Last Tango with Moscow: A Political and Jurisprudential Analysis of the Australia-Ussr Fisheries Access Agreement of 1990

60 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2006


In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed rapidly and ignominiously, but within a framework of treaty-based order. Soon the rest of the Soviet bloc was to follow. The treaty law dimension to the collapse (principally a question of state succession to treaties) has been comprehensively commented upon, at least as regards treaties between the Soviet Union and the United States, the Soviet Union and the various Western European states, and the former Soviet bloc states themselves. Adopting both a political and jurisprudential perspective, this article discusses the Australian treaty law dimension to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its starting point is the set of little-known treaties between Australia and Gorbachev's Soviet Union in the late 1980s - a time when it was felt that glasnost, perestroika and novoe politicheskoe myshlenie had given the Soviet Union a new lease on life. An analysis of the 1990 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics relating to Cooperation in Fisheries, with respect to strategic imperatives and the text of the Agreement, is central to the discussion. Commentary is also provided on treaty termination and treaty continuation as practised since 1991 by Australia and the Russian Federation - the state continuer of the Soviet Union. Customary international law doctrines (rebus sic stantibus, desuetude and effectiveness) are also arguably relevant and are assessed as justificatory rubrics for the termination and continuation approaches discussed. There is a strong comparative strand to the analysis, with the discussion contrasting this specific Australian approach with those used in Europe as the various post-Soviet actors struggled to manage the sprawling treaty system left by the collapse. Political and jurisprudential perspectives are closely fused in the analysis as this best reflects the highly political character of this seemingly formalist area of international law.

Keywords: law of treaties, state succession to treaties, former Soviet Union, Australia, Russian Federation, fisheries agreements

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Mfodwo, Kwame, Last Tango with Moscow: A Political and Jurisprudential Analysis of the Australia-Ussr Fisheries Access Agreement of 1990. Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 342-201, 2005 , Available at SSRN:

Kwame Mfodwo (Contact Author)

Monash Law School ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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