Focal Points Blog

Crimea Joins Russia: What About International Law?

Presidents Obama and Putin

Presidents Obama and Putin

Back on March 4, American President Barack Obama talked about the crisis in Crimea:

“There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law. I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

On the basis of Obama’s words, one can assume international law to be nothing beyond a set of beliefs that are classified as acceptable or unacceptable, depending on which side of the spectrum one chooses to stand.

As a result, when Crimean voters decided to secede from Ukraine and unite with Russia, what role did international law play in the picture? Again, you cannot properly define something that is viewed as more a matter of ‘strong belief’ than that of ‘codified norms’, but the verdicts and opinions of the International Court of Justice are well worth discussing here.
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Israel’s Bogeyman Ya’alon Strikes Again

Israel Defense Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon

Israel Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe (Bogey) Ya’alon recently launched another scathing attack on America, its leaders and its world leadership. Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv University, Ya’alon said, among other things that: “Israel can’t rely on weak US to deal with Iran.” He added that: “the US at a certain stage began negotiating with them (Iran, DP), and unfortunately in the Persian bazaar the Iranians were better.” Ya’alon concluded that: “We (Israelis, DP) have to look out for ourselves.”[1]

Ya’alon’s comments created a veritable storm of amazement and denunciations in Israeli political circles and in the media. In a March 19 interview on Israel’s Channel 10, Mr. Raviv Druker, a senior political correspondent for the TV channel, termed Ya’alon’s utterances “insane,” “stupid,” “utterly damaging,” and “Hair raising.”  Druker called Netanyahu’s silence in the latest incident “nothing short of amazing.”
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Russia Still Addresses Conventional-Weapons Gap with U.S. Via Nukes

Russian intercontinental ballistic missile

Russian intercontinental ballistic missile

On March 13, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran a piece by Nikolai Sokov with the paradoxical title Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation”. He writes, “In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia.” It became concerned both that “the United States would interfere within its borders” and that the “conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities.”
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Once at the Forefront of Transition to Capitalism, Hungary Slips Back

Zsuzsanna Ranki

Zsuzsanna Ranki

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

For most countries in East-Central Europe, capitalism didn’t arrive overnight in 1989 or 1990. Even in the more controlled environments like Romania, people could get a taste of capitalism by buying or trading on the black market. Hungary, on the other hand, was far ahead of its neighbors in this respect. It had been experimenting with a mixed economy since 1968 and the New Economic Mechanism. Following a push for recentralization in the early 1970s, another round of liberalization opened up the economy after 1979. By the early 1980s, the government was even permitting small-scale private enterprise in the retail sector and for services like taxis.

By 1988, with Ceausescu squeezing the Romanian economy to pay back its foreign debt and Albania as isolated as ever, Hungary was beginning to train its first Western-style managers. Zsuzsanna Ranki was a pivotal person behind the training of a new managerial elite. She’d started out in foreign trade marketing and eventually acquired a PhD in economics from a Hungarian university. And in 1983, she was the first Hungarian to receive an MBA — at Indiana University.
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Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret

Yaroslav Stetsko, an OUN leader during World War II, meets George H.W. Bush.

Yaroslav Stetsko, an OUN leader during World War II, meets George H.W. Bush.

As the Ukrainian crisis has unfolded over the past few weeks, it’s hard for Americans not to see Vladimir Putin as the big villain. But the history of the region is a history of competing villains vying against one another; and one school of villains—the Nazis—have a long history of engagement with the US, mostly below the radar, but occasionally exposed, as they were by Russ Bellant in his book Old Nazis, The New Right And The Republican Party (South End Press, 1991). Bellant’s exposure of Nazi leaders from German allies in the 1988 Bush presidential campaign was the driving force in the announced resignation of nine individuals, two of them from the Ukraine, which is why he was the logical choice to turn to illuminate the scattered mentions of Nazi and fascist elements amongst the Ukrainian nationalists, which somehow never seems to warrant further comment or explanation. Of course most Ukranians aren’t Nazis or fascists—all the more reason to illuminate those who would hide their true natures in the shadows…or even behind the momentary glare of the spotlight.
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The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preserving Western Domination

IAEA

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The latest negotiations between Iran and the U.S. (the so-called 5+2) for a long-term comprehensive nuclear agreement have ground to a halt. This is due to Washington’s last-minute insistence on adding new conditions to the talks to resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Association (I.A.E.A.) charge is based on what the Iranians claim to be fabricated documents that neither Washington nor the I.A.E.A. are willing to share with Teheran for investigation. In his 2012 memoir, Mohamed ElBaradei disclosed such documents to be a part of a whole series provided to Washington by Israel.1  A cursory glance at the I.A.E.A., its tenets and philosophy will help clarity the essentially “colonial disputes” in the current situation.

