Does International Law Stop Crimea from Holding a Referendum Or Not?

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Obama said “The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law.”

Does he mean that voting itself would violate the Constitution and international law? He cannot mean that, yet that seems to be what he said. Why can’t he mean that? It’s because nothing in any law prevents the people of a republic or of a political grouping from voting on a vital issue like their political affiliations. If the 13 united States of America could issue a Declaration of Independence that actually declared a new political arrangement, severing ties with the British Crown and altering their allegiance in no uncertain terms, surely Crimeans have a right to take a vote on a possible alteration of their political ties! If Obama were alive in 1776, he’d apparently be a Tory declaring that the Declaration was out of order, violating the sovereignty of the Crown.

If Crimeans have no speech rights and assembly rights that can be exercised through a referendum, what is their status? Are they prevented from making known their political will? Is this what Obama is saying?

Are the Crimeans politically bound to a constitution of Ukraine that has been decimated by an illegitimate seizure of government? Is this what Obama is saying? It seems he is. But to whom are they supposed to be bound, to an illegitimate government?

As for international law, much of it is based on consent of a country. Much of it is in the eye of the beholder, unsettled, and subject to varied opinions that depend on the specifics of any given case or situation. There is no way that such a body of thought can stop Crimeans from expressing their political preferences by referendum if they wish.

If the Crimeans and Ukrainians cannot themselves decide on their relations and how to treat the information that will be generated about consent that comes out of the forthcoming referendum, then who is there to decide? Do Obama and a few other elected officials from outside Ukraine presume to don the robes of judges and declare that they are the “international community” and that they know what’s good for Ukraine and Crimea? It appears that this undemocratic stance is precisely what Obama is declaring. There seems no way of not concluding that Obama, were he in 1776, would be a Tory, a Royalist, and one of the King’s Men. He is the same in 2014 because he sees himself apparently as that King, without naming himself as such.

Obama has already presumed to decide much by his statement. What kind of law is international law if it’s implemented in such a manner that it pays no attention to the facts of the case and works through high-handed procedures, threats and pressures?

In an earlier post that showed the past political relations of Crimea to Ukraine, I made no comment. I left it to the reader to realize that this question had troubled these peoples since 1991. They had gone back and forth on possible options a number of times. The current situation is not really completely new at all. The revolution has spurred it. Obama is ignoring this history.

If Louis XVI of France in 1776, prior to the Declaration’s issuance in America had called in the press and declared that the issuance of such a Declaration would violate the standing political relations of the 13 colonies to their British mother country, the idea being that such a Declaration was somehow illegal and out of order, would the colonists have retreated from its issuance? Or would they have said that they have every right to make such a statement? Why shouldn’t Crimeans in a like situation press ahead with their referendum? Why shouldn’t they ignore Obama’s opinion, which to them has to be seen as both irrelevant and disrespectful of their rights?

7:24 pm on March 8, 2014