By Bosco (Irish Sentinel Contributor) –
Recently Ukraine leader Zelensky commented that Ireland was no longer neutral. To substantiate this claim the Irish political class entertained the Ukrainian leader in an official way, allowing the Ukrainian to appear by tele link to the Dail. To give such blatant support to one side in a conflict is an abrogation of our neutrality.
Some commentators have argued that Russia are unprovoked aggressors and therefore providing aid to the victim side, Ukraine, is not interfering with commitments to neutrality or indeed impartiality.
Others however have begun to worry that this support violates the law of neutrality–that supplying arms might be an act of war. The Biden Administration for example has reportedly debated the legality of arming the Ukrainians. Some officials warned that arming the Ukrainians could make the United States a “co-combatant” or party to the conflict.
In response, Vladimir Putin has questioned the legal line of participation in war by countries in the West including Ireland. Putin has declared, for example, that Russia would treat economic sanctions against Russia “akin to an act of war.” The Russian ministry of defence issued a stark warning that if countries allowed their bases to be used as a safe haven for Ukrainian planes, “subsequent use against the Russian armed forces can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict.”
The Russian legal argument, however, we are told by some is based on laws of neutrality that no longer hold but they are perpetuating a misunderstanding, not of the law, but of the facts pertaining to the law.
The law of neutrality grants several important rights to states that are not involved in a war. The most important right was that no belligerent state could force a neutral one to fight alongside it, unless the two states had agreed to the alliance beforehand. The territory of a neutral state was also inviolable. Thus, international law prohibited fighting and recruiting soldiers on neutral ground. Neutrals also had the right to conduct business with belligerents. For example, during the wars of the French Revolution, the United States traded with France. Great Britain, however, did not complain that the United States was supplying its enemy, even though France and its colonies would have starved without American produce. By ensuring the right of neutrals to trade with belligerents, the Old World Order minimized the economic disruption of war. Even when hostilities broke out, the world would still remain open for business.
However, with rights, however, came duties. Neutral states were expected to be strictly impartial: They were prohibited from discriminating between warring sides unless there was an explicit agreement otherwise. Jurist Emer de Vattel wrote
“As long as a neutral nation wishes securely to enjoy the advantages of her neutrality, she must in all things show a strict impartiality towards the belligerent powers: for, should she favor one of the parties to the prejudice of the other, she cannot complain of being treated by him as an adherent and confederate of his enemy”
US politician Thomas Jefferson quoted this precise passage in a correspondence dated June 17, 1793 to Ambassador Genêt of France to rebuff his attempts to get the United States to favour his country over Great Britain in their war.
The duty of impartiality was not an isolated legal rule. It was a consequence of states having the right to wage war to repair wrongs done to them. Trading with one side to the exclusion of the other transformed a neutral—“a common friend of both parties”—into a co-belligerent, an ally of the trading partner, because partial treatment interfered with the disfavored party’s right of war.
De Vattel was explicit about the forfeiture of neutrality.
“But to refuse any of those things to one of the parties purely because he is at war with the other, and because she wishes to favor the latter, would be departing from the line of strict neutrality.”
The Hague Convention of 1907 included the strict duty of impartiality in its formulation of the laws of neutrality. Article 9 declares
“Every measure of restriction or prohibition taken by a neutral Power in regard to the matters referred to in Articles 7 and 8 must be impartially applied by it to both belligerents.”
However, the law of neutrality changed dramatically in the early Twentieth Century as we will see. The events ushered in a new regime of international law whereby countries like the United States, OR IRELAND, may legally give aid to situations such the Ukraine in the present situation without jeopardising its neutrality or impartiality. Nevertheless, to take advantage of such laws there is a prerequisite to determine the lawlessness of the aggressor before one can hide behind it.
Political scientist Professor Joe Mearsheimer has outlined a persuasive account of where the fault lies with the present conflict in the Ukraine. Mearsheimer explains that
“The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine—beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004—were critical elements, too. Since the mid1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbour turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president—which he rightly labelled a “coup”—was the final straw”.
Any honest assessment of recent history can only conclude that the persistent pursuance of US foreign policy, underpinned by notions of American hegemonic retention as well as echoed soundbites of domestic American exceptionalism, has resulted in the present calamity unfolding in the Ukraine. Since world war two finished the US has been involved in overthrowing 19 foreign leaders, initiated 30 wars, interfering in countless foreign elections, and dropped in excess of 320,000 missiles and rockets since the second Iraqi war, not to mention participating in an wholly illegal war in Iraq in 2003, suggests that present Russian activities are not the result of unprovoked aggression but the consequence of American meddling.
