Russia’s unlawful annexation amid Russo-NATO tussle | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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Russia’s unlawful annexation amid Russo-NATO tussle

OBVIOUSLY, the current developments are certainly ominous because of the changing dynamics of Russian-Ukrainian war.

Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territories is a glaring indication that Vladimir Putin has a mindset to adopt an all-round offensive strategy vis-à-vis the war in Ukraine.

The Putin war doctrine —led by the Kremlin annexation initiative amid the Russo-NATO tussle —must be read with some prognostic and cautious observations accompanied by sane policy recommendations.

Needless to say, Moscow has devised a war strategy —fostering the use of both conventional and non-conventional weapons.

Yet seen from the Moscow perspective, if things remain unfavourable, then the looming threat is that the Kremlin might use its nuclear arsenal in Ukraine (albeit a suicidal option) on the pretext of defending its territorial integrity, thereby unwisely replicating a history— the US dropping bombs in Japan in 1945—a catastrophic event of human termination and devastation.

Even though Russia goes on using tactical nuclear weapons on the war field, the Ukraine war will cause immeasurable devastation accompanied with innumerable human casualties.

President Putin invaded Ukraine per se, despite the transatlantic solidarity and his full insight that the West would respond— by imposing severe economic sanctions and substantially —reinforcing the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

And currently, consequent upon the Ukrainian annexation, the West is trying to impose new sanctions on Russia in a manner that it imposed after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

It seems that Moscow is still ready to bear the burden of these sanctions. True, under Putin Moscow controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal— including a new generation of hypersonic weapons and ten times more tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) than the West,

Moreover, Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia amid the war in Ukraine has provided a recipe for thought in the western circles as he has cautioned it was no bluff—some say he could use one or more smaller, tactical nuclear weapons to try to stave off military defeat, protect his presidency, scare off the West or intimidate Kyiv into capitulation.

Thus, the general assessment in the western capitals is that ’’ Putin’s warnings that he is “not bluffing” about launching nuclear attacks on Ukraine are designed to regain momentum after Russian setbacks on the battlefield.

These threats come as Moscow prepares to annex occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine following referendums hastily staged by Kremlin proxies.

’Meanwhile, the former CIA director and retired US army General Davidl Petraeus has warned that the US would destroy Russia’s troops if Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Petraeus said that it would not be a situation triggering the alliance’s Article 5, which calls for a collective defence.

That is because Ukraine is not part of NATO – nonetheless, a “US and NATO response” would be in order.

With losing control over Lyman city in Donetsk, Putin must realise that he would have to face fierce resistance in establishing Russian physical control over the Ukrainian territories.

Make no mistake, the apparent Russian annexation— having partial control over Ukrainian territories—Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zarporizhzhia (a route passage to Crimea) during wartime—will always be regarded as illegal in the eye of international law.

“The vote to integrate Ukraine’s territories into the Russian Federation is a crude attempt to formalize President Putin’s conquest through political theatre,” said the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with U.S.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “By attempting to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, Putin tries to grab territories he doesn’t even physically control on the ground,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

“Nothing changes for Ukraine: we continue liberating our land and our people, restoring our territorial integrity.

” It is an irrefutable fact that ‘’Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, a central tenet of the charter that requires UN member states to refrain from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Undeniably, annexation amounts to an act of aggression, forbidden by international law. International Humanitarian Law (IHL) upholds that in the event that ‘’an Occupying Power annexes all or part of an occupied territory, protected persons therein shall not be deprived of the benefits of the Fourth Geneva Convention’’.

The West is justified in criticizing Russia’s annexation. But for the sanctity of global rule of law, the West must also abandon its dual policy on the issue of annexation as it remains silent on Israel annexation of the Palestinian territories while it pays no attention regarding the Indian annexation of the occupied Kashmiri territory.

This western policy paradox has actually prompted an unlawful culture of annexation. Nonetheless, as for the NATO- Russia tussle over Alliance expansion, the fact on record speaks that President Bill Clinton was cautious regarding the enlargement of NATO’s alliance.

A real insight of the current crisis indicates that the European NATO allies could not foresee the future complication of NATO’s eastward expansion—the bone of contention between Russia and the West.

Fairly speaking, instead of implanting a readily NATO’s eastward project, the western policy makers should have adopted a gradual approach on this issue, thereby evaluating the impact of this sensitive and complex enlargement, which Moscow considers a great threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It must be ostensibly clear that without inviting Russia to the negotiating table, the West should not proceed to conclude a NATO’s accession to Georgia and Ukraine.

This is what a pragmatic order of wisdom. Putin thinks that Russia is not getting isolated. “No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this”, Putin said, noting that “the role … of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region has significantly increased”.

Conversely to Putin’s euphoria, the fact on the ground suggests a different truth: Because of Putin’s prompting of a nuclear war in Ukraine, Russia is being intrinsically isolated from within and from outside.

Thus, to secure peace, all the western powers, particularly the US and NATO, must work on the lines to prevent an escalation scenario.

Peace diplomacy must be utilized to the hilt in order to avert a third war between the West and Russia.

And yet, the eastern Russian allies, including the Central Asian Republics (CARs) should also play their meaningful role to convince Moscow to give priority to peace diplomacy over its warmongering designs, failing of which, humanity will face consequential effects.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law. He deals with the strategic and nuclear issues.

 

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