Keeping our eyes on the ball: Sectoral sanctions must be imposed against Russia, NOW, for its invasion, purported “annexation”, and continuing occupation of the Crimea

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What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

If the pacifists and the appeasers in Europe and the United States can always find new reasons not to respond seriously to Russian aggression against the Ukraine, we should not be surprised, because it is easier to constantly shift attention from one detail to another in the never-ending quest to avoid looking at the elephant in the room, at the harsh, bold facts, to wit:

(1) Russia has invaded the Ukraine and purported to “annex” the Crimea, including the city of Sevastopol, in fagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any state.

The presence of Russian troops and naval forces in the Crimea as a result of this invasion and occupation represents an ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter. Individual states are authorized under Article 51 of the Charter to use all necessary and proportionate measures necessary to repel this aggression, including economic sanctions and other measures up to and including the use of force.

(2) Russian invasion of the eastern Ukraine, which is continuing with the supply of weapons and fighters, constitutes a separate and ongoing violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, giving right to the adoption of measures of collective self-defense, from economic sanctions up to and including the use of force.

The invasion of the eastern Ukraine by special operations, intelligence and other irregular forces is continuing, under overall Russian direction and control. The latter fact is manifest to any outside independent analyst who puts together all of the pieces of the new Russian form of “stealth warfare”.

(3) The shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17 over territory of the Ukraine controlled by so-called “pro-Russian separatists” is merely a continuation of a pattern of military actions by “separatists” who all evidence suggests are coordinated and directed by Moscow.

The repercussions of the downing of Flight MH17 are international, and bring home to nations whose citizens on that flight were murdered by Moscow-backed separatists that there is a hot war going on in the heart of Europe, caused and continued by one nation, the Russian Federation.

Calls from Western leaders for a “ceasefire” and negotiations between the “separatists” and the Ukrainian authorities are so unprincipled as to be almost criminally naive.

These calls are being made by leaders of the countries which have chosen appeasement as the response to Russian aggression.

Any calls for a cease-fire which are not directly tied to an immediate end of the Russian aggression should simply be ignored.

The Ukraine has the inherent right as part of its sovereignty and political independence to reestablish public order within its territory. It should be allowed to do so without meddling by outside powers, or measures recommended as acts of appeasement in the face of threats of intensified aggression by Russia.

Some serious third-stage sanctions should be imposed against Russia now, for its continuing illegal occupation of the Crimea.

One economic sanction that would be supported by powerful logic would be a ban of business with any company or individual in the Crimea (except as may be authorized by the Ukrainian government), and a ban on any trade or business or financial transactions with any company doing business with any companies or individuals in the Crimea, as outlined above.

What is needed at this point to stop Russian aggression and reverse its effects are serious third-stage sanctions against Russia itself, including important sectors of its economy.

There will be a cost for Europe and the United States to pay.

Do the leaders of these countries think, however, that liberty and the freedom which they currently enjoy in democratic societies can be maintained without any sacrifice, without paying any price at all?

They would do well to reflect on the sacrifices their parents and grandparents made, paid in blood and tears and not just money, when deciding how to act now to halt Russian aggression and to roll back its recent territorial conquests.

Do they think that the problem of Russian xenophobic nationalism and irredentism will be solved without the Crimea being returned to the Ukraine?

International law is absolutely unequivocal in its position that the Russian “annexation” of the Crimea is without legal effect, and does not change its status as territory of the Ukraine illegally occupied by Russian forces.

Do the members of the EU and the U.S. imagine for an instant that Hitler’s aggressions and annexations might have been stopped by “targeted sanctions” directed against less than 100 German individuals, and some banks and companies?

The situation is similar now with Putin.

It is time now to contain Russian irredentism and aggression with forceful actions. Such actions are explicitly permitted under international law.

Russian aggression will not be stopped by empty threats or words. Only forceful actions, beginning with real economic sanctions, have any chance of producing the desired effects.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.