As mentioned, the the law of neutrality changed dramatically in the early Twentieth Century beginning with the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact which outlawed war leading directly to the UN Charter’s prohibition on wars of aggression and recognition of the right of self-defence. Accordingly, the pact commenced the” transformation of neutrality” regime.
An example of the transformation came with then-Attorney General Jackson’s speech at the first Conference of the Inter-American Bar Association in 1941, where he defended President Franklin Roosevelt’s Lend Lease Program, a program that allowed the United States supply significant weapons and other equipment to the allies in their fight against Nazi Germany.
To substantiate the move, Jackson explained that: “The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, in which Germany, Italy, and Japan covenanted with us, as well as with other nations, to renounce war as an instrument of policy, made definite the outlawry of war and of necessity altered the dependent concept of neutral obligations….in the light of the flagrancy of current aggressions…the United States and other states are entitled to assert a right of discriminatory action by reason of the fact that, since 1928 so far as it is concerned, the place of war and with it the place of neutrality in the international legal system have no longer been the same as they were prior to that date.
While Jackson acknowledged that the transformation did not impose on states a duty to discriminate against the aggressor however, “it conferred upon them the right to act in that manner”. The supposition contained within such a claim is that an aggressor is indeed in fact, an aggressor.
Under such a reading of international law, and the factual assessment of the circumstances surrounding unprovoked German aggression it was found that it was licit for the United States government to supply aid to the Allies in their fight against the axis powers. The tenet therefore became realised that “No longer can it be argued that the civilized world must behave with rigid impartiality toward both an aggressor in violation of the Treaty and the victims of unprovoked attack”. The key point here however is lost conveniently in the author’s analysis of impartiality and how it pertains to the present Ukraine war. The undergirding of the concept relies on the established facts of “unprovoked attack”.
Discriminating against aggressors, whether economic sanctions or providing them with weapons arm may not violate the aggressor’s right of war, the authors inform us, because belligerents no longer had that right but this again assumes a matter of fact that is genuinely contentious, not established to warrant the assessment of the present Russian response as unprovoked aggression.
Some commentators who support the view that supplying assistance to Ukraine doesn’t not abrogate neutrality or impartiality argue that “If this war were taking place in 1922 rather than 2022, Putin would have a good legal argument and a basis for claiming that the United States and others can become parties to the conflict by supplying arms to Ukraine”. They conclude that with the end of impartiality it means that states are permitted to supply weapons or other support to Ukraine. No, it does not because such a conclusion assumes, wrongly (given the facts that have come to light with regard to US interference in the maidan revolution), that the Russians were acting as unprovoked aggressors.
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, then USSR supremo Mikhail Gorbachev negotiated with then German chancellor Helmut Kohl, the reunification of Germany. Part of the negotiations included a promise made by Western leaders, as well as US Secretary of State James Baker, that Nato would expand “not one inch” to the east. The contents of these negotiations has not been verified however, as they remain contentious, it also means that they cannot be determined irrelevant. Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought the promises up many times. They were central to Putin’s now famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, when he called the West to account for reneging on the verbal commitments.
Putin stated the following in his address, “I think it is obvious that Nato expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today?”
Putin brought up it again most recently at his annual press conference at the end of the year, where he again explicitly referred to the “verbal promises” made in the twilight years of the Soviet Union to Gorbachev that Nato would not expand.
The west has denied that the Soviet leader was given any assurances during the reunification process stating that “No such pledge was made, and no evidence to back up Russia’s claims has ever been produced.” but this belies USSR acquiescence to the scheme absent some quid pro quo. What motive after all would the Soviets have for entertaining the re-emergence of a strong Germany in EUROPE other than to be given assurances that NATO would not expand eastwards. Moreover, the continued expansion of NATO since the ending of the cold war serves only one purpose, to maintain the hegemonic power of the US encroaching further into Russia’s orbit of control to undermine the latter’s threat as an emerging hegemon in the form of a rejuvenated Russia.
The fact of the promises made is now a matter of historical record after dozens of embassy, government and other documents were declassified and are now freely accessible in the public domain. However, the fact Gorbachev only ever made verbal pledges, and nothing was ever put in writing means the claims remain, conveniently, highly contentious such that plausible deniability can be reached by those who wish to supply Ukraine with supplies and not be considered co belligerents.
Professor Joshua Shifrinson stated in a paper documenting the promises entitled “How the West Broke Its Promise to Moscow” where he cited 30 documents from the US national security archives that discuss all the significant discussions Gorbachev had with the Western leaders back in 1990. The material he refers to derive from both official European and Russian sources.
Shifrinson argued, “The sceptics are correct that the two sides never codified a deal on Nato’s future presence in the east. But they misinterpret the precise implications of negotiations that took place throughout 1990. After all, scholars and practitioners have long recognised that informal commitments count in world politics,”
The fact remains, the declassified documents make it abundantly clear that the promises were made many times.
