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Why Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 Was Legal

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Date: Friday, 03 March 2023

Why Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 Was Legal

Eric Zuesse

Under international law, “aggression” (or “aggressive war”) has never yet been defined so as to separate it clearly from “defensive war” (or “defense”), and this murkiness is the U.N.’s most fundamental failure to-date, because the U.N. was supposed to have been formed in order to prevent a World War Three (WW III), which is impossible to do unless the meaning of “defense” is clear and defense is clearly legal, and the meaning of “aggression” is clear and aggression is clearly illegal; but, a definition is here employed in which “aggression” is anything that endangers a country’s existence or sovereignty over its legal territory, and “defense” is anything that is provoked by (i.e., in response to) “aggression” and that consequently has been forced upon a country as the only reasonable alternative to allowing itself to be taken over by an “aggressor” country. In this definition (a reasonable and practical definition — as opposed to the U.N.’s absence of any definition), “aggression” can be perpetrated by any means, not ONLY military, but also by such means as a coup, or international subversion, or illegal international sanctions — any means whatsoever that can be used in order to seize control over another country (i.e., over a different sovereign nation’s Government). The U.S. Government has always opposed any definition of “aggression” and has always refused even to consider any proposed definition of it that would include anything else than military aggression, because America routinely uses non-military forms of aggression (such as coups, and sanctions) and demands to be always able to continue to do so without being called an “aggressor.” This is simply a fact, and is the reason why the U.N. is nothing more than a talking-forum and a sump for refugees and any other problems that powerful countries intend to give only lip-service to addressing — it has no significant international power at all. (NOTE: Anyone who doubts that the U.N. has utterly failed to define “aggression” will see in the final paragraph here — which will be entirely in parentheses — a discussion of the U.N.’s absurd, even outright circular, latest formal proposal to deal with that matter.) 

The war in Ukraine is further complicated in international law because clearly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 constitutes a danger to Ukraine’s sovereignty; but the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis established a fundamental case-law precedent thereafter, by means of which any major international power — in that instance the United States — has a right in international law to prevent any nearby nation from being able to be used by another major international power — in that instance the Soviet Union — to position military forces there that endanger the national security or sovereignty of a major power (in that instance of the United States); and, consequently, the U.S. Government was behaving defensively (against the Soviet Union), instead of aggressively (against Cuba), when it restricted Cuba’s Government from enabling the Soviet Government to position its forces (specifically its nuclear forces) on that island. (As Scott Ritter has explained, JFK at that time was actually acting under an even earlier instance of this principle, the 1837 Caroline Precedent, when Britain pre-emptively attacked a U.S. vessel that was about to invade Canada.)

What will be argued here is that that international legal precedent applies universally in international law, and that the war in Ukraine was started by the U.S. Government by means of its coup in Ukraine which replaced an authentically neutral Government there by a rabidly anti-Russian government there (that possessed and possesses no legitimacy even under Ukraine’s Constitution at that time), and that Russia’s Government consequently has an international-law right to take control over Ukraine’s Government in order for Russia to be able to protect itself against America’s Government — which is the aggressor here; Russia is the defender of its own sovereign territory; and Ukraine is merely the battlefield upon which this war between the aggressor America and the defender Russia is being waged.

Since the topic here is international law, not any national law, only national Governments are involved; and this means that a civil war, or war within a country, is NOT even possibly a matter that the U.N. can reasonably become involved in or have any authority to make pronouncements about. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who invented the U.N., did it with that aim — clear separation of international law from national law — in mind, but his immediate successor, who designed the U.N., nullified that and some other aspects of FDR’s plan for the U.N. This is the reason why the U.N. fails. Truman was determined that the U.S. Government itself will ultimately take control over the entire world.)

The documentation of each step in this case is immediately accessible to the reader simply by clicking onto the links in it at any point where the reader wants to see what the evidence for the given allegation there is:

On 8 February 2010, Britain’s Guardian headlined “Yanukovych set to become president as observers say Ukraine election was fair”.

On 12 April 2010 was reported in Ukraine that, 

The president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych met in Washington with the American counterpart Barack Obama.

On the Ukrainian side, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Konstantin Grishchenko, Minister for fuel and Energy Yurii Boyko, head of the presidential administration Serhiy Lovochkin, deputies head of the administration Hanna Herman and Yuri Lacnyy were also taking part in the meeting.

The American side represents Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, national security advisor to the U.S. President James Jones, senior director of the U.S. National Security Council on non-proliferation Laura Holgate.

