Bill Bowring: Theses on the present Russia-Ukraine crisis

20 February 2022

by Bill Bowring

Source: Bill Bowring’s Blog

1) NATO became irrelevant in 1991, when the Warsaw Pact, its opposite number, was dissolved. In 1999 NATO acted illegally and violated its own Charter (which specified that it was a purely defensive organisation) when it bombed Serbia. Now, like a zombie, it has returned.    

2)  Ukraine became a founding member of the UN in 1945 (as did Belarus) and had its own seat in the General Assembly as a Union Republic of the USSR. In 1991 it became an independent sovereign state, with the collapse of the USSR. In 1996 in its Constitution it created the Autonomous Republic of Crimea with its own Supreme Soviet and privileges for the Russian speaking inhabitants. From that date there was no movement to rejoin Russia.

3) By the 1997 Partition Treaty between Russia and  Ukraine, Ukraine agreed to lease Sevastopol to Russia for 20 years until 2017. The treaty also allowed Russia to maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armoured vehicles, and 22 military planes on the Crimean Peninsula. Russia never disputed that Crimea was an integral part of Ukraine, until the Russian Annexation in 2014, when Russia abrogated the Treaty. Those forces carried out the annexation. Yanukovich intended to enter into the Association Agreement with the EU, was prevented by Russian pressure, and then fled the country, having stolen enormous sums from Ukraine.

4) The annexation was illegal and in international law Crimea remains part of Ukraine. Since 2014 Russia has insisted that Donetsk and Luhansk remain part of Ukraine, and wants special status for them. For myself, I can’t see why they should not have the status which Crimea had before 2014.          

5) There is no prospect of NATO accepting Ukraine as a member in the near future, although as a sovereign state Ukraine is entitled to invite the forces of any state of organisation. That is the basis on which the presence of Russian forces in Syria is lawful in international law.                           

6) None of this explains why Russia has moved more than 150,000 soldiers and equipment, ships, etc, up to the Ukrainian border.                                                                                        

7) Ukraine is a highly corrupt state, dominated by warring oligarchs – Poroshenko, Kolomoisky, Firtash. Zelensky, a former TV comedian, is the cat’s paw of Kolomoisky. But it does have democratic elections and a free media. Russia is a kleptocracy, a regime of thieving under secret service rule. There are no free elections, and very limited free media. The Kremlin regime is increasingly repressive, and Russia suffers from a rapidly diminishing population, rabid Covid, and high inflation. It cannot possibly afford to keep such enormous mobilisation on the border of Ukraine. Neither corrupt regime can continue the present situation.

8) The working class of both countries is getting it in the neck from both regimes, Ukrainian and Russian, and will be the losers in both countries if the war since 2014 is intensified. We in IADL and ELDH should stand with the workers and with the free trade unions of both countries.

Views are those of the author. We are pleased to invite persons with expertise on issues related to human rights in Russia to publish on the blogs section of our website.

Leave a Reply