CRIMEA/ Russia and the Ukraine: Violations and justifications
The highest codification of International Law, The UN Charter, expressly states in Article 2(4) that the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state is unlawful. The only use of force allowable for an independent state under the UN Charter, as outlined in Article 51, are actions taken in self-defense; even then, a state must immediately report these actions to the Security Council, and obtain its approval for such actions. In simple terms, regardless of almost any mitigating circumstances, you cannot wantonly invade another country. Not only is this UN Charter law, but it is also Customary Law, and Jus Cogens (an inherent law of nature), the highest status of a law’s existence. The “threat or use of force” is, admittedly, an ambiguous phrase. However, actions such as mobilizing 25,000 troops into the borders of a sovereign nation, surrounding its military bases, blockading its naval vessels, demanding the surrender and defection of its armed forces, and initiating a military occupation of its territory while threatening to inject troops further into Ukraine are not ambiguous; they are, unequivocally, the unlawful use of force.
Putin has not only grossly violated the UN charter, but has also violated the guiding principles the Russian Federation committed to as a signatory of the Helsinki Final Act, including the provisions on refraining from the threat or use of force, respect for the territorial integrity of states, and non-intervention in internal affairs. Further, the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, signed by the US, UK, Russia, and Ukraine, specifically stated that in return for Ukraine’s cooperation in eliminating its Nuclear Weapons stockpile, and becoming a signatory to the NPT (all of which Ukraine has done), the US, UK, and Russia would agree to never threaten or use force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine, never use economic coercion to subjugate its government to their will, and refrain from any act that could be construed as military occupation in Ukrainian territory. All sides also agreed that if any of these actions occurred, they would be manifestly illegal. Russia has taken these actions, and therefore, they are illegal.
Arguments have been made by the Russian Federation, on many fronts, to justify military intervention, yet two are the most glaring. The first is the supposed protection of human rights in regards to Ethnic Russians in Crimea. Putin claims the minority group faced a clear and present danger, and he was forced to intervene. However, not one foreign government, independent journalist, human rights organization, NGO, or the UN has corroborated the claim that the Ethnic Russian population was in danger.