Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.07.2018
“The U.S. does not, and will not, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of #Crimea. We stand together with allies & partners in our commitment to Ukraine and its territorial integrity, and have formalized our non-recognition policy in today’s Crimea Declaration.” – US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, July 25, on Twitter
Crimea is Ukraine, and might does not make right in the rules-based international order. In a statement he called the “Crimea Declaration,”
Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed US policy of refusing “to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law.” The US rejects Russia’s claims to have ‘annexed’ Ukraine’s Crimea to be a part of the Russian Federation. “The United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored,” reads the Crimea Declaration.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, welcomed what he called “Washington’s historic statement on the non-recognition of an attempt by the Russian aggressor to annex the Ukrainian Crimea.” President Poroshenko gave a statement in which he said something that cannot be said enough: that Crimea is Ukraine. “Crimea belongs to Ukraine an it is not negotiable – it wasn’t, isn’t and can’t be compromised.”
There can only be one end to Russia’s unprovoked aggression, as far as the Ukrainians are concerned. Ukraine will never surrender – Ukrainians will never give up on their land or their people. “Regardless of the passage of time, armed occupation and illegal annexation of a part of a sovereign state will only end in one way – with the liberation of the occupied territory, restoration of territorial integrity and compensation of all damage caused by the aggressor,” wrote President Poroshenko in his response statement.
Secretary Pompeo evoked the Welles Declaration in the Crimea Declaration. On 23 July 1940, US Acting Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, issued a press release that latter became known as the Welles Declaration. The Welles Declaration condemned the occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by the Soviet Union. It defined US policy as the refusal to recognize Soviet domination of the Baltic countries and of the governments the USSR installed there.
The words of Sumner Welles have a powerful resonance today, given Russia’s was against Ukraine and partial occupation of its territory: “The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter where they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force. They are likewise opposed to any form of intervention on the part of one state, however powerful, in the domestic concerns of any other sovereign state, however weak.”
It took 51 years for the rules-based international order to be re-established and for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to regain their independence. Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2014 and claimed to have redrawn the borders of Europe by ‘annexing’ Crimea. The rules-based international order will not recover from the damage Putin has done to it until Crimea and Donbas are liberated and Ukraine enjoys full sovereignty and unchallenged territorial integrity once again.
Declarations of non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea by Russia are more powerful and more comprehensive than the Welles Declaration of 1940. Most countries were not as principled as the United States, and they recognized the de facto administration of the Soviet Union over the Baltic countries from 1940 to 1991. Russia’s so-called ‘annexation’ of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 is different. Only a handful of inconsequential countries support Russian aggression. The overwhelming sentiment of the international community is that the principle that “Crimea is Ukraine” must be upheld if the rules-based international order is to survive. The General Assembly of the United Nations has passed resolutions calling on all member states to maintain the policy of non-recognition of a change in status of Crimea away from Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia is therefore a pariah on the world stage. The US’s Crimea Declaration states: “Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community.”
Poland issued a “Declaration on non-recognition of Crimea annexation,” also on July 25. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland clearly stated why Russian claims over Crimea will never be recognized: “Through its illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in 2014, Russia undermined the basic principle of international law shared by all States: that no country can change the borders of another by force.” Poland called on all UN Member States to act in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262, the non-recognition of illegal conduct resolution.
Italy does not recognize the ‘annexation’ of Ukraine’s Crimea by Russia. This was stated by Italy’s Foreign Minister, Enzo Milanesi, on July 25. “The [Italian] government respects the norms of international law,” he said. Non-recognition was also the assurance of the Italian Ambassador to Ukraine, Davide La Cecilia, on July 23. Ambassador La Cecilia had been summoned to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kyiv after Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, made outrageous remarks on July 20. Minister Salvini said in an interview with The Washington Post that he disagreed with applying the label “fake” to the so-called ‘referendum’ held in Ukraine’s Crimea by the Russian invader-occupiers on 16 March 2014. Salvini also claimed in that interview that the Revolution of Dignity of the Ukrainian people was ‘fake.’ It seems that other factions of the Italian government are working hard to undo the damage Matteo Salvini has done to Italy-Ukraine relations and to Italy-EU relations.
The United Kingdom echoed the US’s firm statement of opposition to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office also drew attention to the dire human rights situation in Russian occupied Ukrainian Crimea.
The German Foreign Office sent a tweet on July 25 quoting Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas. “FM @HeikoMaas on Crimea: the annexation was a breach of international law. We will continue to make this clear. We will refuse to return to business as usual, how ever much time may pass. @SecPompeo @StateDept”
The Russia of 2014 that ‘annexed’ Ukraine’s Crimea is a thin wisp of a power compared to the Soviet Union of 1940 that ‘annexed’ the Baltic countries. The international consensus backing Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity is a juggernaut compared to the anaemic support for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the Second World War and the Cold War. Russia’s war against Ukraine is a hot war and not a frozen conflict. The Crimea Declaration is in some ways re-stating the obvious: Crimea will never be part of Russia. The Ukrainian flag will fly over Simferopol and Sevastopol and Donetsk and Luhansk again some day. When it does, that’s when the rules-based international order will have been restored and Russian aggression will have been defeated.
Russia, through its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its attempted annexation of Crimea, sought to undermine a bedrock international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force. The states of the world, including Russia, agreed to this principle in the United Nations Charter, pledging to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. This fundamental principle — which was reaffirmed in the Helsinki Final Act — constitutes one of the foundations upon which our shared security and safety rests.
As we did in the Welles Declaration in 1940, the United States reaffirms as policy its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law. In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.
The United States calls on Russia to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea. As democratic states seek to build a free, just, and prosperous world, we must uphold our commitment to the international principle of sovereign equality and respect the territorial integrity of other states. Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community.