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Why the Crimean referendum to join Russia is illegal

Not being a lawyer, much less an international lawyer, I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago saying that the Crimean referendum could be a good thing. The citizens could decide either to continue to be a part of the Ukraine, join Russia, or to become a separate state.

Rogue Putin

The reason for that is because the Ukraine government is in disarray.

I was dead wrong about that for a number of reasons.

  1. If the Russians living in the Crimean region of the Ukraine want to become Russian citizens, all they have to do is pack their bags and return to the motherland.
  2. Russians in Crimea are like Mexicans in Texas. They can’t just decide to secede and join Mexico, taking the state of Texas with them.
  3. Neither can Texans decide that they want to leave the United States.

The Guardian explains why.

“It’s a matter of international law: territory cannot be annexed simply because the people who happen to be living there today want to secede. If that were the case, then under international law, any geographically cohesive group could vote on independence. That would mean the Basques should be free from Spain and France, and the Kurds would have an independent nation; the large community of Cubans living in Miami could vote to separate from the United States.

If a referendum were the right way to decide these issues, Russia ought to be holding a referendum to determine the future of Chechnya. Of course, it isn’t.

International law is unambiguous on how countries should decide the fate of disputed territories like Crimea. Countries can acquire territory by discovering uninhabited land, signing a treaty – as with Khrushchev’s transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 – or occupying an area peacefully over a long period of time. The legal methods for resolving questions of sovereignty are founded on widely recognized principles of international law. These do not include, and have never included, a simple referendum of people living in a contested territory. That is why every successful secessionist movement has founded its claim on legal entitlement to the territory that they seek to “liberate”. Thus the Baltic states argued that they were illegally conquered by the Soviet Union; Tibet says the same about China; and Eritreans fought for decades to reverse their illegal annexation by Ethiopia.”

The free world nations must unite against the Russian’s attempt to steal the Crimean region from the Ukraine. Furthermore, the acts of war by Russia against its neighbors must stop immediately. There is a lot of pussy footing around about this by Secretary Kerry and the State Department. With the backing of the UN and NATO partners, it is time to hammer down on Putin and treat Russia as a rogue nation.

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