On the 9th of February 1990 and according to the official State Department memorialisation of the meeting recorded the following day, involving a meeting between US Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Baker repeated not once, but three times, the “not one inch expansion of Nato east” formula, Baker said the same to Gorbachev at a meeting on the same day, stating: “neither the President nor I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place,” and that the Americans understood that “not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of Nato, not an inch of Nato’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction”.
The idea of the promise of non NATO expansion was the invention of Germany’s Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who oversaw Germany’s Ostpolitik, the attempt by West Germany to normalise its relations with Eastern Europe between 1969 and 1974. Genscher recognised that the Soviet Union would see NATO expansion as very threatening. This is an attitude that Putin has inherited and places the present situation in an altogether light compared to what is presented in the main stream media.
Genscher, in a public speech at Tutzing, in Bavaria, concerning German unification made on January 31, 1990 gave the West’s first concrete assurances of non Nato expansionism eastwards stating that “the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, Nato should rule out an ‘expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.’,” according to the declassified US embassy cable sent back to report on the speech to Washington.
In fact Genscher actively promoted the Tutzing formula the following month where he met with British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd a few days ahead of the Gorbachev-Baker meeting. The British record shows Genscher saying: “The Russians must have some assurance that if, for example, the Polish Government left the Warsaw Pact one day, they would not join Nato the next.”
Shifrinson, in his piece, goes on to demonstrate how most of the West’s leaders in the following months all gave Gorbachev concrete verbal assurances that NATO would not expand to the east, all substantiated by official declassified records.
Moreover, for the past number of years, the Ukrainian authorities have refused to implement the Minsk agreements on the settlement of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in the Donbass region, and the Ukrainian forces have continued to target the cities and towns of the two republics, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties among their residents, either dead or wounded.
According to the Russian Investigative Committee on the crimes committed by the Ukrainian authorities in Donbass since 2014, more than 2,600 citizens, including 150 children, have been killed, more than 5,500 injured, and more than 2,200 infrastructure facilities have been destroyed. Sadly, these crimes have been ignored, in large by West. The fact remains that the perpetrators of these crimes are representatives of the military and political leadership of Ukraine and members of ultra-nationalist associations as well as representatives of law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. To ignore these crimes is to ignore another justification ( the first being NATO expansionism ) of the Russian incursion into Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer elements have escalated kidnappings, torture and rape in Donetsk and Lugansk, where the Kyiv authorities consider the population in the two republics to be “scum” ( verifiable on internet), while the attacks against Russian-speakers throughout Ukraine increased, including the Holocaust committed against them in the trade union building in Odessa on May 2nd 2014. The atrocity has not been investigated as the Ukrainian authorities legitimize persecution and support Nazi ideas at the state level, layoffs and refuse to hire Russian-speaking people. Appeals were made by Russian speaking citizens to the only authority they considered would come to their protection, RUSSIA.
The fact therefore must hinge on whether it is licit to provide arms and supplies to one side of a war without vitiating neutrality. The case made by the authors however suggests that such provisions, and the maintenance of neutrality, can be made when an unprovoked aggressor initiates a lawless war. However, the assumption made by the authors in considering the actions of the Russian government to be the result of unprovoked aggression belies the evidence. Such a conclusion why presenting the current law ignores the facts as applied, as it seems contrary to both established facts (the declassified documents concerning promises of NON NATO expansion and their reneging) as well the more contentious matters concerning the atrocities waged against ethnic Russians in the Donbass region, people the Russian authorities justifiably believed had owed a duty in defending. Such justifications repudiates the argument that the Russians were 1) unprovoked and 2) an aggressor. For the author’s argument to stand up to scrutiny it requires the Russians to be assessed as both, but evidence suggests otherwise. Therefore, providing weapons and supplies to one side of war is an abrogation of neutrality.
Worse still, and given the modus operandi of hitherto American aggression over the last few years in engaging in representative conflicts, the actions of the West by supplying weapons and expertise in a theatre of war of their making, is another example of engaging in another proxy war ( the others being those Syria and Yemen) but this one with the ostensible aim of neutralising an emergent Russia as hegemon and with the advantage of plausible deniability to boot.
The Irish political class and its war mongering sycophants have placed a huge target over the head of the IRISH nation in their support of American imperialism and the stooge they placed into Kiev. What price will the Irish pay for this act of treachery? We are already seeing how a small country such as Ireland will be forced to house the unfortunate victims of US hegemony. However, the assault on the Irish people by their leadership won’t stop there. Zelensky purposely refused to sign an accord of peace with Putin that would maintain Ukraine’s neutrality between east and west and with sanctions affecting the West, the Irish people will suffer as they cheer on the deeds of the US deep State where the only victims will be those other than the US deep state.