Crimean Secession in International Law

Hungarian Yearbook of International and European Law, Vol. 3, 2015

Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2634634

24 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2015 Last revised: 11 Aug 2015

Date Written: July 22, 2015


The contemporary expansion of Russian influence in the former Soviet bloc has not been accompanied by an objective approach to framing the Crimean conflict between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union (EU), and the United States (US). The US promised that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not move one inch eastward, if the Berlin Wall fell. It did. NATO moved eastward, right up to Russia’s borders. The western press forgot about the US reaction in 1962, when Russian missiles were being introduced into Cuba.

After the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia splintered into multiple nations. A half dozen oblasts in Russia’s backyard subsequently announced unilateral declarations of independence. Of these, Crimea has the most potential for removing "Lite" from the term "Cold War Lite." If Ukraine obtains the nuclear missile defense shield it now seeks, Russia's President Putin has announced that he will move nuclear weapons into Crimea.

Remedial secession is the nom de guerre for many of today's separatist movements. But its very existence clashes with various fundamentals of the international legal system.

This book chapter provides detailed insights into the validity of remedial secession, the two major judicial opinions that have addressed it, and the steep, but evolving, path to legitimacy it may now be travelling. This chapter does so within the context of Crimea's secession referendum, declaration of independence, and de facto statehood, and Russia's annexation of Crimea. It covers the international community's reaction to these events — and the disparity among academic reactions to the vitality of remedial secession. It traces the UN General Assembly's 2014 Crimean debate — concluding that it is the most authoritative referee for judging Russia's claim to the validity of the Crimean secession.

Keywords: secession, remedial secession, secession referendum, statehood, Cold War, NATO, Crimea, Russia, Ukraine, Crimean annexation, Soviet Union

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Slomanson, William R., Crimean Secession in International Law (July 22, 2015). Hungarian Yearbook of International and European Law, Vol. 3, 2015, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2634634, Available at SSRN:

William R. Slomanson (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

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