Home / Global Governance and Human Rights / Perfidious Putin and the R2P Straw Man
As declared by Russia Today, Russian troops were deployed to Crimea ‘only to protect human rights’. The Crimean issue unfolding at present was compared to the secession of Kosovo, and daring to deny the illusory similarities between these two wildly different conflicts is described as ‘rewriting the rulebook’ on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine.

Perfidious Putin and the R2P Straw Man

R2P dictates that any use of force is regulated by four precautionary principles: right intention, last resort, proportional means and reasonable prospect in combination with just cause and right authority. On intention, given the lack of a credible genocidal or similar threat to the ethnic Russians in Crimea, it is difficult to see what ‘right intention’ the Russians would have in occupying Crimea at this time.

R2P also requires that military, economic, political and diplomatic sanctions must have failed before the use of force is permissible. This is actually the reverse of what is happening, as Russia started with an invasion and is now looking at other options, including sanctions, as a response to the sanctions imposed on it for its invasion.

This incursion can hardly be said to be proportionate either. Against what would we be measuring proportionality? Against the nonexistent threat to ethnic Russians in Crimea? Against the nonexistent genocidal regime’s forces bombarding Russian civilians?

The intervention must have a reasonable prospect of success before it is undertaken for it to be permissible under R2P. This is an interesting tenet to discuss, as it depends on the objectives any would-be intervener might be seeking to achieve. There is little question that Russia faces better than reasonable prospects of success with intervention, if their objective is to use first military force and then, secondly, clever politicking to annex the Crimea.

However, if the objective is more in line with traditional humanitarian intervention, that of averting some humanitarian crisis and minimising harm to civilians, this intervention could well be counterproductive. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has already caused civil unrest and has even led to the deaths of two people in Kharkiv[14] and one person in Donetsk[15].

In conclusion, Russia’s invocation of R2P as a way of rendering its incursion into Crimea legitimate is not valid. It is at best a disingenuous interpretation of the doctrine and at worst a cynical attempt to hide a new Russian expansionism behind a cloak of humanitarianism and must be rejected and challenged with the full force of the international community.

The fate of R2P as either a tyrant’s rubber stamp or a shield of the vulnerable rests now in the hands of the West and whether or not they choose to accept this brazen assault on international law and our common values.

[1] http://rt.com/news/lavrov-human-rights-ukraine-542/

[2] http://rt.com/news/putin-address-parliament-crimea-562/

[3] http://www.who.int/hiv/universalaccess2010/worldsummit.pdf

[4] http://www.dw.de/crimea-a-breach-of-international-law/a-17483425

[5] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/14/urkaine-crisis-russia-east-idUSL6N0MB1KN20140314

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8838644/Muammar-Gaddafi-in-his-own-words.html

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12544624


[9] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/world/europe/for-crimea-secession-is-only-as-good-as-recognition.html?_r=0

[10] http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_03_06/Crimea-and-Kosovo-whats-the-difference-9908/

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/world/europe/for-crimea-secession-is-only-as-good-as-recognition.html?_r=0

[12] http://www.dw.de/opinion-crimea-is-not-kosovo/a-17497282

[13] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/world/europe/for-crimea-secession-is-only-as-good-as-recognition.html?_r=0

[14] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-crisis-two-dead-in-kharkiv-shootout-ahead-of-crimea-referendum-9194291.html

[15] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/13/us-ukraine-crisis-donetsk-idUSBREA2C20Z20140313

Simon Schofield is contactable at: Simon.Schofield@hscentre.org

Dwayne Menezes is contactable at: Dwayne.Menezes@hscentre.org

Please cite this article as:

Menezes, D. and Schofield, S (2014) ‘Perfidious Putin and the R2P Straw Man’. Human Security Centre Global Governance, Issue 1, No. 2.

About Dwayne Menezes and Simon Schofield

Dwayne Ryan Menezes is the HSC's Director of Strategic Partnerships. Simon Schofield is a Senior Fellow and Senior Communications Assistant to the Chief Executive.