Post-Cold War Legal Ambiguities (Pt. I of II)

Most of the grand narratives surrounding the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict are all questions pertaining to the national sovereignty of the Ukraine. The official position of Post-Soviet Russia is that Ukraine is allegedly run by Ukrainian ultranationalists who at one point had sided with the Hitlerists during World War II. The Russian “Special Military Operation,” as this thinking goes, is tasked with a “Denazification” of the Ukraine, which would entail the removal of such “Neo-Nazis.” It would involve a sort of “Regime Change” in the country, allowing the Russians to install a pro-Russian government in Kiev.

Conversely, the Jeffersonians and their EU/NATO allies made the rhetorical argument that Post-Soviet Russia is trying to annex the country. Their arguments about why Russia is at war are perhaps more outlandish than the Russian claims to a “Special Military Operation.” They believe that Russia is trying to either create a Eurasian power bloc among the former Soviet Republics, with some going as far as to insinuate that it is a ploy to recreate the old Soviet Union. In the case of the latter, the Ukraine or its eastern portion would be annexed into Russia, setting the precedent for a later invasion of the western half beyond the Dnieper River.

In these two sets of narratives, the idea of Ukrainian national sovereignty is put into question. Both envisage the Ukraine not as an independent country with its own political destiny, but as part of an international framework of alliances and treaties. In other words, a puppet or a protectorate is far more appropriate to describe what is at stake. Is Ukraine a part of Russia or at the very least a Russian ally? Is Ukraine a part of Europe or at the very least an EU/NATO ally?

Personally, it is not a matter of whether there should be a Ukrainian nation to begin with. This is an issue of the “legal ambiguities” surrounding the current world order that emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. It also has much to do with the new Versailles Treaty, the 2+4 Agreement, and the fact that West Germany relinquished its claims over the eastern territories and restrictions on the size and composition of its own armed forces. I say this because there have been legal arguments over the years that the 2+4 Agreement was “violated” by the Western Allies by allowing the EU/NATO to expand eastward. Most of these legal arguments are not made by either German signatory, but by the Post-Soviet Russian one. After all, Post-Soviet Russia is considered to be the legal successor of the Soviet Union.

The argument posited in Putin’s Russia is that the Jeffersonians made unofficial promises to the Soviet Union that the EU/NATO would not expand beyond the Oder-Neiße Line, into Eastern Europe. The various countries which were once part of the CMEA/Warsaw Pact, such as Czechia and Slovakia (Czechoslovakia), Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, eventually ended up under the EU/NATO. The same was also true for the three Baltic countries, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, all of which were at one point Soviet Republics throughout the late 20th century. Since the Jeffersonians do not recall making such official promises nor is the subject of EU/NATO expansion mentioned in the 2+4 Agreement, the Empire of Liberty does not recognize these claims from Post-Soviet Russia as legitimate. That has not stopped the Russian government from continuing to disregard such refutations.

Since the Ukraine is the only country in Eastern Europe that has yet to be an official EU/NATO member-state (Belarus, on the other hand, is a Russian ally), it became an imperative for Russia to prevent further expansion along its western border. It also explains why Crimea was welcomed back into Russia or why the predominantly Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine had sided with Russia. Again, while the legal justification against the 2+4 Agreement among the Russians remains baseless, that has not stopped the Russians from insisting that the 2+4 Agreement deserves to be questioned from an International Relations perspective. After all, we cannot speak of the 2+4 Agreement without also realizing that it is the same legal document that not made today’s world order possible, but also demonstrates why the Cold War should be reinterpreted as a continuation of World War II.

One could say that it is almost as if Russia is trying to fulfill its own end of an old bargain with the German-speaking world over Eastern Europe. The idea of splitting Eastern Europe into German and Russian spheres of influence makes far more sense in the context of Russia invading Ukraine. Even though the German-speaking world still remains in the EU/NATO, the question of the Kaliningrad Oblast remains pervasive as a consequence of the 2+4 Agreement. Due to the fact that the Soviet Union dissolved and West Germany had to relinquish the eastern territories to reunite (or annex) with East Germany, the Kaliningrad Oblast (formerly East Prussia) has been isolated from the rest of Post-Soviet Russia since the 1990s. It also does not help the Russians that, because EU/NATO expansion, the Kaliningrad Oblast is surrounded on the all sides by EU/NATO member-states, including Poland, Denmark, and the Baltic countries. If Sweden and Finland join the NATO alliance, then Kaliningrad will be completely surrounded.