On 2 July 2010, Clinton again met privately with Yanukovych, this time in Kiev; and, on this occasion, spoke publicly about the meeting, and said that while the United States supported Ukraine’s independence, “the United States welcomes Ukrainian parliament's decision to approve foreign military exercises on Ukrainian territory in 2010 and we thank Ukraine and the Ukrainian people for your important contributions to NATO and other international security operations,” which means that the U.S. Government actually did not support Ukraine’s independence but instead wanted Ukraine to join its NATO military alliance that had repeatedly rejected Russia’s requests to apply to join it. The U.S. wanted Russia’s bordering nations in NATO, but not Russia itself. Apparently, Yanukovych again said no. That doomed him.

By no later than June 2011, the United States Government commenced its planning for the coup that occurred in Ukraine in February 2014. 

By no later than 1 March 2013, the U.S. Government in its Embassy in Ukraine, started training members of the far-right Svoboda and Right Sector political organizations in Ukraine how to use the internet in order to raise a crowd to demonstrate against Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yanukovych, to demand his removal from office.

On 14 April 2014, an article was published in the Polish NIE investigative-journalism magazine saying that in the months prior to Yanukovych’s overthrow, especially during the spring of 2013, paramilitaries of Ukraine’s Right Sector organization were training secretly in Poland, under the direction of America’s CIA, and Poland’s Government.

By no later than June 2013, the U.S. Government began soliciting for Pentagon-authorized U.S. contractors to convert a school in Sevastopol Crimea, in Ukraine, near Russia’s largest naval base, which is there. This was while Yanukovych was still in office, when the U.S. had no business in Crimea.

On 19 November 2013, Yanukovych was informed the results by Ukraine’s Academy of Sciences, of its analysis which he had requested, of the EU’s offer to Ukraine to join the EU, which found that it required an up-front expenditure by Ukraine of $160 billion, which Ukraine did not have and the EU refused to supply. So, whomever designed the EU’s proposal knew, in advance, that Yanukovych would turn it down. That was to become the pretext for overthrowing him. It had been set up in advance.

On 20 November 2013, the Maidan square anti-Yanukovych public demonstrations began. They were led by Andrei Parubiy (“the Commandant of Maidan”), one of the two co-founders of the Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine, which the CIA had advised to change its name from that Nazi-inspired one, to the “Freedom” or Svoboda Party — which they did. Parubiy's 2nd-in-command was the founder of the Right Sector Party, Dmitriy Yarosh, who organized the U.S.-backed paramilitaries there that had been trained in Ukraine and in Poland.

The coup itself occurred during 20-27 February 2014; and here (and its transcript is here) is its smoking-gun evidence that it was a U.S. coup; and there is proof that even the EU’s Foreign Affairs Minister at the time, Catherine Ashton, did not know that it had been any coup at all until her investigator in Kiev reported back to her on 26 February 2014 that it had been. (Here is that phone-conversation, and here is its transcript.) So: Obama had kept the operation secret even from her. (In fact, Obama’s designer of the coup, Victoria Nuland, in that smoking-gun phone-call, said “Fuck the EU”: the EU were vassal-nations of the U.S. empire, and so didn’t need to understand what was happening.)

At that time, and throughout the post-Soviet history of polling of Ukrainains regarding their attitudes toward the EU and especially toward NATO, that attitude was around two-to-one that NATO was an enemy of Ukrainians, and economic relations east of Ukraine were more important to Ukraine than economic relations west of Ukraine (the EU) were; but this situation reversed itself virtually overnight after America’s 20-27 February 2014 coup; but, still, in Crimea and Ukraine’s southeast, NATO and the U.S. were viewed overwhelmingly as enemies, not friends — and the U.S. Government itself knew this because it had commissioned some of those polls. Nonetheless: the U.S. Government insisted that Ukraine must treat as “terrorists” and ethnically cleanse away any residents in those increasingly breakaway regions who refused to accept the U.S.-imposed rulers as being their rulers. And this was done, starting on 15 April 2014: the war against the breakaway-supporters was officially labeled, by the new coup-government, an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” or “ATO” for short. The voters for Yanukovich had to be cleared out, killed and/or escaped into adjoining Russia, so that anti-Russian politicians would win future Ukrainian elections, and the U.S. Government will continue to control Ukraine.

The United States and its ‘allies’ (colonies, vassal-nations) insist upon having the right to place any weapons onto Russia’s borders especially in Ukraine, because ONLY Ukraine borders less than 800 miles from The Kremlin; it borders only 300 miles from it, and is therefore by far the best place for the U.S. Government ultimately to place its missiles, because that would be only five minutes of missile-flying-time away and would therefore constitute its checkmate of Russia’s Government — far too little time in which for The Kremlin to be certain that America had launched them and for the Kremlin thence to launch its retaliatory weapons. This is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse and on steroids.

