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Crimea serves up a lethal cocktail for world foreign policy

The annexation of Crimea by Russia risks overturning the rules of world foreign policy

James Wilson

Published: Updated:

The annexation of Crimea by Russia risks overturning the rules of world foreign policy and ushering in a dangerous era of nuclear proliferation, diverting precious global resources away from poverty reduction to increased military spending and instigating a new uncontrolled world arms race.

Twenty years ago, Ukraine held the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. But Ukraine signed a declaration with the U.S., Russia and the United Kingdom in 1994 known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, whereby the signatories guaranteed to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in return for the country giving up its nuclear weapons.

Russia now threatens to annex Crimea, which would immediately break Russia’s international obligations as a signatory of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and abrogate its international responsibilities to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The consequences for the world of these actions by Russia are that world foreign policy risks being re-written and the future direction may become dangerously unpredictable. After this, what international guarantees of security would ever deter a state from seeking to develop and improve its nuclear weapons capability, when one of the key world guarantors of non-proliferation has reneged on its international obligations and promises? North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan and others may wish to review their nuclear strategies, with serious consequences for world security. When one of the “guardians” of global security abrogates responsibility through a significant breach of international law, Pandora’s box is open and the risk to world peace will increase dramatically.

No illusions

Speaking to key political leaders in the European Parliament yesterday in Brussels, I was left under no illusions that the members of the European Parliament will never accept the annexation of Crimea by Russia. “This act is illegal under international law, in breach of the constitution of Ukraine and it will never be accepted by Europe,” said Libor Roucek, deputy president of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Charles Tannock the Foreign Affairs spokesman for the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament echoed his comments. “I am disgusted by the breach of international law represented by the illegal annexation of Crimea following a sham referendum,” he said.

In Crimea, the treatment of the Tatar community, who make up about 15 percent of Crimea’s population of 1.9 million, is a cause for concern

James Wilson

British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that he would seek tougher action against Russia by European leaders at the European Union summit. “President Putin can be in no doubt that Russia will get more serious consequences,” he said.

On Monday, the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on 21 Ukrainian and Russian Nationals in response to the illegal actions of Russia. The black list will almost certainly be extended in Brussels at the Spring Summit of the EU Heads of Government, and it is likely that even more stringent economic sanctions against Russia could be adopted.

Global campaigns

Different global campaigns by activists have been triggered by the Crimean crisis to seek to exclude Russia from international events and organizations, ranging from stopping Russia from hosting the world football championships in 2018 to banning Russian membership of the G8, the OECD, the OSCE and other bodies. These actions are tragic for Russian prestige and the reputation of the country. Regrettably, they risk making Russia an international pariah as a direct result of the Crimean crisis.

There are serious grounds for international alarm in this situation. In Crimea, the treatment of the Tatar community, who make up about 15 percent of Crimea’s population of 1.9 million, is a cause for concern. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to protect the rights of Crimean Tatars and keep their language as one of Crimea’s official tongues, along with Russian and Ukrainian, after the annexation of the peninsula.

But, many in Crimea’s ethnic Tatar minority are wary and have said they fear that Crimea’s secession from Ukraine will set off violence against them. The respected international agency Human Rights Watch issued a statement concerning Reshat Ametov, a Tatar whom it said disappeared after going to a peaceful demonstration last week in Lenin Square in Simferopol. His body was discovered this week and was identified on Tuesday by his family. “Crimean authorities have a duty to thoroughly investigate this case and punish those responsible, whoever they are,” the statement from Human Rights Watch said.

Soviet authorities under Josef Stalin forcibly evicted the Muslim Tatars from Crimea in the 1940s, and some families have only returned to Crimea relatively recently. Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev seemed to confirm the worst fears of Crimean Tatars yesterday, telling the RIA Novosti news agency that the government would ask Tatars to “vacate” some of the lands they “illegally” occupy so authorities can use them for “social needs.”

Diplomatic settlement

The opportunity to secure a diplomatic settlement to the Crimean crisis through dialogue and negotiation is rapidly evaporating; there is therefore an obligation for the international community to show solidarity in its refusal to condone aggression and contempt for international law.

This is not a question of taking sides between different countries and their national positions, it is a question of standing up against the law of the jungle and demanding respect for the principles that are the foundations for the peaceful development of our shared world civilization.

Crimea has been the flashpoint for military conflict in the past, but it is still not too late for global political leaders to grasp the opportunity for a negotiated settlement which will keep the world on a trajectory that will secure the demilitarization of the peninsula and the construction of a collective sustainable peace through negotiation.

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James Wilson is the founder Director of the EU Ukraine Business Council, an organization established in 2006 in Belgium to promote trade and investment between the EU and Ukraine. James is a communications professional with more than 25 years of international business experience in Europe and Asia with a background in government relations. He divides his time between Brussels and Eastern Europe, where he is the Director for Fipra International responsible for their country operations in Ukraine and Belarus.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.