In Part One of this series we pointed out that the history of Iranian Nuclear development has been known to the I.A.E.A. and the West from the beginning. Although it is often repeated as something approaching a mantra, the assertions that Iran has been secretive about its nuclear project or that it has moved towards military objectives are nothing more than a myth. As of yet there is no credible evidence to support such contention. In this part we intend to focus on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) and its history.
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It’s About Time India and Pakistan Prioritized Trade

IndiaPakFaces

Rivals from World War, France and Germany are today top trading partners. Till last year France was Germany’s biggest export destination. Brazil, despite a history of political hostility with Argentina, is both the former’s principal export destination and import source. While these two examples reinforce the logic of neighbors being natural trade partners, two countries in Asia fail to see logic. Trade relations among two of South Asia’s infamous geopolitical adversaries, India and Pakistan remain hostage to political bickering to this day. Ironically, at the time of independence, presumably the time around which political tensions started to build up (only to be allowed to escalate over the years by governments on both sides of the disputed border), India accounted for 70% of Pakistan’s trade.
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Jordanian Officials Fail to Respond to Israeli Shooting of Amman Judge

Jordan's King Abdullah II

Jordan’s King Abdullah II

Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed Jordanian judge on Monday at the Allenby bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank after reportedly arguing with Israeli border guards on his way back to Amman from the West Bank. Official Israeli statements claimed that the judge “tried to seize the soldier’s weapon when he was shot and killed.” Jordanian press reported on eyewitness accounts that contradicted  the Israeli version of events  and said that the judge “was never physically threatening the soldiers,” and “was unarmed when he was shot from a point-blank range.” The Jordanian Ministry of Justice identified the man as Ra’ed Zu’eiter, 38, a judge in the magistrates court in Amman.

Angry Jordanian citizens protested the killing by demonstrating at the Israeli embassy in Amman demanding its closing and kicking the Israeli ambassador out from Amman. Jordanian newspapers also reported that protesters criticized Prime Minister Abdullah Ennsour for not taking strong measures against Israel in retaliation to the killing of judge Zu’eiter. The Al Jazeera Arabic website reported that protesters went as far as criticizing  King Abdullah II, who has yet to  issue a public statement, and did not comment publically on the shooting death of one of his citizens.
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Stalin’s Purge Binge

Stalin

In 1968 Macmillan Company published Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, which was quickly acknowledged as the authoritative work on the subject. I’ve just finished reading the fortieth anniversary edition titled The Great: A Reassessment (Oxford University Press, 2008), which is slightly revised and contains a new preface (as well as the old preface and an introduction). If you’re only dimly aware that Russia in the 1930s was the source of all totalitarianism since ― in recent years, think Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim dynasty ― reading this book is essential to understand just how pervasive terror was in Russia during that time. Even after the show trials and purges receded from their peak years, terror continued to serve as Stalin’s go-to technique for eliminating opposition within the party, fortifying his rule, and controlling the state. 
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Crimea: Just Who’s Encroaching on Whom?

NATO aircraft

NATO aircraft

Is the Russian occupation of the Crimea a case of aggressive expansionism by Moscow or is it aimed at blocking a scheme by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to roll right up to the Russia’s western border? WikiLeaks has revealed a secret cable describing a meeting between French and American diplomats that suggests the latter, a plan that has been in the works since at least 2009.

Titled “A/S Gordon’s meeting with policy makers in Paris,” the cable summarizes a Sept. 16, 2009 get-together between Philip Gordon, then assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and French diplomats Jean-David Levitte, Damien Loras, and Francois Richier. Gordon is currently a special assistant to President Obama on the Middle East.
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