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Joseba Fernández Gaztea, researcher and Professor of International Law at the University of Navarre.

Crimea: a question of concepts

The author points out that in order to understand what happened in Crimea, it is necessary to take a multifaceted view and ask why the United States declines to take the lead in the crisis.

Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:32:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

"It is a time of crisis..." my friend often repeats to me. "...and it is time to ask and reflect: the way to progress, the only way to progress." I answer with repulsion "conceptual crisis, conceptual crisis." And so I believe it is. Here and in Sebastopol. Although these days, more in Sebastopol than here.

There are many lenses through which the Crimean"affair" can be analyzed. The polyhedron is complex,"multi-faceted" as they write in Washington, DC. And from our pre-understandings we each repeat our favorite questions. If we think of geo-politics, I like to ask why, until when, and if it is convenient for the United States to decline to sit in the driver's seat in crises in which its national interest is not as threatened as that of others. Its president, its legislators and its citizens are tired of overseas adventures and their economic and human cost,"blood and treasure". Added to this is the Obama administration's desire to shape the country's peaceful identity -in its double meaning- and not its Atlantic identity. I would say that neither Russia nor Europe are a real priority of its foreign policy, Henry Kissinger has repeatedly explained that "THE" challenge of the United States in its foreign relations consists in accommodating China. Are we happy that this will continue? Are we sure? Can we do anything about it? If we think about legality we are back to discussing Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Kosovo. And it is our turn to review article 2 of the UN Charter, the 22 July 2010 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the 1991 Alma Ata Declaration, the 1997 Ukraine-Russia Black Sea Fleet agreement and the concept of aggression, among others. Many other perspectives and questions are very pertinent. For example, what about Europe's energy map, the volume of trade with Russia, the European Neighborhood Policy, what about the Donbass and other Russian-speaking and Russophile areas, and Russia's nuclear arsenal? Other questions are more "impertinent". For example, what about the far-right members of the current Ukrainian government? The past of the leader of the "Fatherland" party?

But I would like to draw your attention to the following: please review the concepts. I repeat: please review and deepen your concepts.

Because the narratives and discourses that articulate the acts of the parties to this crisis are articulated with concepts, those concepts that integrate the semantic network that sustains current political-legal-philosophical thought. And it is necessary to know them, understand them and try to locate them in the historical moment and in the current from which they are nourished in order to analyze, understand, criticize, innovate and provide solutions.

If my friend would accompany us on a tour through the political-legal conceptual gallery of March 2014 he would indirectly explain to us an essential part of the reality of the doctrine and thinking that underlies the words of Yatseniuk, Putin, Obama and Ashton. And it would help us to compare the concepts of March 2014 with the speech of the power of past times in order to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of current solutions. And immediately a conversation would arise about the opportunity to conceive of political power as an absolute power, above reality, above good and evil, outside the law, self-proclaimed sole basis of legality. And of the error of creating autonomous fields for law, politics, Economics, which in the end written request can isolate them from contact with anthropological or philosophical concepts. And of what is fallacious in conceiving the global arena as a space for the interaction of countries conceived as historical, independent beings goal destined to fill in the national spirit that justifies their past, present and future. And so the crucial moment would come to explain to us the concept of sovereignty: its roots, the truth and the lie it contains, its artificiality and its incapacity to constitute the foundation of a theory of government adjusted to reality, just and truly human.

The full explanation, the truth of what is happening in Crimea, as well as what is happening with other "International Office", is unattainable from a single discipline. Even less with the poor approximations that are frequently attempted from different modalities of the "theory" of the International Office. And even less so with this article. But it is necessary to warn: there is no such thing, Ricoeur reminds us, as a neutral conceptual place. It is necessary to understand the words that are used, the truth and the lie of the conceptualizations that they support since, in a certain sense, here and in Sebastopol, words are the most important thing.