Apple bows to Russian pressure, shows Crimea as Russian territory

Apple has recently bowed to Russian pressure and started showing the Crimea on its maps as Russian territory.


“Weltkarte: Bei Apple ist die Krim jetzt russisch; Russland fordert von großen Internetkonzernen seit Langem, die Schwarzmeer-Halbinsel Krim als russisches und nicht als ukrainisches oder autonomes Gebiet zu markieren. Apple ist dem nun nachgekommen – zumindest teilweise,” Spiegel Online, 27 November 2019 (22:22 Uhr).

“Apple changes Crimea map to meet Russian demands,”, November 27, 2019.

“Apple verandert landkaarten en toont de Krim als onderdeel van Rusland,” NU (Netherlands), 27 November 2019 (17:04).

According to the article in Der Spiegel, Apple is showing the Crimea as Russian territory only in Russia.

For the position of the United States, see

“Ongoing Violations of International Law and Defiance of OSCE Principles and Commitments by the Russian Federation in Ukraine,” Remarks delivered by U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Harry Kamian to the the Permanent Council of the Organization for Secdurity and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Vienna, November 21, 2019.

Mr. Kamian, after addressing the situation in the eastern Ukriane, concluded his remarks as follows:

Mr. Chair, the United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters. We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. We join our European and other partners in affirming that our Minsk-related sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments. The separate, Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

One Truth, or many?

Apple’s craven surrender to the demands of Rusian propaganda, raises a question of fundamental importance for the future of international relations.

Are we to let individual countries dictate to internet companies which truth they must adopt in order to operate in their territories, or are we to establish and defend the principle that there is only one Truth.

The truth is that Russia invaded the Crimea by military force in February and March 2014 and purported to annex this Ukrainian territory in violation of the most fundamental norms of international law and the United Nations Charter. These norms are mandatory law or jus cogens, norms from which there can be no derogation by agreement.

If we were to accept Apple’s actions, the next thing we might see is that Apple maps and other apps–at least as seen in the People’s Republic of China, will show the entire South China Sea to be Chinese territory.

Apple’s excuse is that they are required to do what they have done by local law.

The immediate solution should be to pass a U.S. law which adds Apple to the Ukraine Crimea sanctions list if it continues to display maps of the Crimea–even if limited to Russia–as sovereign territory of the Russian Federation.

There can be but one standard of Truth if we are to adhere to the truth in the world, and prevent American companies from becoming propaganda mouthpieces for autocratic dictatorships like Russia. If there is a dispute, the maps should be guided by International Law, with whatever explanatory footnotes the publishers may wish to add, provided they explain their use of international law to guide their use of nomenclature.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and 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. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , 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, Dr. Rowles 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. Dr. Rowles 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.=LL.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, Dr. Rowles 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 some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.