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Saber Rattling With Nuclear Weapons

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, World Law on September 27, 2022 at 7:21 AM

By René Wadlow

On September 21, the United Nations (UN)-designated Day of Peace, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, said in an address to the nation,

“I am addressing you – all citizens of our country, people of different generations, ages and ethnicities, the people of our great Motherland, all who are united by the great historical Russia, soldiers, officers and volunteers who are fighting on the frontline and doing their combat duty, our brothers and sisters in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Kherson and Zaporazhye regions and other areas that have been liberated from the neo-Nazi regime.”

He set out the dangers facing the Federation,

“The goal of that part of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country. They are saying openly now that in 1991 they managed to split up the Soviet Union and now is the time to do the same to Russia, which must be divided into numerous regions that would be at deadly feud with each other … Washington, London and Brussels are openly encouraging Kiev to move hostilities to our territory. They openly say that Russia must be defeated on the battlefield by any means, and subsequently deprived of political, economic, cultural and any other sovereignty and ransacked.”

To meet these challenges, he ordered a “partial mobilization in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories.” Sergey Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, set out the details in a public statement just after Putin’s address. The mobilization will call up men below the age of 65 who have had military service. There are some 300,000 people in this category.

The nuclear saber rattling followed. Putin went on,

“I am referring to the statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons against Russia … In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly use all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

He ended by saying, “The citizens of Russia can rest assured that the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom will be defended – I repeat – by all the systems available to us.”

What makes the current situation more ambiguous and dangerous is that Vladimir Putin announced and confirmed by Sergey Shoigu that from September 23 to 27, 2022, there would be referendums in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and in the areas under Russian control in the Kherson and Zaporazhye regions on joining the Russian Federation. People who are refugees in Russia from these areas will also be able to vote. A vote favorable to joining Russia is not in doubt. Thus, any future military operations by Ukraine forces in these areas could be considered by Russia as an attack on Russian territory.

It is impossible to know to what extent the nuclear weapon saber rattling is serious and goes beyond a justification for the mobilization of former military – not a popular policy. The situation calls for active efforts to decrease tensions on the part of the UN, national governments, and Nongovernmental Organizations. The next weeks may be crucial.

Prof. René Wadlow of the President of the Association of World Citizens.

Lifting the Odessa Blockade

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations on June 6, 2022 at 3:19 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) urges action to lift the blockade on Odessa and other Black Sea ports so that grain and other food resources can resume to flow. Ukraine has a vast agricultural base producing 46 percent of the world’s sunflower exports and 10 percent of the world’s wheat exports. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s food export market. Odessa has a large grain terminal in which vast quantities of food exports are now stuck. It is not physically possible to transport large quantities of grain by rail and road.

Odessa’s port, peaceful and flourishing, before the Russian invasion. (C) Raymond Zoller

In part due to this blockade, food prices for grain have risen some 20 percent, hitting especially the poor. In some parts of Africa, due to climate conditions and armed conflict, there are near famine conditions. New food supplies are urgent.

A Ukrainian family evacuated from Mariupol. (C) Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Russian authorities have said that they were ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food, but only in return for the lifting of U. S. and Western European sanctions. However, the Western sanctions have a multitude of sources. The lifting of the Odessa blockade and renewed grain shipments must be treated as a single issue, although it is obviously colored by the whole armed conflict.

There are diplomatic efforts underway led by the African Union and the United Nations. It is urgent that speedy progress be made. Nongovernmental organizations may be able to play a creative role as many NGOs are already involved in ecologically-sound development projects in areas under agricultural and food stress. The AWC, concerned with the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith, appeals for creative diplomatic measures so that the blockade is ended as soon as possible.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Dangers and Conflict Resolution Efforts in Moldova

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE on May 3, 2022 at 8:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Recent statements by Russian military authorities such as General Roustan Minnekaiev involved in the Ukraine conflict have drawn attention to what was often considered as a “frozen conflict” in Moldova. The situation of the Transnistrian region in Moldova has been considered as a frozen conflict due to its unresolved but static condition since the violent confrontation in June 1992.

Transnistria is de facto independent with many state-like attributes and calls itself officially the Moldovan Republic of Dniestr. However, no other state, including the Russian Federation, has recognized it as an independent state. There are, however, some 1,500 Russian military permanently present in Transnistria. Transnistria had some 706,000 inhabitants in 1991 at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, there are some 450,000 – probably less. Many, especially young people, have left to study or work abroad. Many in Transnistria have Russian passports in order to travel. The Transnistrian economy is in the hands of a small number of persons closely linked to the government.

There have been a number of negotiations between representatives of the government of Moldova and those of the government of Transnistria, but which have led to no agreement as to a possible reintegration of Transnistria. Official negotiations have been complemented by Track II efforts, informal discussions in which members of civil society also participated. The newly elected, in November 2020, President of Moldova, Ms. Maia Sandu, has been actively speaking of the reintegration of Transnistria into Moldova. Her position has been strongly supported by the government of Ukraine which sees the parallel with their situation concerning the two People’s Republics – the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk.

