Ukraine crisis and obligations (rant)


There's some bitching about Germany not delivering weapons tot he Ukraine, a country with an ongoing limited defensive war against its neighbour Russian federation and the latter's proxies.

For starters, the legal situation in Germany is such that the delivery of weapons and munitions to the Kurds for their fight against daesh was a very astonishing and extremely unusual move. It may even have been illegal, but I haven't seen any legal studies about this topic.

The British were lauded in contrast to Germany for delivering anti-tank missiles. Lauding the British? Really?

Anti-tank missiles are close to useless for the Ukrainians. Yes, defeating Russian and Russian-delivered tanks was a huge problem for them in the battles and skirmishes of the past years, but this has to be considered in the context of the Russians refraining from using their air force (they only used some small drones for the sake of non-credible deniability). An invasion of the Ukraine by the Russian army forces that the news are about would certainly include air power. Even perfect flawless anti-tank armament would not save the Ukrainians in that case. 

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Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances for Ukraine, which was about Ukraine giving up the nukes it inherited from the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation guaranteed the sovereignty of the Ukraine in its then known borders (with Crimea Ukrainian) in written form, signed and ratified.*


2. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

This means that the Russian Federation under the kleptocrat-in-chief is just as useless a treaty partner as was the U.S. under the lying moron. Anyone doing any deal with them should insist that they deliver first.

- - - - -

So what does the UK have to do when the Ukraine is under attack?

4. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

Meanwhile, I will give you a summary of the German obligations if the Ukraine comes under attack, to the best of my knowledge:

jack shit

- - - - -

Here's my assessment of the crisis:

Putin would have overrun the Ukraine if he meant to. He would have overrun the East Ukraine if he meant to. The Russian Military would not need months of publicly known preparations to overrun the Ukraine. 

To overrun the entire Ukraine would be self-defeating, as the strong Ukrainian nationalism would guarantee a messy guerilla war for years if not decades to come and the West would be incentivised to support it. Overrunning the East Ukraine (where there's a large Russian population) would be self-defeating as well, as the remaining West Ukraine full of Russia-hating Ukrainian nationalists would see NATO troops arriving quickly and would join NATO in record time, right on Moscow's doorstep (by Russian standards).

The troops build-up is a build-up of bargaining chips for a deal and we should not recognise those bargaining chips in order to not reward such aggressive behaviour. Stupid decisions can overcome such reasoning, but the Russian kleptocrat-in-chief proved to be more rational in such cases than the average Western politician so far.

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And if anyone comes with some remarks about German natural gas imports; go stuff yourself with that where the sun don't shine. The topic is more intricate than I've ever seen written in comments here or elsewhere. More intricate by multiple levels. It's like people thinking they make a smart statement when they say a car tastes like hard rubber.



P.S.: I was inaccurate if not misleading in the January link drop when I wrote that the massed Russian troops would not be enough to take on the entire Ukraine. They could smash the regular military, but they could not occupy the entire Ukraine. The Russians needed a ridiculous troops:population ratio to get Chechnya under control. They are just as incompetent at occupations as the Americans and the British are.

*: Not some supposedly petty spoken word as in the supposedly given NATO guarantee to not expand eastward that the usual idiots for Russian propaganda talk about so much. The Budapest Memorandum is an actual signed and ratified, in the manner of a binding treaty.

edit next day: red and crossed text are corrections made today, I'm sorry for the mistake. I'd like to add that France and China gave separate unilateral assurances to the Ukraine, but I did not look up their full texts.

In case someone is appalled by my negligence behind the mistake made: My excuses are "it was a rant and I mentioned that in the title", "I do not get paid for this", "I am just a blogger", "it was late at night", "I have no editor", "it's not terribly common", "at least I corrected it visibly" and "It doesn't really affect the overall picture; it was a rather empty promise that reflects badly on trustworthiness".

Now if someone was to dig up some actual obligations of Germany to assist the Ukraine in this crisis, THAT would seriously embarrass me.



  1. Your take on the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance does not take into account that it is not a legally binding document even in US oppinion.

    And even if it would be legally binding, the Ukrainian government declared what happened in 2014 to be a revolution. It certainly was an illegal taking of power. The continuation of international treaties after revolutions is a topic of itself, but the revolutionary government revoked key obligations, like the obligation of neutrality that Ukraine had.

    So to sum up: The memorandum you mentioned was never legally binding, even if it would have been, it would be void after the events of 2014.

    1. I corrected my mistake about the ratification (which I made because, well, a rant written in one go).

      The assurances given are within the power of the executive branches of the signatory powers, so ratification seems unnecessary.

      The document is legally binding
      and if it was not, it would cast a terrible light on U.S. and UK diplomacy and trustworthiness. I try to limit how much I cover that topic because snowflakes easily perceive pointing fingers at actual misconduct for something else and get needlessly annoying.

      Your take on the effect of revolutions is total nonsense AFAIK.

