Borysfen Intel

Evolution of the West's Attitude to Russia's Violations of International Law

June 7, 2018
<p>Evolution of the West's Attitude to Russia's Violations of International Law</p>

From Imitations and Concessions to Real Decisions and Actions

With the coming of the next summits of the European Union and NATO in July 2018, which will include consideration of plans for further deterrence of Russia, a rather interesting issue is the evolution of the West's attitude to Moscow's violations of international law. Especially as this problem directly influences the interests of Ukraine in the context of the prospects of the USA and EU's support to our state in its confrontation with Russia.

Thus, the Kremlin's ignoring international law in both, domestic and foreign policy of the country, has always been one of the problematic aspects of the relations between the West and the USSR, and then the Russian Federation. At the same time, the specific reaction of Western countries and international organizations to such Moscow's actions has been and remains quite ambiguous and depends on the peculiarities of the military-political situation in the world and the mutual interests of the parties.

…The Kremlin's ignoring international law has always been one of the problematic aspects of the relations between the West and the USSR (later — the Russian Federation)…

In particular, the repressive policy of the Bolshevik authorities of Soviet Russia towards its own people, as well as interference with internal affairs of other states within the framework of the implementation of the ideas of the “world revolution”, were condemned by the West in the 1920s–1930s. The consequence of this was the actual international isolation of Soviet Russia, then the USSR from the United States and Europe, as well as their supporting Poland during the Soviet-Polish wars of 1918–1920. However, the economic depression in the United States and the aggravation of economic problems in Europe after the First World War forced them to give up the confrontation with the Soviet Union and to begin active cooperation with it in the political, trade and economic spheres.

Relations between the West and the USSR deteriorated in 1939 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland. In connection with Moscow's aggression against a sovereign state (a direct violation of international law), on the initiative of Argentina, which was supported by the United Kingdom and France, the USSR was expelled from the League of Nations — actually, the predecessor of the United Nations. But, apart from imposing some restrictions on trade with the Soviet Union and providing moral support to Finland, Western countries and international organizations did not take any real steps to put pressure on Moscow.

…The repressive policy of the Bolshevik Russia, as well as interference with internal affairs of other states, were condemned by the West back in the 1920s–1930s…

The reason for this again became the West's being interested in maintaining trade and economic cooperation with the USSR. Besides, despite London and Paris' resentment over Moscow's actions against Finland, they did not go to confrontation with it, which could have pushed the Soviet Union to unite with Hitler's Germany on anti-British and anti-French grounds. In the situation of the friendship between the USSR and Germany at that moment (in particular, after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), such perspectives could have come true.

Later, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the problem of Moscow's violation of international law completely lost its relevance to the West due to the parties' joint actions against Germany.

 

Relations between the West and Russia changed greatly after the Second World War as a result of a new geopolitical situation in the world. First of all, it concerned the USA's reaching a qualitatively new level of the most powerful state in the world and the actual control over Western Europe that Washington used to start an active struggle for world leadership. In its turn, the USSR also substantially strengthened its international positions, which enabled Moscow to intensify its external expansion in order to extend the sphere of influence in the world on the basis of the ideas of the construction of the so-called Eastern bloc or Socialist camp.

…A sharp confrontation between the USA and the USSR in the form of the “cold war” was accompanied by an active rivalry between the two countries in the political, ideological, military, economic and other spheres…

This objectively had led to a sharp confrontation between the USA and the USSR in the form of the “cold war”, which was accompanied by an active rivalry between the two countries (and in fact, between two geopolitical systems) in the political, ideological, military, economic and other spheres. At this, while the USA was basically realizing its foreign policy interests by economic methods, the USSR, like in the 1920–1930s, was doing it through subversion and imposing communist ideas on other countries. The principles of domestic policy of the two countries, including the development of democracy in the USA and the strengthening of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, were also absolutely different.

In such circumstances it is accusing Moscow of its violations of international law (including interference with internal affairs of other countries, provoking tensions and conflicts, as well as suppressing freedoms of its own citizens) that became one of the main ideological instruments of the West in the “cold war” against the USSR. In particular, such accusations were used to discredit the Soviet Union on the world stage, putting all sorts of restrictions on trade and economic cooperation (especially on the supply to the USSR of new technologies and dual-use goods) and bringing protest and anti-Soviet sentiments into the Soviet society.

…Accusing Moscow of its violations of international law became one of the main ideological instruments of the West in the “cold war” against the USSR…

In this regard, the West's pressure on Moscow over the latter's violations of norms of international law would grow against the background of all sorts of headline-making events that affected both Soviet and Western interests. After the Second World War, the main ones were the USSR's blockade of West Berlin in 1948–1949, forceful suppressing of the uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the harassment of dissidents and Jews in the 1960s–1970s.

At the same time, the United States and Europe's steps to influence Moscow were not resolute, allowing the USSR not only to continue its external expansion, but actually to occupy a dominant position in the European energy market. And only a drop in world energy prices and critical sharpening of problems in the Soviet economy, which could not survive the arms race, were those factors that actually changed the Kremlin's policy, and eventually led to the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union.

At this, the West's demands to Moscow to comply with international law became a catalyst for such changes when the USSR urgently needed Western loans and investments. It is in view of the urgency of such needs at the end of the 1980s, that the leadership of the Soviet Union had to agree to the dissolution of the Eastern bloc, unification of Germany, withdrawal of Soviet troops from Central and Eastern Europe and announcing the so-called “Perestroika” (“Rebuilding”) in the USSR, which was meant to be a comprehensive democratization of the country.

