Russia’s tactics in annexing Crimea and destabilising Ukraine have torn up the assumptions, on which the relationship between the West and Russia had been based since the end of the Second World War.
Forcible annexations of neighbouring territory, a reality in the 1930’s, are now a reality again, thanks to what has happened in Crimea.
Power politics, and spheres of influence of great power, have replaced international law and respect for sovereignty, as the motive forces of European security.
As recently as 1994, EU countries, including Britain and France, reached an international agreement with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s frontiers, in return for the non trivial matter of Ukraine abandoning its nuclear weapons, and thereby weakening its deterrent security capacity in an important way. With the annexation of Crimea, that agreement has now been put in the bin.
Already, the EU is visibly divided on how to respond, even though international law on this matter is clear.
On the 1 August 1975, the then Irish Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.