Western powers are denouncing Russia’s incursion into Crimea as a violation of at least three separate international agreements as well as a long-standing military base lease agreement with Ukraine.
Russian officials, meanwhile, have countered that their troop movements are intended to uphold the international “responsibility to protect” doctrine.
Here is a brief summary of what those accords – and the Moscow-invoked doctrine – commit the signing parties to uphold.
Helsinki Accords(1975) – Signed by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and U.S. president Gerald Ford, the Accords bind member countries to 10 principles known as the Helsinki Decalogue. Among the pledges the signatories made was to respect the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations as well as a vow to refrain from making threats or using force against other states.
Budapest Memorandum(1994) – The leaders of the U.S., U.K. and Russia promised to respect the sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine in return for Ukraine surrendering its nuclear arsenal. The Memorandum also states that signatories will seek help from the United Nations Security Council if Ukraine is victim to an act of aggression. Leaders in Kiev assert that Russia’s advancement into Crimea is a direct violation of the agreement.
The United Nations Charter(1945) – Articles 1 and 2 of the wide-ranging agreement compel member countries to refrain from threatening or using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Both U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have stated that Russia’s actions defy the Charter.
Russia-Ukraine Military Base Agreement(1997) – Russia has headquartered its Black Sea naval fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol for over two centuries. In recent years, the two countries have operated under a lease agreement that requires Moscow to apprise Kiev of all troop movements to and from the base, a condition Russia has breached, according to Ukrainian officials.
The Responsibility to Protect(2005) – Adopted as UN norm, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) refers to the duty of the international community to protect all citizens from genocide and other mass atrocities. It gives the “larger community of states” the leeway to intervene in a sovereign state’s affairs as a final measure to protect a population at risk. Russia has said its Crimean operation is justified under the R2P doctrine because it is intended to protect ethnic Russians within Ukraine’s borders. Ukrainian officials argue that ethnic Russians have not been endangered during the country’s recent crisis.