 

…Neither the United States, nor EU or other international organizations in any way reacted to Moscow's actions to provoke and fuel the armed conflicts in Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagornyi Karabakh in the early 1990s…

The West's response to the facts of Moscow's violating norms of international law after the collapse of the Soviet Union was also contradictory. Thus, neither the United States, nor EU or other international organizations in any way reacted to Moscow's actions to provoke and fuel the armed conflicts in Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagornyi Karabakh in the early 1990s.

All this was the result of the USA and Europe's views at that time, as well as the desire of Western countries to gain access to Russia's natural resources, which determined their loyalty to it. As a result of the economic interests of Western business, the Kremlin's turning to an open neo-imperial policy at the beginning of the 2000s did not cause any reaction either, even though it kept ignoring international law.

First of all, it concerned Moscow's claims to the right to determine the foreign policy of the countries of the former USSR and to interfere with their internal affairs, which directly contradicted the key provisions of the UN Charter. The methods of Moscow's actions to implement its claims, which included the prevention of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova's joining NATO and the EU, were completely contrary to the norms of international law. In particular, one of such methods was the Kremlin's organization of “gas” wars against Ukraine and the EU in winters of 2005–2006 and 2008–2009, which showed Russia's ignoring its obligations under bilateral agreements and international law.

…The Kremlin saw the West’s concessions to Moscow in 2008 as a “carte blanche” in realizing the latter's interests in post-Soviet territories…

However, the West again confined itself to criticizing Russia without using any effective levers of influence on it. Moreover, Western countries and international organizations went to concessions to Moscow refusing to grant Ukraine and Georgia the status of participants of the NATO “Membership Action Plan”. This position of the West was perceived by the Kremlin as a “carte blanche” in realizing its interests in post-Soviet territories.

Moscow was not slow to take next steps in this direction. Already in August 2008, Russia conducted a military invasion of Georgia under the pretext of protecting the population of South Ossetia. And only this made the West “open its eyes” to the Kremlin's policy and threats from it. Thus, the USA, NATO and the EU strongly condemned the Russian Federation and announced a number of restrictions on it (in particular, suspension of military and military-technical cooperation).

…As a result of the “reset” of relations with Russia in 2009, Moscow had “free hands” for further uncontrolled activities in the post-Soviet space…

However, despite Moscow's not fulfilling the provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy peace plan (adopted on August 12, 2008, providing for the withdrawal of Russian troops behind the line that preceded the start of hostilities), the West again refused to use real economic sanctions against Russia. And in early 2009, the newly elected (at that time), US President B. Obama, even announced a “reset” of relations with Russia, explaining this by the need to restore cooperation between the parties in the context of the global financial and economic crisis. Thus, Moscow had “free hands” for further uncontrolled activities in the post-Soviet space.

 

The result of this was Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, which was launched by Moscow in February 2014, contravened all international law and led to a violation of the entire international security system in Europe and in the world. These actions by the Kremlin were finally considered by the United States and Europe as a direct threat to their own vital interests, which prompted them to move towards the introduction of real political and economic sanctions against the Russian Federation for the annexation of the Crimea and fueling the conflict in the Donbas.

…In the course of resolving the problems of Europe's trade, economic and energy dependence on Russia, the USA and EU have moved to a tougher sanction policy towards the RF…

Although, at the initial stage, they were rather restrictive, due to the impossibility of an immediate break-up of trade and economic relations between Western countries and Russia, as well as Europe's dependence on Russian energy resources. At this, in 2015–2016, the prolongation of sanctions by the leadership of the European Union caused severe disagreements in the EU, which was intensively fueled by Russia through its lobby in Europe (first of all through representatives of business circles that had their interests in the oil and gas sectors of the Russian Federation).

Later, with resolving the problems of Europe's trade, economic and energy dependence on Russia (including through reorientation to other countries and regions, as well as implementation of the comprehensive EU energy security strategy), the United States and the European Union have moved to a tougher sanction policy towards the Russian Federation. In particular, in this regard, the most illustrative was the USA's adoption in August 2017 of the “Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”, which provides for the imposition of personal sanctions against individuals from V. Putin's environment. Immediately after the publication of the document, it caused an ambiguous reaction in the EU as it affected the interests of European business circles, but later it was actually supported by the leadership of the European Union. At the same time, since 2017, the EU has switched to automatic (almost without discussion) prolongation of sanctions against Russia.

 

…Today the US and EU sanctions policy on the Russian direction has moved from loud slogans and statements to systematic and systemic work to curb the neo-imperial policy of the Putin regime…

Given these circumstances, today the US and EU sanctions policy on the Russian direction has reached a qualitatively new level having moved from loud slogans and statements to systematic and systemic work to curb the neo-imperial policy of the Putin regime. At this, anti-Russian sanctions are gradually gaining ground and bring real results, inflicting substantial losses of the whole Russian economy and Russian oligarchs from V. Putin's environment.

At the same time, the decrease in the level of novelty of this issue and the activity and sharpness of its coverage in the media as a result of the emergence of other topical issues of world level are deliberately interpreted by Moscow and perceived in the European and Ukrainian expert environment as “the West's tiredness of Ukraine” and readiness to give up sanctions against Russia.

All this is not true, which fact is testified to by the European countries' regular steps to persecute the illegal activities of Russian oligarchs in their territory. In particular, the manifestation of this was the arrest by Swiss banks of the assets of billionaire V. Vekselberg through the United States' sanctions.

 

However, Moscow will keep increasing its efforts to undermine the unity of the United States and the EU with regard to sanctioning Russia's policies, including by bribing Western politicians and businessmen, supporting various marginal parties, trying to establish relations with the West on the basis of joint counter-terrorism struggle, discrediting Ukraine, etc. These Kremlin's actions are the greatest threat to our state today.


 

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