      The Ukraine did not promise neutrality in this treaty and did not leave the NPT mentioned in the preamble, so that's irrelevant to whether the treaty is still fully in effect or not.

    2. "The Ukraine did not promise neutrality in this treaty and did not leave the NPT mentioned in the preamble, so that's irrelevant to whether the treaty is still fully in effect or not."

      According to the Belovezh Accords, that gave Ukraine independancy, Ukraine has to be, among other things, a neutral state. Ukraine breached that and put the wish to become a Nato member even in its constitution. The Budapest memorandum was signed after the Belovezh Accords and in light of it.

      The USA has publically stated that it is not a legally binding document, see for example what the US embassy in Minsk had to say when Belarus complained about a Breach.

      And note that the Embassy said that BEFORE the events of 2014.

      Its even in the name, its the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances", not the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Guarantees".

    3. @SO :"The document is legally binding"

      No, it is not; specifically the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance was not presented, let alone ratified by the U.S. Senate.

      Let us not get cute, or throw nasty words about: this is not a treaty and has no legal standing in the USA where treaties are ratified by a 2/3rds vote in the Senate.


    4. As mentioned before, the treaty is exclusively about things the executive branch can do in the U.S. without consent of the U.S. Senate. The executive branch enters many binding agreements with foreign countries without senatorial support. To admit that all of them are meaningless would devastate American diplomacy and cooperation.

      Moreover, a written and signed paper is a bigger deal by orders of magnitude than what the pro-Russian side is talking about; a supposedly spoken promise.

      Furthermore, I already linked to a scholarly opinion. I don't doubt that there's dissenting scholarly opinion as well, but so far it's people with fantasy names on the internet versus a subject matter expert.

      Is there anything legally binding about the "Budapest Memorandum" regarding Russia's obligations to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity?

      "That's actually a much more complex question than it may sound. It is binding in international law, but that doesn't mean it has any means of enforcement," says Barry Kellman is a professor of law and director of the International Weapons Control Center at DePaul University's College of Law.

      "The 'Budapest Memorandum' follows the Helsinki Final Act and essentially reiterates its provisions. There are confidence building measures and then a host of other broader obligations – primarily negative obligations. Don't interfere."

      Kellman concludes that there are a host of other sources of international law that oblige Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity -- including the provisions of the CSCE treaty and the UN Charter.

      And in case anyone wants to turn my dismissal of NATO's fake 2% military spending commitment against me; that one goes well beyond the authority of the executive branch to commit to. The Bundestag has the budget authority, not the minister of defence or chancellor.

  2. Russia seems to be trying to deter Ukraine from joining NATO and launching an operation to retake DNR and LNR. This is probably why they were so disturbed with Turkey delivering TB-2s to Ukraine.
    What I wonder is Russia's plan if Ukraine presses on joining NATO anyway.
    Also I don't think it has anything to do with internal politics of Russia. Putin's place is not threatened regardless of what happens in Ukraine. Anglophone media loves reducing the actions of US adversaries to internal politics stunts, which prevents any sane discussion on media platforms in English language.

  3. "Your take on the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance does not take into account that it is not a legally binding document even in US oppinion."

    So you actually want to tell us that Ukraine gave up her nuclear weapons for a piece of toilette paper? Interesting.

    Why did the USA and UK are signatories of such a stunt?

    1. Read my anwser above to SO. If you want more about the "why that way"


      Quote by a Ukrainian foreign minister from that link on page 21:

      “We were seeking from the very
      beginning a legally-binding document.
      But it became obvious very soon
      that neither the United States nor
      Russia would accept a legally-binding
      document... But politically, [the
      Budapest Memorandum] is a very
      important document. I cannot imagine
      the signature of the President of the
      United States be disregarded.”

      There are other important details concerning nuclear weapons, but thats enough from me for now

    2. Assurances or guarantees should not matter to whether it's a binding document. The Ukrainian version actually says guarantees and is also signed anyway.
      Moreover the thing about how the Ukraine wanted more was according to sources I saw primarily about them wanting the US and UK promise military defence in case of aggression, which they did not get, so your translated quote may be mistranslated/misleading.

      The obligation to not wage a war of aggression against the Ukraine is redundant with the Charter of the United Nations, which is beyond reasonable doubt binding.

      The opinion of the U.S. about whether it's obliged to do something under treaties it agreed to is irrelevant. They are known beyond reasonable doubt to violate their own treaties and even by implication even their own laws casually.
      A quick hint in this regard is here
      Their credibility on this equals the credibility of a fraudster who opines about the contracts he signed.

      The acceptance of a right to self-determination in international law has come a long way since the early 90's. Conditions of a conditional independence carry no weight IMO because the nation has the right to independence anyway. To impose restrictions on this is morally equal to an aggression.

