Rein Muellerson: My question is to President Putin. In your speech, you mentioned Catalonia. My observations suggest that, normally, independence is achieved then and there, where some major powers or at least regional players are interested in this independence or in case no one pays attention to this.
In your speech in March 2014 with respect to Crimea, where, by the way, I was a month ago and I must say I really enjoyed it, you cited the advisory opinion of the International Court on Kosovo. The declaration of Kosovo's independence indeed violates international law. The aerial bombings of Serbia due to Kosovo were also in breach of international law.
It seems to me that Kosovo opened up Pandora's box. The independence of the Kurds in Iraq meets the aspirations of no one but the Kurds and perhaps also the Israeli interests. However, this is not enough. The whole of Europe and the European Union are worried about Catalan independence. Madrid is using force, relatively moderate force, against supporters of an independent Catalonia.
My question to you is as follows. Apart from following the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, how could Russia help resolve similar conflicts so as, on the one hand, not to encourage the “parade of sovereignties,” while, on the other hand, helping ethnic groups and minorities, whose aspirations are not met by the authorities? What would be Russia's position in such cases?
One thing I cannot help mentioning. You spoke of the “turbulent” 90s and I recalled how Andrei Kozyrev once told President Nixon that Russia had no national interests, only common human interests. Nixon shook his head.
Vladimir Putin: This shows that Nixon has a head, while Mr Kozyrev, unfortunately, has not. He has a cranium but no head as such.
As for the “parade of sovereignties,” as you said, and our attitude towards this… Actually, I believe, on a global scale, the creation of mono-ethnic states is not a panacea against possible conflicts, but just the opposite. Because after various partitions and sovereignties, the creation of mono-ethnic states might lead to clashes in the fight for the realisation of the interests of the newly established mono-ethnic states. That is what is likely to happen.
This is why people who live in a unified state within common boundaries have a greater chance that their state will pursue a balanced policy. Look at Russia. Muslims constitute nearly 10 percent of our population, which is a lot. They are not foreigners or migrants. Russia is their only homeland, and they see it as their homeland. What has this encouraged us to do? I suggested that we seek observer status at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. This influences our domestic and foreign policies, and makes our policy better balanced and attentive to this part of the international community. The same is true for other countries.
As for the ruling of the UN court, I have it. I did not cite it so as not to waste your time. I read the ruling because I knew that we would touch on this matter. You are experts, and so you know everything about it. However, I would like to remind you. On November 8, 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 63/3. Question: Does the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s temporary institutions comply with international law? This question was forwarded to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
On July 22, 2010, after two years of deliberations, the Hague Court issued an Advisory Opinion that the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on February 17, 2008 did not violate international law. The court ruling concerns not just Kosovo, but also the applicability of international law to the declaration of independence by any part of any state in principle. In this sense, you are absolutely right that this broad interpretation does not apply to Kosovo. It was a ruling that opened Pandora’s box. Yes, you are absolutely right about this. Bull’s eye.
Look at what the court ruling of July 22, 2010, says. Paragraph 79: “The practice of States in these latter cases does not point to the emergence in international law of a new rule prohibiting the making of a declaration of independence in such cases.” Paragraph 81: “No general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence may be inferred from the practice of the [UN] Security Council.” Paragraph 84: “the Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence. Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law.” Here it is, in black and white.
How all the Western countries pushed for it and pressurised this International Court in the Hague! We know for certain that the US had a written recommendation for the International Court. The State Department wrote, “The principle of territorial integrity does not exclude the establishment of new states in the territory of existing states.” Below: “Declarations of independence can (and often do) violate domestic legislation. However, this does not mean that it is a violation of international law.” Further, “In many cases, including Kosovo, the circumstances of the Declaration of Independence can mean fundamental respect of international law on the part of the new state.”
Germany: “This is a matter of peoples’ right to self-determination. International law pertaining to the territorial integrity of states does not apply to such peoples.” They decided to declare independence, well, good for them. And the integrity principles do not apply to this state.
The United Kingdom: “Secession, or the declaration of independence, does not contradict international law in itself.”
France: “It (international law) does not allow, but does not forbid it (secession or separation) in general.” So here you are.
Then there was the reaction to this Court ruling. Here is what Ms Clinton wrote (somebody may have worked with her) after the ruling: “Kosovo is an independent state, and its territory is inviolable. We call on all states not to become overly focused on Kosovo’s status and make their own constructive contribution to supporting peace and stability in the Balkans. We urge the countries that have not yet recognised Kosovo to do so.”
Germany: “The consultative ruling of the International Court confirms our legal assessment of the legitimacy of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. It reinforces our opinion that the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo are undeniable.”
France: “The independence of Kosovo is irreversible. The ruling of the International Court, which terminated the legal debates on the matter, has become a milestone and will allow all parties to dedicate themselves to other important issues to be resolved.”
Now, “other important issues” have arisen today, and today, when these “other important issues” have arisen, including in Catalonia, nobody likes it. Nobody! This is exactly what I called double standards. This example is the Pandora’s box that has been opened, and the genie that was let out of the bottle.
What is our position on this case? I said, I was saying, if you listened carefully, I was saying that we hoped that the problem would be resolved based on Spanish legislation and Constitution. I believe this is the end of it. The end of it. However, of course, we have to be careful in such issues and very sensitive to everything that is going on. We hope that everything will be resolved within the framework of democratic institutions and procedures; there will be no more political prisoners and so on. However, this is an internal issue of a country. I think this is enough.