MOSCOW, October 3 (RIA Novosti) – The United States and US President Barack Obama personally forced the European Union members to introduce sanctions against Russian over its stance on the Ukrainian crisis, US Vice President Joe Biden announced.
Washington rallied “the world’s most developed countries to impose real cost on Russia” and introduce restrictive measures against Moscow, Biden said at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on Thursday.
“It is true – they did not want to do that but again it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oftentimes almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose cost,” the vice president said.
“We don’t want Russia to collapse, we want Russia to succeed,” Biden added.
The relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated amid the Ukrainian crisis, as Washington kept blaming Moscow for meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
Over the past few months, the United States has introduced several rounds of economic sanctions against Russia, with its allies later following the move and drawing up their own blacklists.
In response to western sanctions, in August, Moscow implemented a one-year ban on certain food imports from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.
Why EU Sanctions Are Illegal and Why That Won’t Change Anything
The EU repeatedly boasts of its commitment to the rule of law. In reality, the legal basis of the sanctions it has imposed on Russia is extremely dubious. However, past experience shows that even when the EU’s own courts declare sanctions illegal, the EU, despite its fulsome proclamations, simply carries on with them anyway.
There is only one international body that is authorised under international law to impose sanctions: the Security Council of the United Nations. Its authority to impose sanctions is clearly set out in Article 41 of the UN Charter, which reads as follows:
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
Any decision by the UN Security Council to impose sanctions under Article 41 has the force of law. UN Member States (including the states that make up the EU) are legally bound to enforce them.
The EU has no international legal authority to impose sanctions without obtaining a mandate from the Security Council. Doing so challenges the authority of the Security Council to impose sanctions. It also violates the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
The EU nonetheless claimed for itself this power in a 2004 position paper:
If necessary, the Council will impose autonomous EU sanctions in support of efforts to fight terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, as a restrictive measure, to uphold respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance. We will do this in accordance with our common foreign and security policy, as set out in Article 11 TEU, and in full conformity with our obligations under international law.
The position paper however fails to explain the legal basis upon which the EU claims this power. It refers to Article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union. This is has been replaced by Articles 21 and 24 of the amended Treaty on the European Union. Neither the original Article 11 nor Articles 21 and 24 of the amended Treaty on the European Union, however, refer to sanctions.
Reference is sometimes also made to Article 28 of the Treaty on the European Union, which reads:
Where the international situation requires operational action by the Union, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions. They shall lay down their objectives, scope, the means to be made available to the Union, if necessary their duration, and the conditions for their implementation.
Reference is also made to Article 215 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which says:
Where a decision, adopted in accordance with Chapter 2 of Title V of the Treaty on European Union, provides for the interruption or reduction, in part or completely, of economic and financial relations with one or more third countries, the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a joint proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission, shall adopt the necessary measures.
None of these provisions however say the EU has the power to impose sanctions without a mandate from the Security Council.
The EU says the sanctions it imposes are intended to influence policy rather than punish people. In the words of an EU guidance document:
Sanctions are an instrument of a diplomatic or economic nature which seek to bring about a change in activities or policies such as violations of international law or human rights, or policies that do not respect the rule of law or democratic principles.
The same document goes on to say that EU sanctions must respect human rights and fundamentals freedoms.
The EU has, however, sanctioned Russian businesses and individuals who play no part in deciding Russian policy. It is impossible to see these sanctions as anything other than a punishment. As such, they appear to violate the principle that there should be no punishment without law. In the case of the journalist Dmitry Kiselyov, the violation of human rights looks even worse since it seems he is being punished for his opinions, contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
No one however should be under any illusions. The EU, for all its boastful claims about upholding the rule of law, will not allow mere concerns about legality to stand in its way. Consider what happened when the EU imposed sanctions on various people in Iran. In a series of Judgments, the European Court of Justice – the EU’s own court – ruled many of these sanctions illegal. These Judgments were enthusiastically welcomed in Iran, which assumed the EU actually cared as much about the rule of law as it says it does. In fact, the EU simply overrode the Judgments by re-imposing the same sanctions on the same individuals, on a slightly different basis.
One hardly needs to guess how the EU would react if Iran or Russia were to do the same thing.
EU Failed Again to Break ‘Vicious’ Sanctions Circle: Russia’s EU Envoy
The European Union has failed again to break the vicious circle of sanction mentality by refusing to lift the current sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said Tuesday.
The European Union on Tuesday decided keep in place economic sanctions on Russia over its alleged backing of independence supporters in eastern Ukraine despite some “encouraging developments” in the situation.
“Unfortunately, it is still not happening, despite mounting signals indicating EU’s attempts to look at the prospects and review the strategy of development of relations with Russia,” Chizhov said, commenting on the EU decision.
“Let’s see how our partners will act in the future, but at present we are not really ‘inspired’ by their behavior,” the diplomat said, adding that the EU would most likely return to the discussion of the issue at the end of October.
The European Union, alongside the United States, has introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, an allegation Moscow has repeatedly denied. The latest batch of sanctions targeted Russian energy and defense companies, as well as certain individuals.
On September 25, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union High Representative, said the economic sanctions against Russia could be lifted if the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine holds.
On September 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said ultimatums were an inefficient way of communicating with Russia, a country open to cooperation. Moscow also said that sanctions posed a threat to international peace and stability and contradicted the principles of international law.
Czech President Urges to Lift Russian Sanctions, Fight Islamic State
Czech President Milos Zeman urged during the 12th Rhodes Forum Friday to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia and to combine the efforts of developed countries to confront the real enemy – international terrorism and the dangers of the Islamic state (IS) plans.
“We need to lift the sanctions, which are not only useless, but also cause the opposite effect and prevent dialogue … We need to develop … the dialogue based on the exchange in the fields of religion, capital and information. We have to fight international terrorism,” Zeman said.
The president recalled that long-term sanctions against Cuba only strengthened the Castro regime. The European Union and the United States have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, a claim Moscow has repeatedly denied.
The main contemporary problem, according to Zeman, is not the Ukrainian crisis but international terrorism. It originates in states with no real government, such as Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria, he said.
“There is a danger … it’s called the Islamic State,” Zeman stated. He also said that the plans of the IS to occupy vast territories of Central Asia and even Europe may sound “crazy” just like Hitler’s plans, which were also initially considered to be “crazy”.
The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting against Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the group extended its attacks to northern and western Iraq, declaring a caliphate on the territories over which it had control.
Alexander Mercouris is a London-based lawyer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.