Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 17.09.2017
The war in Ukraine is an international conflict and Russia is the aggressor. That’s what’s real and happening now and affecting the lives of millions of people. The reason it is important to call the war what it is – invasion of Ukraine by Russia – is to make it possible to restore peace. But instead of declaring war when a state of war has existed since February 2014, states and international organizations refuse to even use the word “war” when it comes to Russia’s invasion. The consequence of this refusal to declare war is that Russian aggression extends in duration and expands in size to afflict many more people.
Organizations which Russia can control or dominate all fail to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a war, and all fail to call Russia the aggressor. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) works by a consensus rule, so Russia gets an effective veto. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE operates in Ukraine under a mandate which refers to a “conflict” between “the sides” (which the OSCE refers to as being in government-controlled areas and in non-government-controlled areas). The OSCE SMM operates only in a limited area of Donbas. Russia stops the OSCE SMM from monitoring Russia-occupied Crimea, or over 400 km of Russia-Ukraine border, or any areas where Russian armed forces are assembling. What is completely bizarre is that Russia has monitors included in the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and Ukraine does not. This all comes from the failure of the OSCE to declare Russia a party to the conflict. Subverted with Russian spies and “see no evil” Russian monitors, the OSCE SMM has lost the trust of the Ukrainian people.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has Russia as a permanent member with veto power. This came about in 1991 when Russia usurped the seat that rightly belonged only the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and other countries accepted the fiction that Muscovy calling itself the ‘Russian Federation’ was the successor state to the Soviet Union. Russia in the UNSC prevents the United Nations from acting in any way as an institution for peace. While the UN General Assembly did vote to condemn Russia’s so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea, this was a symbolic act with no practical effect. After Russia invaded Ukraine, the United Nations has proven to be weaker than the League of Nations was – at least the League expelled the Soviet Union when Stalin invaded Finland.
The signatories of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances are supposed to meet if and when Ukraine’s territorial integrity is violated. Because Russia is one of the four signatories (along with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine) and is the cause of Ukraine’s territorial integrity being violated, the Budapest Memorandum is effectively abandoned. In 1994, Ukraine gave up being the world’s third largest nuclear power. The consequence of its noble choice of the path of peace and nuclear non-proliferation is that Ukraine was invaded by Russia and abandoned by the US and the UK.
Because they fail to call Putin’s War an international conflict and Russia the aggressor nation, the OSCE and the UN and the Budapest Memorandum framework are not effective in ending the war in Europe. It will only be when Ukraine works with and within international organizations which the Kremlin does not control or dominate that Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas will be defeated. That is why it is urgent that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union invite Ukraine to be a member as soon as possible.
There is a terrible human cost when international organizations fail to call Russia’s war against Ukraine an international conflict. Prisoners of War lose their full status under international humanitarian law and become hostages or slaves or “the disappeared.” Russian invaders capture Ukrainian soldiers and kidnap Ukrainian patriots and hold them in the dungeons of the FSB or its terrorist affiliates in Donetsk region, Luhansk region, and Crimea region. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also fails to call the war an international conflict. Verkhovna Rada deputy Irina Gerashchenko has led efforts to do prisoner exchanges, and has struggled to make the Russians and their terrorist proxies bring about the “all for all” prisoner exchange they agreed to in the Minsk Agreements. Prisoner exchanges between warring sides is something the ICRC should be doing, if only it didn’t refuse to acknowledge the true international nature of Putin’s War against Ukraine.
“Declaring war” is saying that war exists: that it’s real and happening now. When Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine is called an international war and Russia is labelled the aggressor, then the West – with Ukraine in the vanguard – can build a plan to defeat Russia and achieve victory. Only then will peace be restored to Europe.