Presidents Maia Sandu (left) and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (right)

There is a danger that the frozen conflict of Moldova begins to melt. Russian military authorities involved in the Ukraine conflict have spoken of a possible creation of a land route between Crimea and Transnistria. In addition, there have been recently a number of rocket attacks, possibly by Ukrainian forces, on to Transnistria damaging radio-TV towers used by Russian broadcasting. While it is unlikely that the fighting in Ukraine spreads to Transnistria and Moldova, the situation must be closely watched and preventive discussions put into place.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 2, 2022 at 8:24 AM

By René Wadlow

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that “each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of nongovernmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk: The Way Ahead

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States, World Law on February 9, 2022 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

There are many dimensions to the current tensions on the Ukraine-Donbas-Russia frontiers, both geopolitical and domestic considerations. There are long historic and strategic aspects to the current crisis. Security crises are deeply influenced both by a sense of history and by current perceptions. There have been bilateral discussions between United States (U. S.) and Russian authorities, between Russian and French leaders, between Russian and Chinese leaders, between the Ukrainian leader and a number of others and multilateral discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), within NATO, at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and within the European Union. For the moment, there has been no de-escalation of tensions nor a lowering of troop levels.

Currently, there is only one permanent structure for multilateral negotiations on the Ukraine tensions – the “Normandy Format” which brings together the representatives of Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany primarily to negotiate on the status of the separatist People’s Republics.

The Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 agreed that the areas covered by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would not be separated from Ukraine but would be given a “Special Status” set out in a new Ukrainian Constitution. However, beyond some rather vague discussion on decentralization, the nature of the Special Status has not been agreed upon, and no Ukrainian government administrative measures have been put into place.

In the period since 2015, the socioeconomic situation in the two People’s Republics has gotten worse. Many people have left either for Ukraine or Russia. There are constant violations of the ceasefire agreements which are monitored by observers of the OSCE. Thus, in their December 15, 2021 report, the OSCE monitors noted that between December 10-12, there were 444 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 104 in the Luhansk region. However, the freedom of movement of the OSCE observers is restricted. The number of violations, usually exchanges of small arms fire, is probably higher.

Solving the Donbas aspect of the conflict on the basis of a real and vital autonomy and trans-frontier cooperation should be a top priority for action. The Association of World Citizens has always stressed the importance of developing appropriate forms of government as a crucial aspect of the resolution of armed conflicts. The Association has particularly highlighted the possibilities of con-federalism and the need for transfrontier cooperation. The Association was involved at the start of the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict in August 1992 and the first efforts at negotiations carried out in Geneva with representatives from Abkhazia who were in Geneva and officials from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thus, we know how a cycle of action-reaction can deepen a conflict and how difficult it is to reestablish structures of government once separation has been established.

The need to progress on the structure of Ukraine stands out sharply at this time when there are real possibilities of escalatory risks. There is a need for confidence-building measures reaching out to different layers of society in a cumulative process. Advances on the Special Status would be an important step in the deescalation of tensions. Discussions on the Special Status must be carried out by those living in Ukraine. However, government representatives as well as nongovernmental organizations in Russia, Germany, and France can also contribute actively. The new German Foreign Minister, the ecologist Annalena Baerbach, coming from a federalist-structured State with many local initiatives possible, may bring new visions to these discussions which are increasingly under way.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Ukraine-Donbas-Russian Frontier: Is a Nongovernmental Interposition Peace Team a Possibility?

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Nicaragua, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States on January 23, 2022 at 5:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Despite United States (U. S.)-Russian Federation discussions in Geneva and a full Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, there seems to be no advance toward a reduction of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian frontier. There are discussions at the United Nations (UN) Security Council in New York on what could be a U. S.-led response if there were a Russian intervention into Ukraine. While such a Russian intervention seems unlikely, the possibility of such an intervention is being seriously discussed in NATO government circles. Thus, it is opportune for nongovernmental organizations also to discuss possible measures to prevent conflict and reduce tensions.

(C) Taras Gren

One possibility, inspired by the efforts of the Shanti Sena (Peace Army) developed by followers of Mahatma Gandhi in India is to place some nongovernmental teams on the frontier in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to “cool off” and negotiate. One such effort in which I was directly involved as the representative to the UN in Geneva of the Peace Brigades International (PBI) was the effort of a team of the newly created PBI in 1981 on the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier.

At the time, it was thought that U. S. troops stationed in Honduras might cross the frontier to attack the Sandinista-leftist government in Nicaragua or actively help the anti-Sandinista “Contras” to do so. A PBI-related group from California – the Jalapa Brigade, already created – was able to move to the frontier on short notice. At the time that the Jalapa Brigade was put into place, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the UN in Geneva was a former student of mine, and his brother, also a former student of mine, was the legal advisor to the President of Nicaragua. Through the Ambassador, I was able to inform the Central American Missions to the UN as to the aims and role of the Peace Brigades.

In the end, the U. S. military did not cross the frontier. Perhaps it never intended to do so. It may also have been that the interposition of U. S. civilians with a good number of organizational contacts helped to weigh in the U. S. military decision-making process.

Members of the Gulf Peace Camp

There have been other such interposition efforts. One was the Gulf Peace Team created at the time of the 1990 Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. The aim of the 73-member Peace Team in their statement of purpose was to be an “international multicultural team working for peace and opposing any form of armed aggression by setting up one or more international peace camps between the opposing armed forces. Our object will be to withstand nonviolently any armed aggression by any party to the present Gulf dispute.” However, on January 27, 1991, the peace camp was closed by Iraq, because the authorities had “decided that the continued presence of the camp was a security risk”.

This interposition approach by nongovernmental organizations is logistically and politically very difficult to accomplish. There are economic and logistic resources required and, more importantly, the need to raise enough volunteers who are mature, culturally sensitive, and analytically-minded to achieve a critical mass that would make a difference in the decision-making of the military present. There is also the need to keep unity of purpose within the teams if they have not worked together before.

The 100,000 Russian troops are at the frontier. Can peace team interposition be created quickly?

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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