On 17 December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution A/73/L.47 condemning not only the single fact of Russian open aggression against three Ukrainian ships and calling to return the ships and release the 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors Russia took as POWs, but also:
- the recent militarization of Crimea;
- transfer of nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles to Crimea;
- multiple military exercises of Russian armed forces held in Crimea;
- impeding the lawful exercise of navigational rights and freedoms in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait;
- Russian Federation’s construction and the opening of the Kerch Strait bridge.
The resolution also recalled, “that the temporary occupation of Crimea and the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine by the Russian Federation is in contravention of commitments made under the [Budapest] memorandum…”
Unfortunately, the only decision which UNGA could make as an institution is “to continue its consideration of the matter at its seventy-fourth session.”
However, the resolution shouldn’t be overlooked. First of all, it’s a good reflection of international support for Ukraine and the process of voting for the resolution is itself a reflection of Russia’s position in international relations. Also, the resolution gives strong legitimation and basement for further sanctions and decisions against Russia.
Russian disinformation and misinterpretation don’t work anymore
Altogether, 66 countries supported the resolution, 19 voted against and 72 abstained.
It’s important to note that all European countries, except Serbia and Belarus, voted for the resolution, as well as the United States, all Black Sea countries, Australia, Israel, Japan, and some other countries worldwide. This means that the most powerful world players and all countries for which the issue is of utmost concern support Ukraine.
Several important regional leaders like Brasil, China, India, South Africa abstained from voting. These countries from the very beginning of the conflict take a moderate position, blaming both Ukraine and Russia in the conflict. For example, already in 2014, Delhi urged all parties involved to seek a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic crisis, recognizing that “there are legitimate Russian and other interests involved.”
The 18 Russian allies who voted against the resolution together with Russia are either autocratic countries or those upon which Russia has direct influence: Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Cambodia, Venezuela. Armenia, Belarus, and Serbia, despite having quite strong economic and political ties with Ukraine, also voted against.
Yet more illustrative is not the voting itself but the discussion of the amendment A/73/L.68 proposed by Iran and Syria. The amendment called for the “both States to exercise restraint and respect for each other’s sovereignty and inviolability of borders.”
The amendment was proposed by Iran and Syria in favor of Russia. It’s logical to assume that this didn’t happen without Russian support. After the amendment was proposed, according to the official description of the voting, “the representative of the Russian Federation welcomed attempts to bring some balance to an ‘odious’ draft resolution that aimed at stopping a freefall in the ratings of the President of Ukraine as he sought re-election for a second term. […] Not for the first time, the General Assembly is being drawn into political games being played by Kyiv, Washington, D.C., and Brussels.”
By blaming not only Ukraine and the Ukrainian president, but also Washington and Brussels, Russia actually made a favor to Ukraine, unifying it more tightly with its allies. Later, after the voting, the Russian representative told that
“Ukrainian armed forces are waging war on their own citizens, shooting at women, children and the elderly. The United States has a lot of grounds for shame today, one example being Ukraine. The United States is providing weapons to Ukraine in an attempt to pit two brotherly people against each other. There is only one threat to the world today: the United States threat. Kyiv is run by Washington, D.C. Crimea has always been and will always be a part of the Russian Federation.”
Representatives of Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, United Kingdom, United States and Georgia, who urged all countries to support the Ukrainian version of the resolution and reject the amendment, emphasized that they don’t “support the General Assembly calling on Ukraine and the Russian Federation to act when the latter is the sole Member State to have engaged in aggressive activities directed at the former” (US). And also, that mutual blaming and Iran’s amendments have “went against facts on the ground” (Netherlands).
Comparing this with the recent policy of the European Union against Russian disinformation which started in June 2017 by decisions on online-media and is being developed further with the most recent adoption of the “Action plan against disinformation,” it seems that European politicians become more critical towards Russian special interpretation of the International relations and outright manipulations in media.
Legitimation of further sanctions and decisions against Russia
As Petro Poroshenko stated, “Thanks to the joint support of the Allies and partners from the highest world podium, another international crime of the Kremlin is documented, which will form part of the consolidated claim of Ukraine to the Russian state.”
Indeed, as Ukraine has no possibility to de-occupy Crimea right now, the resolution is an important legal basement for further sanctions by the international community as well as for the launching a new form of influence on Russia in order to end the occupation. One such new form of influence for the de-occupation of Crimea can be created on the basis of the Budapest Memorandum – the policy which Mustafa Dzhemilev, the Ukrainian deputy in the Parliament and the leader of the Crimean Tatar is working on.
Mustafa Dzhemilev was also present on the voting at UNGA and told that:
“It was stated [in the resolution] that Russia’s actions contradict the Budapest memorandum… This resolution is the first such level document that refers to the Budapest memorandum…
It is very important that the world community considers the militarization of Crimea as a threat not only to Ukraine but to all countries of the region too… The text also condemns that Russia has created an opportunity to deliver nuclear weapons to the peninsula… It is important that the resolution calls not only for the demilitarization of the Crimea, but also, in principle, to end the occupation of the Ukrainian territory.”
Pavlo Klimkin, minister of Foreign affairs of Ukraine also wrote in Facebook that the Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas:
“is a growing GLOBAL problem – both in terms of its militarization, and in the sense of a systematic violation of human rights” and the resolution is the evidence that “the world community step-by-step becomes ready to develop a comprehensive response to the challenges and destructive trends that have been launched since the coming of the Russian occupiers to the Ukrainian peninsula.”
It’s also expected that the UNGA will soon adopt the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as it did in the previous two years. This is important for keeping firmly Ukrainian policy in the direction of de-occupation of both Crimea and Donbas because only after that the stability and peace can come back to the Black Sea region.