Unfriending Russia: Ukrainian-Russian Treaty of Friendship terminates

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

The Friendship Treaty binds Ukraine's hands, it creates the illusion that the criminal is ready to forgive the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians
12:01, 21 March 2019

Open source

Last fall, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine intends to terminate the Treaty of Friendship with Russia.

“Today we have come up fairly well prepared and legally protected to this next step: the termination of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which through has long become an anachronism by the fault of Moscow,” he said at a meeting with Ukrainian ambassadors in Kyiv.

Some experts, who commented on the issue, accused the head of state of electoral hype. Like, why did he make such a decision only at the end of his cadence?

However, in this case, such allegations are completely unfounded. Poroshenko could not simply do otherwise; at least due to the peculiarities of the aforementioned Treaty.

Why the National Security and Defense Council head is against?

The idea of the termination of the Treaty of Friendship was taken unambiguously. A number of officials at various periods of time have argued that it is impossible to refuse to execute the Treaty unilaterally. In particular, the position of Oleksandr Turchynov, National Security and Defense Council head, is indicative in this respect.

In early 2018, Turchynov noted that Konstantin Zatulin, the first deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, had offered to denounce the Treaty. At the same time, it was meant that the first step should be made by Ukraine.

Related: Russia regards termination of Friendship Treaty unsuitable for nations' interests

"Russia wanted Ukraine to denounce the Treaty of Friendship and renounced the borders established after the Second World War," Turchynov stated. Such a proposal was insidious and impossible he claimed. “We still need this Treaty for holding a strong position in international courts. By this treaty, Russia recognizes borders, and Crimea is recognized as Ukrainian territory there,” he said. In the future, similar theses were repeated in various variations by representatives of the Ukrainian authorities.

However, each of them focused on a false and illogical statement that, by refusing to make a deal at the current time, Ukraine would legalize the violation of its borders in the recent past.

In fact, everything is simple: the ten-year term of the documents comes to an end on April 1, 2019. The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation was signed on May 31, 1997, and entered into force after the exchange of ratifications, which took place on April 1, 1999. The document is automatically renewed every 10 years, and the next decade of its validity expires in a couple of weeks.

Related: Klimkin, Bolton discuss U.S. and Russia's withdrawal from INF Treaty

If any of the parties want to stop the action of the document, it must notify its partner about this six months before the end of the next decade, that is, in this case, it should have been done before October 1, 2018. If you miss the deadline, you can terminate the contract by denunciation, and this is a more complex and more time-consuming option, so it is important not to miss the favorable moment.

It is noteworthy that in 2014, the Verkhovna Rada had already attempted to launch the denunciation mechanism, but without a success. Although both it was obvious that after the annexation of Crimea and the armed aggression of Russia in Ukrainian Donbas, there was no need to talk about good-neighborliness or friendship with the Russian Federation.

Legal points

Now let us see the judicial aspect. We have a Treaty with Russia and have irrefutable evidence of its violation. Ukraine’s initiative to terminate the Treaty, the crimes of Moscow would not cease to be crimes. And the Kremlin’s responsibility for disregarding the norms of international law would not be disavowed due to the absence of the Treaty of Friendship.

Quite the contrary: this is precisely the way Ukraine’s position would have its logical completeness, and defending our positions in international courts would not be harder, but easier, because an additional argument would appear: we have ceased friendly relations with Russia, because it has unleashed a war and violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The Treaty, ratified in 1999, clearly states the following: "The High Contracting Parties, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter and obligations under the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, respect each other’s territorial integrity and confirm the inviolability of the existing borders between them."

Related: Russia sends note to Ukraine due to termination of Friendship Treaty

By annexing Crimea and sending its troops to the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russia violated its obligations, and thanks to the previously concluded Treaty, now we have an opportunity to demand punishment of the violator.

Preservation of the Treaty, existing diplomatic relations, economic and trade relations, which are not only minimized but on the contrary, deepen and expand (after a short pause during 2014-2016), provide the aggressor with a trump card. After all, if Ukraine is "friendly" with Russia, this means that it is satisfied with the status quo and it has no complaints about its counterpart.

The Friendship Treaty binds our hands, it creates the illusion that the criminal is ready to forgive the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians just because once this criminal has solemnly sworn to "behave himself."

This position has neither consistency nor balance, there is only a desire to avoid solving the problem. But this is already in the past, the decision has been made; now what we can do is to observe the reaction of Moscow, and it is completely predictable.

Kremlin’s position

Russian Foreign Ministry has sent a note to official Kyiv due to the termination of the Treaty of Friendship between the countries. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, "Ukraine announced this in its usual manner of the recent years, accusing Russia of all troubles."