  4. Could you write about your thoughts on the natural gas issue between Germany and Russia?

    The way I see it, Germany is at the center of the most important natural gas market in the world. Russia earns most of her money by such exports and invested billions into her ability to supply Germany without interference. For Germany, importing resources from Russia is convenient, because it hedges against troubles on the oceans, over which Germany, due to its limited navy, has little power to exercise corrective measures. Such trouble could be a shift of the US into totalitarianism for example, if the next storming of the capitol is more successful, because the crackdown on the last one was rather weak.

  5. "Russia earns most of her money by such exports and invested billions into her ability to supply Germany without interference."

    Russia earns much more with crude. But in case of NG you are right, a pipeline chains customer to producer or producer to customer, the construct cannot be replaced in a shorter period of time. In contrast, LNG is globally traded with all its advantages and disadvantages.

    The issue for Germany is that >40% goes into industrial process heat, >40% into space heating and only around 15% is used for the generation of electricity, and only the latter could be to a large extent substituted with coal.

    1. Many tiny natural gas-firing powerplants are using their excess heat for heating nearby residential areas or chemical industry processes, I suspect that's what you meant. So electrical power and heating are partially coupled.

      H2 is the obvious alternative to natural gas, but you need austenitic steels (or coatings) in your pipelines and machinery to withstand H2 for long. So that's a huge infrastructure makeover for the 20's and 30's. Then we can continue to use these local gas-firing powerplants. H2 only makes sense if it's being produced without much climate effect, so ideally by wind or PV power. I suspect PV will take off in Germany because wind power has more issues.

      All-electricity generation natural gas-firing "backup" powerplants will likely be replaced by cheapened rechargeable batteries and possibly by the rechargeable batteries of plugged-in cars (at least at night as backup to PV).

      H2 will probably be prioritised for the steel industry process conversion, methanol production and for ammonia production. These few factories make it easier to provide the H2 infrastructure than to convert thousands of NG users to H2.

      Base load electrical power generation is likely going to be overwhelming PV plus wind, some small by-products (various waste disposal and such), hydro and probably substantial imports from more southern PV power producers (my bet would be on Spain).
      I doubt that lH2 imports will become much of a thing; maybe from Morocco, but it's looking less stable by the day. Sub-saharan Africa is far away and way too unstable. Turkey is also rather unsuitable politically. South Korea and Japan are bound to push lH2 shipping technologically because of their island logistics, we can keep an eye on their progress,

      And this is just a comment-level remark about the possible NG substitution in the next 20 years. There's a boatload of other intricate and partially uncertain things to be said about the whole 'Germany imports NG from Russia' topic. This basically goes back by half a century. It didn't start when Schröder sold his soul.

      We accepted a NG imports dependency on the USSR during much of the Cold War, FGS.

    2. Would it be possible to build up a strategic gas reserve, like the oil reserve, to last for several months and an infrastructure that can utilize supplies from different sources?
      The Cold War never went hot in Europe, the current confrontation has potential to do so and in that case we shouldn't expect gas imports via pipeline for quite some years.

      How are other European countries with even greater energy dependency on Russia handling the issue? Finland and the Baltic states are much colder in winter.

  6. "Many tiny natural gas-firing powerplants are using their excess heat for heating nearby residential areas or chemical industry processes, I suspect that's what you meant. So electrical power and heating are partially coupled."

    No, that is mostly bio gas used in a stupid way.

    Check how many TWh heat are used in industry and for space heating, we are talking about ~1200 TWh, that comes mainly from imported NG. Substitution in short period of time is not possible.

    We have around 50 TWh electricity from NG, i.e. around 150 TWh thermal input. Of the 100 TWh waste heat a small amount is used in CHP applications.

    The issue of bio gas is that it is expensive but used as base load (cheap product), the same amount of methane generated in larger reactors with higher methane output, puriefied and fed into the NG system would be much better, it would allow a flexible use...

    1. No, most Blockheizkraftwerke are running on natural gas because of its easy availability.

  7. BHKWs are only a small part of the electricity generation by NG, the impact of biogas generators is higher.

    KWK is mainly done in industry, where you find perfect conditions.

    But we are argueing about nuances, fact is that most NG goes into heat and cannot be substitute in short term. A reduction of Russian NG exports would hit the German industry hard.

    1. Here a good source for shares of various fuels in CHP applications and the net electricity generation:


    2. It doesn't support your point and you disagreed with me when I specifically wrote about BHKWs.

  8. "Now if someone was to dig up some actual obligations of Germany"

    The German foreign minister in 2014 guaranteed Yanukovich in 2014 free elections if he does not clamp down the maidan. In the next few days the "revolution" happened and Germany together with France and Poland forgot about that guarantee...

    1. Bullshit. The election was observed by OSCE observers, which found nothing substantial to complain about except that the situation in Donbas caused troubles for the election.

      Besides, that would be no obligation in the current situation anyway.

    2. BTW, I VERY STRONGLY doubt that Germany gave such a guarantee. A promise not to interfere is the maximum credible claim short of providing evidence.