On 17 December 2021, Russia submitted separately to the U.S. and to NATO extremely reasonable, even necessary, national-security proposals to discuss and negotiate with them, but instead got from both on 7 January 2022 resounding and contemptuous rejections of all of Russia’s national-security concerns. Since what were now clearly Russia’s mortal enemies were not approachable any other way than by means of Russia invading and taking control of Ukraine itself, that is what they did, on 24 February 2023. It was a self-protective act that America and its vassal nations had forced upon Russia, and which was done. This was, and is, essential self-defense, by Russia, against a long and consistent history of U.S.-and-allied aggression.

The reason why the U.N., as presently constituted, is unable to define “aggression” (not only the military forms of it but also and especially the non-military forms, which precede the military forms) is that U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who invented and originally planned a U.N. that would have succeeded, died on 12 April 1945, and the U.N. that we have was instead designed by his immediate successor, Harry Truman, who despised him and wanted the U.S. Government itself to become the ultimate imperial Government — a global dictator — over the entire world, which was a direct contradiction of what FDR had so carefully planned and intended: the U.N. as a federal global democracy of nations, a democratic federal republic of nations, replacing all empires, and in possession of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial powers to do that.

So: whereas we now have (as a direct result of what Truman did) no existing definition of “aggression” and of “defense,” and instead have a chaos in international laws of war, Russia is at least as much in the right, as America would have been in the Cuban Missile Crisis to launch an all-out invasion against Cuba and/or the Soviet Union if the Soviet Union had refused to remove its missiles from Cuba. Russia didn’t launch nuclear war against the U.S., but did launch a conventional war against Ukraine, which was forced upon Russia by the U.S. and NATO decisions to reject on 7 January 2022 Russia’s essential national security demands.

(CLOSING NOTE: The U.N.’s latest formal proposal to address its lack of a definition of “aggression” was on 11 June 2010, and can be seen here. It pertains to the Rome Statute that controls the International Criminal Court (ICC) — a body to which the U.S. Government never joined, so is immune to. It says: “Crime of aggression: 1. For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations. 2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, “act of aggression” means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, qualify as an act of aggression.” Number 1 there entails the phrase “an act of aggression,” and therefore this ‘defintion’ is circular: it defines “aggression” by relying upon a presumedly already defined usage of the word “aggression,” and is therefore blatantly stupid. Number 2 there uses the phrase “inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations,” but the purpose here was supposed to be to give meaning to that term in the Charter. The U.N.’s Charter employs the word “aggression” 3 times: Articles Numbered 1, 39, and 53, but never defines it. That’s the problem here — not a solution to it. However, this definition of “aggression” does pertain to the U.N.-authorized ICC. And this definition does include as examples of “aggression”: Article 8, #2, paragraphs e and f: “(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement; (f) The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State.” Notice that (f) uses the word “aggression” in ‘defining’ “aggression” — yet again that shocking stupidity. However, ignoring that for a moment: (f) clearly describes “aggression” by Ukraine against Russia; (e) describes “aggression” that’s “The use of the armed forces of America which are within the territory of Ukraine with the agreement of Ukraine, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in Ukraine beyond the termination of the agreement” — except that no such “agreement” exists or is known to exist — and if it does exist, then who, precisely, are the “aggressor(s)” supposed to be? It doesn’t say. So: (e) is also stupid. But (f) describes Ukraine’s aggression against Russia (but entails circularity in doing so). Whether (f) also would be categorizing America as being an “aggressor” against Russia is unknown. However, beyond those problems: Nothing in that ICC ‘definition’ of “aggression” would have bearing upon America’s coup against Ukraine in 2014, which was the actual and precipitating initial act of aggression directly against Ukraine and indirectly (but also very powerfully) against Russia (and to which Russia then ultimately responded on 24 February 2022 by its invasion). Furthermore: None of the three nations — America, Russia, and Ukraine — have ratified the Rome Statute that authorizes the ICC; so, none of the three can be prosecuted by the ICC; so, there can be, under the sole entity that the U.N. has authorized to try cases in international criminal law, no prosecution of any of these three. IN CONCLUSION, therefore: It is clear that anyone who alleges that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an international war crime or in any other way a violation of international law is a mere anti-Russia propagandist; and, moreover, even IF all three of these nations had ratified the Rome Statute, the only one that could be prosecuted for having committed an international war-crime, the crime of “aggression,” would be Ukraine, though the ambiguity of (e) might possibly then allow prosecution of America too; but no prosecution could be allowed against Russia, because even then there would be no rational way to interpret anything that Russia has done in this matter as constituting “aggression.” In the U.S.-and-allied countries, it’s all propaganda; and, unfortunately, publics are stupid enough to believe it, so it’s effective.)


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse’s new book, AMERICA’S EMPIRE OF EVIL: Hitler’s Posthumous Victory, and Why the Social Sciences Need to Change, is about how America took over the world after World War II in order to enslave it to U.S.-and-allied billionaires. Their cartels extract the world’s wealth by control of not only their ‘news’ media but the social ‘sciences’ — duping the public.

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