Tag Archives: Ukraine

Russia steps into North Korea/China split

Discord between China and North Korea has provided fertile ground for Moscow, itself increasingly isolated over Ukraine, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe in a new column, Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort. Excerpt:

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Kim Jong-un visits a North Korean school in June. Photo by Prachatai, Flickr, Creative Commons

The ripples set in motion by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s ever more blatant involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine have reached the other side of the world, and are lapping on the shores of the hermit kingdom of North Korea.

As the European Union and the United States impose increasingly onerous sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his court, and a long term chill in relations with the West appears likely, Moscow can’t be too choosy about the new friends it makes.

In this frigid climate, even the unpredictable, spoiled brat North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Justin Beiber of dictators, can seem warm and charming.

And as the smiling men with gleaming teeth from Moscow have come to call, it so happens that Kim also is feeling desperately unloved.

China has been Pyongyang’s indispensable patron since the Korean War in the early 1950s, propping up North Korea’s hopelessly dysfunctional economy and providing diplomatic cover at the United Nations for its ideological sibling. But North Korea’s insistence, against all reason, on pursuing a nuclear weapons development program, and Beijing’s growing preference for pragmatic foreign relations over ideological ones are coming close to severing the old ties … continue reading  Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort (subscription*).

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Explainer: International law and flight MH17

Melanie Klinkner, a senior lecturer in law at England’s Bournemouth University, explains what could happen next in the aftermath of the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine.

By Melanie Klinkner, The Conversation, Bournemouth University
Published on F&O July 20, 1014

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Location of crash site; departure and destination airports. Map by Uwe Dedering – Wikipedia/Creative Commons

As the events surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine become clearer, more and more voices are claiming the plane may have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko described the crash as an act of “terrorism”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have said that “the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.”

For her part, former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton opined that the catastrophe could have grave consequences for Russia should it turn out that they were involved in supplying equipment used to attack the plane.

What now?

Legally speaking, we are still at an extremely early stage. Once it is established exactly how the plane was brought down, the next step will be to establish who bears responsibility for the crash, and how (and by whom) they will be punished.

States are obliged to punish those responsible. The first steps to investigate the causes and effects of the plane crash have been taken and Ukraine has asked the Netherlands for assistance in this task – but the possible responses using international legal structures are yet to be decided.

For his part, Ukraine’s prime minister suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, should look into the matter. However, it is in fact fairly unlikely that the ICC will get involved.

Bad timing

On April 17 2014, the Ukrainian government (which is signatory to the Rome Treaty but has not ratified it) lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the ICC’s statute, accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in its territory.

But that declaration specified only the time frame from November 21 2013 to February 22 2014, when Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid civil unrest. That means the plane crash would fall outside the declaration’s time frame. The terms could be revisited by the Ukrainian government, but extending the time frame would also leave the pro-Ukrainian side subject to scrutiny by the court for any crimes committed in the course of the deteriorating conflict.

Meanwhile, under Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute, there is the possibility that the United Nations Security Council could refer the situation to the ICC Prosecutor – though Russia holds a vetoing power on the council, and would probably use it to block any such attempt.

Jurisdiction

We also have to remember that the crime of terrorism does not form part of the ICC’s jurisdiction, as the concept of “terrorism” is notoriously difficult to define.

Instead, the ICC’s core crimes are genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes (from 2017, this list will include the crime of aggression). To prove a crime against humanity, for example, the prosecution would have to prove that 1) the attack was aimed at any civilian population; 2) a state or organisational policy existed that led to the attack; 3) the specific attack formed part of a widespread and systematic attack; 4) a link between the accused and the attack exists; and 5) there was an awareness of the broader context of the attack.

While some commentators have suggested that the 9/11 plane crashes, for example, constituted a crime against humanity, if the shooting down of flight MH17 proved to be an accident rather than a policy, it would be very difficult indeed to prove the necessary elements of a crime against humanity.

If, however, a preliminary examination by the ICC suggested there were grounds to proceed and the neccessary admissibility and threshold criteria are met, it may still prove very difficult to apprehend the alleged perpetrators if they were to reside in Russia.

Veto trouble

Instead of ending up in front of the ICC, the MH17 disaster will probably become a question for the International Court of Justice, where disputes between states are considered. The court has previously considered rather similar cases: in 1988, for example, Iran brought a case against the US for the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 – though eventually the case was withdrawn.

By the same token, Malaysia could be entitled to bring before the court any state directly responsible for the downing of flight MH17, or for supplying the equipment used to do so.

Another body which could take legal action, of course, is the UN Security Council, tasked as it is with maintaining peace and stability. It could establish an independent commission of enquiry, though any resolution on behalf of the Security Council might well be vetoed by Russia. The UN General Assembly could also produce a recommendation in form of a resolution, but they are non-binding.

Ultimately, what happens next will depend on how the major players behave – especially Russia – once the facts of the crash have been more fully established.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Melanie Klinkner does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related reading on Facts and Opinions:
The Cold War 2.0 by Jim McNiven in Thoughtlines
Leave Ukraine to the Russians 
by Jonathan Manthorpe

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass, required for most of our original work, is $1.) 

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Moldova Teeters on Edge of Ukraine Turmoil

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Deputy Gheorghe Ghimpu replaces the Soviet flag on the Parliament with the Moldovan flag on April 27, 1990. Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons.