Moreover, it should be noted that neither Poland nor Lithuania, the immediate neighbors of the Kaliningrad Oblast, has any territorial claims over it. The two countries are not interested in asserting claims any more than West Germany is in the wake of the 2+4 Agreement. Therefore, between the 2+4 Agreement, EU/NATO expansion, and the Kaliningrad Oblast, I remain fully convinced that there is far more at stake here and that both Germany and Russia are at the center of it.

For the German-speaking world, there are two aspects of the Russian-Ukraine conflict that pose important implications with regard to the 2+4 Agreement. Those are the issues related to the ability to control the size and composition of an armed forces and the legal definition of “Germany.” Under the 2+4 Agreement, “Germany” is defined as comprising West Germany, East Germany and Berlin (West and East Berlin respectively). In addition to the eastern territories and the Kaliningrad Oblast, there is no German territories beyond West Germany, East Germany and Berlin. That also includes Ernst-Thälmann-Insel (Ernst Thälmann Island). Named after the leader of the KPD, Ernst Thälmann, the island was “donated” to East Germany by the Cuban government under Fidel Castro in the early 1970s. After the 2+4 Agreement, there has been a legal argument by some in West Germany that because East Germany “joined” West Germany, today’s Germany technically “owns” the island. The Cuban government rejects this claim in the early 2000s, arguing that the island was only “renamed” as an act of friendship between Cuba and East Germany.

Whether the Cuban government intended to “donate” the island to East Germany or “rename” it for East Germany is not relevant. Given that Fidel Castro was still alive when the Cuban government rejected the West German claim, it is more likely that Cuba probably rejected the claim because they did not recognize the political legitimacy of West Germany. This is an understandable assertion to make because, during the Cold War, West Germany and East Germany had proclaimed themselves as the true German nation and rejected the other as being a puppet regime propped up by the Allied Powers. Neither recognized the sovereignty of the other throughout the early half of the Cold War, and it was only until the 1970s that they began to view themselves as separate nations. Even if there was a genuine interest in West Germany to control that island, the 2+4 Agreement will never allow such claims to be recognized under international law.

Finally, I should also mention about the other half of the 2+4 Agreement’s qualification as a new Versailles Treaty. The German armed forces cannot have total personnel in upwards of over 370,000, of whom no more than 345,000 are to be under the Heer (Army) and Luftwaffe (Air Force). The German-speaking world is forbidden from developing its own nuclear weapons program, but they can, however, “share” ownership of nuclear weapons with the same Allied Powers that became the EU/NATO. In essence, this arrangement is similar to the limitations placed on Japan regarding its own ability to raise an armed forces: an armed forces capable of only defending its immediate territories as part of the Empire of Liberty. But unlike Japan, the only way for the German-speaking world to bypass the 2+4 Agreement is the creation of a European armed forces, and that will only envisage Germany still being under the EU/NATO’s control.

Overall, the conflict in Ukraine deserves to be interpreted from a much broader historical perspective. If my arguments about the 2+4 Agreement being the new Versailles Treaty continue to remain valid, the German-speaking world has yet to decide on whether it is interested in abandoning the EU/NATO and help Russia redraw the map of Eastern Europe. Even though I am aware that the political climate in Germany as of late points to the fact that this is far becoming a reality, I am also aware that the EU/NATO is nowhere as powerful as the Jeffersonians would have us to believe. And if one is still not convinced about the issue of legal ambiguities associated with the end of the Cold War, I also have an Imperial Japanese rendition in the works for tomorrow.

Categories: Politics

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  1. Post-Cold War Legal Ambiguities (Pt. II of II) – The Fourth Estate

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