Geopolitical situation around Ukraine has provoked many questions. Heads of state in the U.S. and Russia prefer to justify their positions by referring to the norms and principles of the international law. For some reason though, this has not always been the case. For example, for the past 20 years Armenia has continued to occupy Azerbaijan’s lands and hundreds of thousands of people have been expelled from their homes. However, the big powers are yet to concretely state their positions on the need to uphold the international law. One gets an impression that the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, as well as European and Western representatives are forbidden to refer to the international law. If investigated, in past 20 years, one would never come across a reference to the resolutions by the UN SC and the international law, with respect to the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh. These are clear double standards and the outcome or the outcomes are obvious.
Obama and Putin: Same Arguments in Mutual Accusations
Issue of Ukraine reminded the big powers of the existence of the international law. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin both reached out to the norms of international law to substantiate their positions. Addressing the journalists, President Obama said, “Holding of a referendum in Crimea will constitute a breach of Ukraine’s Constitution and the international law”.
In his meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Obama accused Russia of violating rules of the international law and announced sanctions to be imposed on Moscow. Indeed, Washington has already taken some steps in this direction. EU also blamed Russia, citing the same arguments and imposed sanctions.
It must be stressed that Russia also refers to the international law as it expresses its vision of the issue. In his address to the Federation Council Putin touched upon this issue several times. Russian President argued that Crimean authorities were acting in concordance with the UN Charter. He also reminded of the right of the people for self-determination.
In the very address he touched upon an interesting aspect of the conduct of the big powers. He cited Kosovo and recalled a written memorandum submitted to the UN International Court on Kosovo, on 17 April 2009 that read, “Declaration of independence, may and often do, violate domestic legislature. However, this does not make them violations of international law”. Another example that Putin referred to was the decision of the International court adopted on 22 June 2010, “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declaration of independence” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence”.
This means that Moscow was aware of the big powers’ manipulating the international law. Namely, on Kosovo, the West had done its best to prove no violations of international law were allowed. That is to say, that violation of domestic legislature was seen as non-violation of the international law.
Can Geopolitics Be Unjust?
The truth of the matter is that issue of sovereignty is not merely seen from the aspect of domestic legislature. Protection of human rights for example, is regarded as a global problem. The reason – sovereignty is presumed as equal observance of domestic and international conditions. This makes it clear that one standard is applied to the national sovereignty, while declaration of independence is judged by a different criterion. Whichever is suitable, to be precise. Examples cited by President Putin signify the very double standard. Admittedly, Russian President is right in this episode. Regrettably, Kremlin itself is not so rigorously consistent in adherence to the international law. Or should we say it even fails to mention the norms of international law.
For over twenty years Armenia continues to occupy 20% of Azerbaijani territories. Hundreds of thousands of people are driven away from the occupied lands. During these years a special group of the OSCE was designated to resolve this conflict. International institutions have issued countless documents that demanded Armenia withdrew its troops from the occupied territories.
B. Obama and V. Putin are also the ones so frequently appealing to the United Nations Security Council – the very body that adopted four resolutions on this conflict. Nevertheless, Armenia blatantly ignores every single provision of those resolutions. And no great power in the world, including the U.S. and Russia hold Armenia accountable for non-compliance. Why is that? How can we then converse about the international law?
Frankly, neither Russia nor the U.S. has the right to speak of the international law. Russia appeals to the international law on Crimea – issue of Russia’s vital interests. U.S. also urges implementation of the UN Charter and provisions of the international law, once Ukraine’s territorial integrity is jeopardized.
This begs the question, “why is not the same position applied on Armenia?” Why does not this tiny country see any sanctions imposed? Why Yerevan is not demanded to withdraw from the occupied Azerbaijani territories? And conversely, a nation – victim of occupation is being sanctioned (Amendment 907). Apparently, for the past twenty years the big powers have suffered from “amnesia” – unable to “recall” international law regulations.
This is injustice in the first place! Failure to protect natural rights of Azerbaijan – an independent nation, actively cooperating with the international community, building a democratic society, and aligning with the world in combating international terrorism – is a grave violation of the law. Such double standards provoke a precedent in the region, to which there are many examples.
It is not incidental that no conflicts have seen their resolution in recent years. Secured arrangements are temporary. This outcome is expected because the big powers either “adjust” the international law to suit their preferences or act upon the “legal regulations” that match their needs. These processes have lasted for years but no lessons were learnt.
There is another dangerous outcome to such actions. Armenians may resort to renewed separatist claims. Along with Karabakh, it is in Javakhetiya that they may use the pretext of “Crimea example”. Initial signs of that are already surfacing. Armenian media is actively speculating upon the issue of “NK independence” and “self-determination” for Javakhetiya. Still, there is more than just a prospect of these processes to span greater geographic spaces. The point is, such separatist sentiments may be ignited in other countries and within the big powers. Peoples there may “rise for their self-determination”. Peoples are already very much awake around the world.
Everything attests to a simple reality: double-standards approach to the international law will never enable a healthy international environment. This will prove to be detrimental not only to newly independent nations but to the mightiest of the countries. Plight of an Azerbaijani in Karabakh may befall the citizens of the biggest powers and it is already happening. It is about time we put an end to this.
Although this major postulate was used by the political theorists in their positions time and again, those tasked with implementation almost always become hostages of geopolitical ambitions and forget about it. Ultimately, the very nations are doomed to the boomerang effect. Are not the lessons of the XX century sufficed?