Ishchenko: The Battle for International Justice Depends on Russia


By Rostislav Ishchenko

The UN International Court of Justice in the Hague, the European Court of Human Rights, the arbitration court in Stockholm, and the High Court in London – this is not even a complete list of the instances in which Ukraine has tried to sue Russia, sometimes filing Homeric claims both in terms of the composition of charges and the demanded compensation.

At the same time, one gets the impression that it is not so much winning in court that is in the Kiev authorities’ interests as the court processes themselves.

Even the unexpectedly successful decision of the Stockholm arbitration court on the dispute between Gazprom and Naftogaz in Ukraine resulted in Kiev’s claims being formulated so unsuccessfully that the political bias of the arbitrators was obvious, and this allowed Russia to challenge the verdict and achieve a suspension of its execution until a new consideration.

Similarly, Kiev’s claims of “aggression” and “occupation” of Donbass were rejected last year by the UN International Court of Justice in the Hague. The latter court also refused to decide on the status of the Crimea. In the form of a handout to Ukraine, a resolution was passed obliging Russia to meet the cultural needs of the peninsula’s population, including access to education in Ukrainian, but in Crimea there are already many more opportunities to satisfy Ukrainian cultural and language needs (including education) than there are people desiring such. Nevertheless, this year, Poroshenko announced the filing of such a lawsuit in the very same court.

These processes are of some small importance as information pretexts for the domestic political propaganda and PR of the Kiev authorities. But the fact is that these info-points are already ubiquitous in Ukrainian media, and Ukrainian authorities use other occasionally appearing pretexts so clumsily that it would be better if they didn’t at all.

As for foreign propaganda, Ukraine’s resources are just too poor, and its actors are so unprofessional that they would ruin even the most brilliant opportunities. At the same time, providing legal and information support for lawsuits costs money – and a lot by Ukrainian standards. Only then for things to putter to a stop.

Two questions arise:

  1. Why does Ukraine strain itself so much while knowing that none of this achieves anything? Why does it not try to reverse the situation?
  2. Why does Russia, for the most part (except in very egregious cases), agree to participate in these processes?

Let us make two preliminary remarks.

First of all, Ukrainian politicians and officials are so small-minded that they would not be able to come up with, develop and implement a plan for a judicial war against Russia on their own. This does not mean that they were ordered to start such a war. Legends of all-powerful “curators” remain legends for the marginalized, and in fact, even the leaders of Bantustans and protectorates, as a rule, are not ordered, but only delicately advised. For example, they ask: “why don’t you use such an excellent mechanism of struggle as international courts? Here, for example.” Then follows a tale of how someone, somewhere won some process against someone else and everyone lived happily ever after and died together on the same day. Then the natives begin to stir and awe at how this wonderful idea came into their unburdened-by-intelligence brains as if the result of long reflections “on the destiny of the Motherland and the revolution.”

Secondly, Europe has never been united when it comes to Ukrainian judicial operations. If the Eastern European border states have overall morally supported Kiev and even thought about suing Russia themselves – say, for some “Soviet occupation” in 1944 or 1945 – then the leaders of the EU, France and Germany, joined by Italy, have tried to convince Kiev that they shouldn’t try to negotiate within the Normandy Format on the one hand only to, on the other, aggravate the situation with senseless court provocations.

But since Ukraine never planned on regulating relations with Russia, much less carry out the Minsk Agreements, the counseling of “old Europe” has fallen on deaf ears.

It is clear that in this situation, it is the Americans that have the right to be proud of authoring the idea of a judicial war against Russia. They told Kiev to do so and have largely neutralized pressure from the EU by conflicting the Franco-German position with their vassals in Eastern Europe.

Even the illusion of having anything to sue for was organized by the United States (no other country in the world has the capacity to convince judges of the Stockholm arbitration of the desirability to make an obviously illegal, politically motivated decision in favor of Naftogaz).

But the question remains: why the United States? The answer is right on the surface.

Let us remember that the United States’ destruction of the existing system of international relations (political, diplomatic, military, trade, economic, financial) began before Trump. Unable to maintain control over the globalized world, they, after 2008, moved to systematically, step-by-step unleash chaos which first eroded countries, then regions, and finally international organizations forming the backbone of current International relations.

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But the US has never wanted to take responsibility for the destruction of the current world order. They have happily pinned the blame for such on Islamist radicals, the “Axis of evil”, the dethroned “Arab spring”, “dictatorial regimes”, “Russian ambitions”, the “Iranian threat”, “Chinese expansion”, etc. Sometimes this has been successful, but often not. But this did not stop the thinking heads, the “creative ones” in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international justice system has always irritated the US. They want to be the judges themselves and be beyond the jurisdiction of others. But if earlier this posed only a little trouble, then now that Washington has been sharply weakened, this system has become a threat.

The hypothetical possibility of American politicians and military men being forcibly transferred to the Hague and indicted in international criminal court may still seem exotic to many, but it is no longer something entirely impossible. International financial and economic sanctions against the United States, American companies, and individual politicians have also ceased to belong to the realm of fiction.

Control over the international justice system is slowly but surely leaving the hands of the United States, and in three to five years (time is fast) it could become a threat to America and its leaders.

Therefore, as part of the Americans’ general dismantling of the system of international law and chaotic control of the world, the international courts are to be destroyed. There can be no international justice when, as the US intends, international law should disappear.

I repeat: the first obvious moves to dismantle the existing global system began under Obama. Trump is continuing this line. He has changed the tactics and is acting more impudently and openly. But this is the inevitable result of the fact that the Americans have lost control over time. They are already working on borrowed time and have to make it before the Zeitnot.

If we look at Ukraine’s actions through the prism of US interests, then we find that Kiev is simply provoking Russia into refusing to recognize the legitimacy of international legal proceedings. This is the purpose of the absurd lawsuits and demands for Homeric compensation for something that did not exist. The United States, for its part, by organizing decisions like that in Stockholm, is hinting that Moscow should not rely on justice.

If Russia does not refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of international courts, then Russia will sentenced grandiose payments in the most unrealistic cases. In the end, Russia could be blamed for the existence of the dark side of the moon. You never know what else. But as soon as Russia refuses to accept the jurisdiction of international courts, then Russia will be held responsible for dismantling the international justice system.

For now, Moscow is confidently deflecting blows in all courts, have sustained only one blow (in Stockholm), one which was by no means fatal. Two things are working on Russia.

First, the judges understand that if they make manifestly unjust decisions, their court will lose international status. A new court with different judges may be elected from the existing national courts to resolve political problems and to resolve economic disputes.

The states on whose territory the courts and arbitration courts considering economic disputes reside, are also not eager to lose this source of political prestige and income, and therefore do not approve of the political partisanship of judges.

But this factor would not be able to work in full force if it weren’t for the second factor.

The US has obviously weakened and is continuing to lose ground. Meanwhile, the countries they have declared their enemies are growing stronger. States, politicians, and judges cannot ignore this factor. The “brave new world”, in which the victors can bring Washington’s all too ardent minions to justice, is already quite tangible.

Prudent people think about their future. Only Ukrainian politicians, who have no future and for whom it is better to forget the past, hope with such perseverance of the doomed for the miracle that American interests will play out.

**Rostislav Ishchenko, translated by Jafe Arnold from Alternatio**

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