Amongst other legal issues concerning Crimea, we referred yesterday to the Budapest Memorandum. Regardless of the discussion about the legal or political value of this international document, it is important to distinguish two concepts: sovereignty and self-determination. In international relations, self-determination is a principle that allows a certain group of people who live in a given territory to have the right to decide who will govern them. Although both are legal and political concepts, sovereignty gives priority to the State whereas self-determination gives preeminent place to the people. The notion of territorial integrity is directly linked to the concept of state sovereignty since nowadays sovereignty is territorially defined.
“Interestingly, in these two different cases, despite being in opposite positions, Russia has been able to posture itself favorably. In the case of Chechnya, Russia justified its position with the right to protect its national unity and territorial integrity suppressing Chechens’ aspirations for self-determination, while in the case of Crimea fully supporting the Crimean Russians’ separation from Ukraine to join Russia. These two cases are a sign of the futility of international law to achieve justice; rather they show that power, a realist concept, still plays a decisive role in Russia-centered politics.”
The last article reviews whether it may be possible to resolve the dilemma of self-determination versus territorial integrity. As the reader may expect, the conclusion remains open. That is because although we may refer to legal concepts such as self-determination and territorial integrity or State sovereignty, TERRITORIAL DISPUTES are not centred only on law. They are multi-faceted and multi-level. Therefore, other elements such as power, interest, domestic, regional, and international prestige, and many other issues at stakes should be considered in we aim to achieve a peaceful and definitive solution.
On Monday, the third ground for a colourable claim: moral standing.
NOTE: based on Chapter 6, Núñez, Jorge Emilio. 2017. Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
Jorge Emilio Núñez