Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 14) [Post 79]

Crimea and the egalitarian shared sovereignty: cooperation between Russia and Ukraine 

The dispute over Crimea presents a conflict of interests. I mean by that the following: 

[t]here is an identity of interests since social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own efforts. There is conflict of interests since persons are not indifferent as to how the greater benefits produced by their collaboration are distributed, for in order to pursue their ends they each prefer a larger to a lesser share […].”  

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Revised Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Russians and Ukrainians have both common and conflicting interests. Although each claiming party is formed by many different individuals with different interests, each of these claiming parties has as a collective group a common interest for the purpose of this series: EXCLUSIVE sovereignty over the disputed territory (Crimea). Thus, this same element (the disputed territory) is the center of this particular conflict of interest.   If things were different, we would see Crimeans, Russians and Ukrainians living in peace on their land. It is a fact the region is volatile because of the dispute. We do not need to assume or demonstrate this. It is self-evident. I am going to assume both Russia and Ukraine finally want to achieve a PEACEFUL and PERMANENT solution to dispute over Crimea. I am going to assume Russia does not recognize sovereignty (de jure and de facto) over Crimea. I am too going to assume Ukraine does not recognize sovereignty (de jure and de facto) over Crimea either. I include these assumptions intentionally in order to avoid tangential criticism.  

With this picture in mind, we would need to determine: 

  1. Who can take part in the negotiations?
  2. What do we do with PEOPLE living in Crimea?
  3. Which party has sovereignty over the disputed TERRITORY?
  4. What kind of arrangements do we need in terms of GOVERNMENT and LAW for the disputed territories?

 It is crucial to answer question 1 first, before we move into the actual negotiations (questions 2, 3, and 4). That is because this dispute has local, regional and international issues at stake. As a direct consequence, people may think of Crimeans, Russians and Ukrainians being the only parties concerned about (and interested in) a solution.  This is over-simplistic (and over-optimistic, even naïve).

There are many powers alien to the dispute with a variety of interests. Moreover, they are more interested in keeping the dispute on a status quo (ongoing) basis than achieving a solution because this situation offers them a better return, a higher payoff (for example, arm trafficking, terrorism, prestige).   The next post will assess these questions having in mind the concept of “colorable claim” previously introduced with this series. After we answer question 1, the attention will shift to population, territory, government and law (questions 2, 3, and 4). I am going to assume Russia and Ukraine conducted negotiations and decided to settle the difference by means of the Egalitarian Shared Sovereignty.   

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (Routledge 2020). Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.   

NEXT POST: Crimea and the egalitarian shared sovereignty: Preliminary requirements for a fair distribution.

Thursday 05th March 2020 

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez 

Twitter: @London1701


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