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Legalising aggression

By Messenger Staff
Friday, September 11
As expected the Russian Parliament, the Duma, has supported President Dmitry Medvedev’s initiative to amend the Russian law on defence. The amendments now agreed create a legal foundation for the aggressive policy Russia is conducting. These amendments have nothing to do with defending anyone. They seek to justify Russian aggression against neighbouring countries, and probably some further away, by promoting the idea that the best form of defence is attack, even when no threat to Russia or any of its allies exists.

The article Lithuanian magazine Geopolitics published about this latest Russian move bore the headline ‘Russia Creates Legal Foundation for Aggressions.’ Now it has changed its laws Russia can take military action against any foreign country without authorisation from the Duma. Russian politicians, as well as political analysts, have acknowledged that the Russian military intervention in Georgia in August 2008 was not only against international law but Russia’s own domestic legislation. When on August 8 Russian troops started to invade Georgia the Duma was on summer holiday and it reconvened only on August 25, only then supporting the decision of the Russian President and his act of aggression, taken without the required prior approval of the Duma. But the Russian imperialistic doctrine states that Russia is always right, so what need is there of any approval by the mere legally responsible body?

The Chairman of the Russian Supreme Council Sergey Mironov claimed that a peacekeeping contingent was ‘under attack’ in South Ossetia, and there were no Russian armed forces, and therefore no official approval by the Federation Council was needed to take action to defend them. Any peacekeeping contingent which shells villages where only peaceful civilians live would be dismissed and sent home in disgrace in a civilized country. However the Russian leadership has nevertheless been burned by its own arrogance of last August. It now feels the need to create a legislative basis to justify not only that but future aggressions it might conduct. If Russia is always right no law to justify its actions is necessary, but bluster has always been more of a distinguishing Russian characteristic than logic.

Speaker of the Lower House of the Duma Boris Grizlov has stated that the August 2008 events determined the need for the amendments to Russian legislation. The previous law allowed Russian forces to take military action outside the country for only two reasons, combating terrorism and participating in internationally-organised operations. Now there is a longer list of instances in which the Russian armed forces could be used outside their own territory. The list is not only long but, and most importantly, wilfully vague. For instance it mentions defending Russian military units outside its territory if they come under attack as well as defense of other countries in case they are attacked, combating against piracy, securing the movement of ships and ‘protection of Russian Federation citizens.’ Using this logic Russia has every right to attack a country in which a single Russian has been attacked by a hooligan or taken hostage by a terrorist – any country on earth, in fact!

It is clear that this law will not be applied without prejudice. If a Russian citizen is in trouble in any European country Russia will not invade it. The Kremlin is primarily trying to threaten post-Soviet countries such as Georgia, Ukraine or Azerbaijan, Moldova or the Central Asian states, hoping it can thus influence internal developments in those countries. Hopefully it is not planning to attack the Baltic States again, for some invented provocations, or other ex-Communist countries which are now protected by NATO. But who knows?

Much depends on the reaction on the international community to Russia’s 2008 war conduct, which should be outlined in the Tagliavini Commission’s report. Western countries must put pressure on the Kremlin to comply with international laws, regulations and commitments.

Russia has not paid very dearly for its actions in the year since its invasion of Georgia. It still occupies 1/5 of Georgian territory, has created and recognised two puppet states there, forced international observers from the OSCE and UN to leave and is not allowing EU monitors to enter the occupied territories despite it being clearly stated that it should in the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement. Moreover Russian politicians are threatening the Council of Europe, trying to force it not to impose any sanctions on Moscow or even adopt a resolution openly condemning its conduct. Certain European countries are also flirting with the Kremlin, seeking energy supply benefits, access to Russia’s rich natural resources and so on, rather than refusing to deal with an aggressor state which has now given itself the legal ‘right’ to invade other countries.

It is simply wrong to expect that Russia can be made to improve by conducting dialogue with it, asking it to use common sense or comply with international laws or suchlike measures. Long international experience shows that Russia will continue to follow its chosen path of subordinating the former Soviet countries, and possibly others as well, regardless of how many resolutions are passed or condemnations expressed. Its major incentive for carrying on this way is to become the sole supplier of energy to Europe, and thus be in a position to fulfill whatever wicked plans it wants.