"We suppose that the agreement could have become somewhat outdated, nevertheless, it was signed 20 years ago. But this did not happen because of Moscow, which has always declared its readiness to negotiate and discuss specific proposals for modernizing the legal framework, including the Treaty of Friendship May 31, 1997," reads the message.

Related: Russia confirms discontinuation of 1997 Friendship Treaty, - Ukraine's foreign ministry

Russian diplomats accuse Ukraine of violating the treaty in 2004 by ratifying a memorandum of support for NATO operations. Our second "fault" is rooted in the introduction of amendments to the Military Doctrine in 2015, which declared entry into NATO as a strategic goal of the state.

At the same time, Moscow criticized the changes to the Constitution of Ukraine, which recently fixed the course towards the European Union and NATO.

In addition, the Kremlin states that “Ukraine is grossly and systematically violating article 12 of this document. In accordance with it, the parties allegedly must guarantee “protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of national minorities on their territory” and “create conditions for encouraging of this distinctiveness.”

Ukraine and Russia seem to be committed to “promoting the creation of equal opportunities and conditions for the study of the Russian language in Ukraine and the Ukrainian language in the Russian Federation.”

“Instead of this, post-Maidan power has been conducting a targeted attack against the Russian language and the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine,” the Kremlin summarizes, thus calling official Kyiv as the violator of friendship.

Meanwhile, these verbal skirmishes convince the Ukrainian side that, as Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says, “we are doing everything right.” The Russian Foreign Ministry is making fun of 12 pages of claims from Moscow.

To be continued?

In the context of Ukrainian-Russian relations, the problem of the usefulness of diplomatic relations permanently arises. The situation with the Treaty of Friendship is completely different, but last fall, this issue has been actively discussed, hoping, in fact, that this would be the next step of the Ukrainian authorities.

Related: Ukraine's MFA on termination of Friendship Treaty with Russia: This is right

Ukraine has not made such a step, and it seems extremely unlikely that it would do it in the near future. One of the main counterarguments regarding the break in diplomatic relations with Russia is the unenviable fate of those Ukrainians who are now in the territory of the Russian Federation. Such a demarche would be reflected on them.

Those who experience harassment from the Russian authorities belong to the other category. Supporters of diplomatic relations say that they can count on the support of the Ukrainian embassy or consulate, and, having lost such support, they will feel even greater persecution and persecution. But this is a somewhat distorted view of the situation. Firstly, the authoritarian power of Russia does not allow consular institutions to provide the necessary assistance to their compatriots.

And secondly, even in the conditions of a rupture of diplomatic relations, consulates might be preserved. After all, if diplomatic institutions are engaged in political and economic cooperation, then consular institutions are responsible for protecting the rights of citizens. Although, for example, Georgia and Russia broke off both diplomatic and consular relations.

In this case, interests of the country would be represented by the interests of another one; Switzerland could be such a mediator, and this would only strengthen the focus on legal conflicts in the territory of the Russian Federation.

The second group of comments on the break in diplomatic relations can be called economic one. As it is easy to guess, all the objections here indicate a negative result from a decrease in the intensity of trade contacts with Russia. Budgeted GDP growth will definitely not be achieved if Ukraine loses the Russian markets.

Related: Law on breach of Ukraine-Russia Friendship Treaty takes effect

But there is also a counter-argument. Even if we take for granted the benefit of trade with the enemy, then ardent supporters of such ties can be reassured: the break of diplomatic relations will not affect existing economic treaties. They will work as they did.

In other words, gas for European consumers will still flow through the territory of Ukraine, and the railway communication between the countries will not disappear.

In addition, such a move would bring a certain harmony to the position of Ukraine and make its own presentation of the bloodshed in the east more logical.

After all, world practice knows cases where diplomatic relations between the countries were broken on the basis of the mere suspicion that one of the participants in such relations could supply weapons to their neighbor’s territory or conduct certain subversive work there.

World practice shows that the norms of international law do not provide for the possibility of the direct diplomatic contacts between the countries, one of which is recognized as an aggressor. Meanwhile, the policy of Ukraine contradicts this practice. Therefore, it will be very difficult for us to prove something in the international courts.

Indeed, in the eyes of the world community, Ukraine looks not just inconsistent, it can be perceived as a state that misleads the world community.

Speaking about the last concern that such a decision could provoke Moscow into a full-scale war, it just does not hold water. Until 2014, Ukraine had a number of treaties on friendship and cooperation with its northern neighbor, which in no way protected it from the invasion of the Russian troops.

Moscow does not recognize any rules of the game, but its attack or non-aggression would be determined not this factor. Above all, it is about its own military and financial resources and the appropriateness of such a step.

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