Referendum in Crimea

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The results of the referendum have confirmed the will of a majority of the Crimean population to join Russia. They also confirmed the incapacity of our leaders, be they of France, the EU or the United States, to grasp the nature of this vote. In the following text, we are bringing back to mind a few important points.

  1. Crimea was administratively re-attributed from Russia to Ukraine in the framework of the USSR in 1954. This happened without any vote of the populations concerned. When the USSR was dissolved in 1991, it was admitted that Crimea would remain in Ukraine, on condition  of the recognition of its statute as an autonomous republic, and of the respect of the constitution.
  2. There occurred, after February 21, 2014, an interruption in the constitutional order in Ukraine. This is recognized by the Western countries which qualify the government as “revolutionary.” This state of affairs derives above all from the fact that no qualified authority (the Constitutional Court having been dissolved by the new power) has recorded the vacancy of power. The new government is moreover far from representing all Ukrainians, as one could have logically expected. It is therefore a de facto authority.
  3. As a result, the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea have considered that this created a new situation, in which the rights of Crimea were no longer guaranteed, and have decided to hold a referendum on March 16. Their decision is therefore a reaction to the rupture of the constitutional order in Kiev. It is neither legal nor illegal, as far as the constitutional order no longer exists. To qualify the referendum as illegal from the standpoint of Ukrainian law is then profoundly silly and shows on the part of leaders who use this argument a total incomprehension of the principles of Law.
  1. From the standpoint of International Law, two principles are in opposition: the intangibility of borders and the right of peoples to dispose of themselves. If the countries which today are opposing the referendum had put pressure to bear on the government of Kiev to hand over its power to a government of national concord, including all parties involved, they would have had some right to put forward the principle of intangibility. But, having chosen to recognize unilaterally a government representing only part of the population, they can no longer use this argument without contravening directly to the second argument, the one of the right of the peoples. The argument of illegality from the standpoint of International Law then falls by itself, because of the failure of the countries putting forward this argument to assert the necessity of a government of national concord in Ukraine which alone, together with a constituant assembly, would have been able to offer a legal outcome to this crisis.
  2. Under these conditions, the only possible attitude was to demand the presence of official observers for this referendum. This seems not to have been done. The observers (deputies of the European Parliament) present are such, therefore, in their own personal quality. They say that they didn’t notice anything scandalous. This still leaves some doubt hovering above the conditions in which the vote was held, but as the doubt originates with the attitude of the Western countries themselves, it must profit the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This vote, judging by the facts, seems to have taken place in conditions habitual for Ukraine.
  3. One will notice, in the case of France, that the leaders who today contest the referendum in Ukraine are the same who did not want to recognize the results of the referendum of 2005 in France and have replaced it by a treaty (the Treaty of Lisbon) which was not submitted to the people. These same leaders have accepted the referendum separating Mayotte from the Comores Islands and tying this island to France. These two facts underline that the legitimacy of the position of these leaders on the question of the referendum in Crimea could easily be put in doubt.
  4. We must now look forward. There can be no doubt that Russia will recognize the referendum even if – in theory – it can still refuse the adhesion of Crimea. The problem which will come up in the weeks to come is the one of the provinces of the East of Ukraine, where fatal incidents are multiplying. Any attempt to impose a solution by force risks bringing about a civil war. It is urgent therefore that all parties involved in this crisis, and this counts for the European countries as well as for Russia, exert a joined pressure on the authorities in Kiev so that they constitute a government of national concord bringing together all parties, that they disarm extremist groups and that they set afoot elections to a constituent assembly. The signature of any international accord by the present government could only engage itself. The European Union would contravene to International Law if it were to sign with it any kind of a treaty.


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.