OPINION: The issue is that an installation in Ukraine of weapons of mass destruction pointing at Moscow will constitute an imminent threat to global peace and security. If this threat cannot be removed by the UN Security Council, it will entitle Russia to pre-emptive self-defence, writes Professor André Thomashausen.
Six weeks ago, on December 17, 2021 Russia tabled two specific security proposals to secure global peace.
The proposals are not only a response to the crisis in Ukraine, but also a response to the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the three most important arms control treaties: the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty; the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty; and the Open Skies Treaty.
On January 26, 2022 both Russian proposals were in principle rejected, signalling that the US will continue using NATO as an interventionist tool, as evidenced in past military interventions in Serbia, Iraq and Libya.
As a result, it is understandable that any proposal to further expand NATO will increase tensions and fuel the new international culture of distrust.
The first Russian proposal is a draft agreement to be signed between the superpowers Russia and the US. The key clause is the commitment to an equal right to security for each nation, meaning that the security requirements of one country cannot be attained to the detriment to the security interests of another.
The other fundamental commitment follows on the first, namely that there will be no “further eastward expansion of NATO”, and that states that were formerly part of the defunct Soviet Union will not be given membership status by NATO.
Also proposed is that the US and Russia will move and deploy their armed forces only within their own territories, and that they will not fly aircraft equipped to carry nuclear bombs, nor deploy warships within areas from which they could attack the other party. And that they will inform each other of the movements of such nuclear carrier systems in order to prevent dangerous unforeseen situations.
Russia and the US would further commit not to deploy ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles or nuclear weapons outside their national territories, nor in areas of their national territories from which such weapons could attack targets in the national territory of the other party.
This particular clause addresses directly the recent deployment of American nuclear weapons and/or carrier systems in Germany, the Czech Republic, Rumania, Poland, and Sweden.
The second security treaty proposal is to be signed with NATO. It provides that the parties shall not consider each other as adversaries or “enemies”, and shall therefore hold regular consultations on security issues and furnish each other with information on military exercises and manoeuvres, as well establish “hotlines” or “red phones”. It otherwise mirrors the main agreement with the US.
Both security pact proposals recall the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). The CSCE laid the foundations for ending the cold war and enabled disarmament and the reduction of nuclear arsenals in the 1980s.
Disarmament overcame Russia’s fear of being militarily encircled. It allowed for the secular political change in Russia that established multi-party democracy and ended the Soviet Union.
So why have the December 2021 Russian proposals triggered a wave of war talk and threats against Russia?
The US put an intervention force of 8 500 men in a state of deployment readiness. Canada positioned special forces in Ukraine as human shields for the new defence brigades. Both the UK and US established an “air bridge” to deliver of $700 million (R10.7 billion worth of more arms to Kiev, and asked their citizens to leave both Russia and Ukraine “immediately”.
On the insistence of the US, a UN Security Council public session took place on January 31, 2022 to discuss an unsubstantiated threat of an invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The session was packed with countries in one way or another dependent on America, monotonously repeating invocations of Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and its freedom to choose to join whatever alliance, military or otherwise, they might want to join, on the basis of whatever promised benefits.
The one-sided invocation of Ukrainian security interests, overlooks that modern sovereignty can only exist under the one most fundamental limitation imposed by the UN Charter, namely the prohibition of the threat and the use of force. And the UN Security Council refused to consider that Ukraine joining the Cold War NATO pact, might by itself constitute a threat to Russian security interests.
Public International Law imposes the duty of states to cooperate in the maintenance of international peace and security. Instead of guarantees that Ukraine would not install missile systems, nuclear or otherwise that could reach and destroy Russian cities, including Moscow, the US promised to enact “the mother of all sanctions” against Russia.
To justify such hostility, the US keeps referring to Russian military exercises close to Ukrainian territory. However, while those military drills were taking place, NATO was conducting in the Mediterranean at the gates to the Russian Black Sea, “war simulation exercises”, with an impressive armada lead by the massive US aircraft carrier “Truman”.
The conflict escalation has once more brought the World close to nuclear self-destruction. The last time this occurred was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. An overly confident Soviet leadership installed missiles in Cuba, threatening to reduce Washington to ashes. US President J F Kennedy preferred World War III over such a risk. Russia backed down and removed the missiles.
In the case of the Ukraine, the onus is on the US to back down and moderate Ukrainian nationalist and Russophobe ambitions. The framework for a de-escalation is provided in the Minsk Agreements that Ukraine is desperately trying to evade. The Minsk Agreements deal with the deeper causes of the persistent crisis in and around Ukraine.
As for the EU, its reflection on the modern-day good sense and purpose of NATO is overdue. NATO, by its own statutes has no democratic control or legitimacy and entrusts its supreme military command exclusively to an American general, leaving no room for EU sovereignty.
The African Union, aspiring for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, should make its voice of reason heard. Representing roughly one fifth of the World population, the AU is entitled to demand from American and the former colonial powers in Africa to stop gambling with World Peace.
The sovereignty of an economically frail and dependent Ukraine, is not the issue. The issue is that an installation in Ukraine of weapons of mass destruction pointing at Moscow will constitute an imminent threat to global peace and security. If this threat cannot be removed by the UN Security Council, it will entitle Russia to pre-emptive self-defence.
Both the Russian security treaty proposals state in their preambles a most profound and fundamental premise: “… Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, every effort (must be made) to prevent the risk of outbreak of such war among states that possess nuclear weapons”.
* Dr André Thomashausen is a German attorney and Professor Emeritus of International Law (Unisa).
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.