The global focus on Ukraine should expand to include Moldova, warns International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe Polls suggest that only 44 per cent of Moldovans favour EU membership, while support for a customs union with Russia has grown from 30 per cent a few months ago to 40 per cent now. Moscow’s opaque intentions are adding to anxiety in Moldovia that if civil war breaks out in eastern Ukraine, it will spill over, he writes. An excerpt of today’s column:

As the West fixates on what Vladimir Putin is doing in eastern Ukraine, perhaps not enough attention is being paid to his other hand, which is hovering greedily over neighbouring Moldova.

Moldova and its three-and-a-half million people, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine behind the north-west shore of the Black Sea, has not had an easy time since it reluctantly emerged as an independent nation in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is the poorest country in Europe.

It got off to a bad start when independence led almost immediately to a civil war when the pro-Russian people of Transdniestr – that long sliver of Moldova lying east of the Dniester River – rebelled against the possibility of the country joining Romania. Intervention by Russian forces – 1,500 of them are still there – brought a peace deal in 1992, but Transdniestr and its 500,000 people remain a breakaway region, yearning either for recognized independence, a customs union with Moscow or absorption by Russia. The takeover of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, just round the Black Sea coast from Moldova, by Putin has encouraged many of Transdniestr’s people to hope that they may be next on the Russian President’s shopping list.

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Putin’s playbook, Taiwan protests, and China’s ambition

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Jonathan Manthorpe

Beijing claims to own Taiwan and its 23 million people, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. Amid the student occupation of Taiwan’s parliament, it takes little imagination to construct a chain of events in which the students’ action cascades to a point where China’s leader, Xi Jinping, decides to emulate Russian President Vladmir Putin over Crimea — and press home China’s claim. Meanwhile the Western capitals, that profess to be driven by democratic impulses, have become disturbingly and dangerously inconsistent in their reactions to people power protests. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column: 

At the moment, that is unlikely. But events in the human story have a habit of rushing downhill, gathering momentum as they go.

And a Chinese take-over of Taiwan would make Putin’s annexation of Crimea look like a tea party. Not only would Taiwanese resist, but Beijing’s acquisition of Taiwan would dramatically alter the strategic balance in Asia, to the alarm of Washington and all China’s neighbours, especially Japan.

The response by the United States and its allied democracies to “People Power” uprisings against established governments has become more and more confused and inconsistent since the first modern outbreak of this phenomenon in the Philippines in 1986….

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Agence France-Presse posted a video of the Taiwan student protest:


 

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Putin vs Obama: who is in step with the times?

As the world focuses on Ukraine and the dispute between Russia and the “West,” let’s take a step back for a wider view. Democracy — as a system of representative and accountable governments, operating under the rule of law mediated by an independent judiciary – is struggling or under threat in much of the world, from former Soviet satellite states now in the European Union to the Caribbean to the countries washed by an Arab Spring that has largely failed to blossom. International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe looks at the big picture. Excerpt of his new column:

One of the more unfortunate pronouncements by United States President Barack Obama in this Ukraine embroglio was that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had put himself “on the wrong side of history.” Obama was not explicit, but his case appears to be that by intervening in the majority ethnic Russian eastern Ukraine, especially Crimea, Putin is pushing against advancing international values of respect for nation states, popular sovereignty and the rule of law. Yet as one looks around the world it seems it is Putin, far more than Obama, who is step with the times.

Log in first* to read the column, Putin more in tune with the times than Obama. Other recent Manthorpe columns on Ukraine and the state of global democracy include Beijing, not Moscow, is the home of imperialism, Europe carries blame for the Ukrainian violence, and Arab Spring still waiting to blossom.

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Chinese imperialism ignored amid Ukraine-Russia debate

The outpouring from the West of shock and outrage over Russia’s actions in Ukraine has been … “entertaining,” writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. The reaction to Russia is especially bizarre given there really is a colonial, expansionist power afoot in the world – and Russia may well be one of its targets.

The sound and fury aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin in the last few days has been vastly entertaining. But it was evident from the start that, as Ukraine sank into internal chaos, Putin would ensure the security of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the continuation of the 1997 agreement under which Moscow maintains a naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. Yet other events on the other side of the world in the last few days should have alerted American Secretary of State John Kerry, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird and all the preened diplomats of the European Union that there is a would-be imperial power at work, a power which already occupies large colonial possessions and is hungry for more. That power is not Russia, but China.

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European Union’s role in Ukraine mayhem: analysis

Europe is culpable for the violence in Ukraine, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in his new column. Excerpt:

European leaders should not congratulate themselves too heartily for mediating the compromise agreement that, with luck, will end the demonstrations and appalling violence on the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kiev and other major cities.

It is, after all, sins of commission and omission by Brussels that have played a large part in stirring up the political chaos in Ukraine as its people try to decide if their future should be with the European Union (EU) or their old political overlord in the Soviet Union, Russia.

The EU’s first sin is that since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it has been confronted with this stark, either-or choice.

Many of the 28 member states, and especially the administrative priesthood in Brussels, have no doubt that the virtues of EU membership are obvious. EU politicians and officials often display an irritating and sometimes destructive assumption that joining their club is the only rational action for neighbouring countries.

All too frequently in Brussels displays little understanding, and often naïve ignorance of the conflicting economic and political pressures felt by countries considering EU membership, particularly those that were part of the Soviet Union.

Log in to read the column, Europe carries blame for the Ukrainian violence.*

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Findings: Ukraine protests in real time

Espreso TV, an independent outlet in Ukraine, has a live video broadcast of the bloody clash in Kiev between protesters and authorities. Nine people have died in today’s confrontation, reports the BBC.

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