation around Nagornyi Karabakh remains permanently tense with periodic aggravation of the armed conflict on its borders.

In fact, Azerbaijan's military potential allows it to conduct a military operation to regain control over Nagornyi Karabakh. But the constraints to Baku are Armenia's being a member of the Organization of Collective Security Treaty, the conclusion of an agreement between Russia and Armenia to establish a joint group of forces and the presence of a Russian military base on Armenian territory, as well as the threat of negative impact of large-scale intensification of the Nagornyi Karabakh conflict on the work of Azerbaijan's oil and gas industry, which is the basis of its economy.


The analysis of the above-mentioned activities of the countries for reintegration (de-occupation) of their lost territories allows to determine the main directions of their actions in this sphere, namely:

  • containment of the enemy (aggressor, occupier) with the help of allies, as well as ensuring capability of regaining force control over lost territories (within the framework of the struggle for independence and territorial integrity) in case of a favorable situation;
  • constitutional recognition of the status of the lost territories as occupied, annexed or forcibly separated, and determining the reintegration (de-occupation) of these areas of the state as its main geopolitical goal;
  • preserving strong positions on the possibility of granting special rights to local authorities on the lost territories, recognizing the elections and other legal acts only if implemented within the legal framework of the state;
  • initiating and consistently promoting the issue of deployment of international peacekeeping missions in conflict zones, on the borders with the lost territories, as well as the disarmament of illegal armed groups and the withdrawal of the aggressor's troops from the occupied territories;
  • an active diplomatic work to persuade the international community of the inadmissibility of the international recognition of the quasi-state formations on the lost territories and the “legality” (legitimacy) of their occupation (annexation) by the aggressor, as well as the need for external pressure on the latter (in particular by the introduction of international political and economic sanctions);
  • making the population of the occupied territories interested in their reintegration into the state by ensuring tangible advantages of its political and economic system;
  • an active information campaign aimed at supporting and promoting the state's reintegration policy, as well as the disclosure of the real goals and methods of action of the aggressor and its puppets on the lost territories;
  • influencing the political situation in the occupied territories in support of parties and movements advocating the reintegration (de-occupation) of the state;
  • development of political, economic, security and humanitarian mechanisms for reintegration of the lost territories after the adoption of a fundamental political decision on de-occupation of the state.
Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia

Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia

 Today, these trends in one way or another are already being implemented in Ukraine. However, the real return into Ukraine of the annexed by Russia Ukrainian Crimea and the occupied territories of the Donbas will be possible only in the situation of radical weakening of Putin's regime, which would not allow it to continue the current aggressive policy. This determines the fundamental importance of maintaining the international political and economic sanctions against Russia to achieve their goals.

Besides, according to experts of the Independent Analytical Centre for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel”, today we urgently need a Concept (Strategy) of de-occupation of Ukraine as a national geopolitical idea of the development of the strategic course for the preservation and assertion of Ukraine's European identity. This document should define the essence, the direction, the ways of achieving and the ultimate aim of de-occupation of Ukraine. It must be accessible and understandable not only to every and each Ukrainian, but also to all international partners of Ukraine, including the CIS countries and the united Europe (EU), the United States, NATO, the UN, and all other world and regional international organizations.

The civilized world must know the strategic goal of de-occupation of Ukraine and our concern, and in every way, and through legal mechanisms to struggle for the withdrawal of the aggressor's forces from the Ukrainian territories of the Crimea and Donbas. But this can happen only when we are able to give a definition of these processes here in Ukraine, when we can make this goal a national treasure and consolidate it at the legislative level, i.e., by the decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.