I disagree. Yes you're right, international law became a joke after 1991, and especially post 1999 and 2003. But the solution to that shouldn't be to abandon international law once and for all, but to make all effort to strengthen it back up once again.
Fighting with one arm tied behind your back, having to respect rules that your opponent does not is difficult, but ultimately it is what will win respect and lead to victory. If you're only able to achieve victory by fighting as dirty as your opponent and not respecting any rules or principles, then perhaps you don't deserve to win any more than the other guy - from an outside observer's point of view.
How has "respect" ever helped a country in the geopolitical sphere? Deep pockets and a powerful army is what makes you feared and respected. This "pat on the back" crap hasn't helped Russia in any way. Let me ask you a simple question. What's more important, interests or respect?
And let's not dramatize too much - Russia could have quite legitimately intervened in the Crimea, amid a deteriorating situation, and either set up an East Ukrainian republic with Yanuk as its (nominal) head, possibly grabbing the loyalty of other Eastern region governors too;
Yes and that would mean the Russian army would have to invade and establish order in the Eastern regions. You simply underestimate Europe's reaction that would follow.
or otherwise just stabilized the situation and forced the new authorities in Kiev to negotiation and compromise.
Please do elaborate because again, Russian forces would have to intervene (officially).
Acting like it did, annexing the entire peninsula into its own territory - was unprecedented in modern times. Yes Kosovo and Iraq were serious violations, but that sort of thing has happened pretty regularly since WW2.
Yes, Moscow took a very direct decision: protect Crimeans and protect its interests. No matter how you look at it, the Russian army would have to ultimately intervene at some point and Moscow took the most effective decision. Kosovo was blatantly ripped off from Serbia and you don't mind because "hey, this was normal since WW2". Well I say bullshit to that. Imagine what would have happened if there were no peacekeepers in Kosovo at that time. Serbian army would have invaded.
The fact is that Lavrov spent the last 10 years talking about international law, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders in Europe. The US didn't listen, and went ahead with Kosovo, but Russia kept the same official line and kept promoting it, finding supporters amongst the BRICS, CIS and many other countries besides.
And no one in the world gave a fuck when Kosovo happened. Sure, some countries condemned it and nothing after that.
And then in the flash of a hat it has completely betrayed all its own stated principles and its course of diplomacy. And what now? Russia has been busy building up the sanctity of international law but now it turns out that it is ready to violate it if convenient, same as the US. The only major power left that respects it is China. Russia is too fixated on the US and countering it, and not fixated enough on setting a good example and establishing itself as a moral compass for other countries. Why then ultimately, should anyone want to follow its lead? What are other countries supposed to think? That international law is only a battering ram for Russia and the US to use to bash each other with whenever needed?
I'd love to see you get beaten up by someone and still continue preaching peace and prosperity. No you'll fight for your life because your basic instincts will kick in. Now regard all this in the geopolitical spectrum. That's exactly what happened. Russia's basic instincts kicked in because it regards Ukraine as its backyeard.
Yes yes, I know, cause & effect. Let me tell you something else though - in 10 years time no-one is going to remember who started what. What they're going to remember is that both are law-breakers.
No-one takes the US position of moral high-ground over Russia seriously right now. But the problem is that now Russia will have the same credibility problem in the future, when attempting to lecture the US over international law or discredit it.
And Russia simply won't give a fuck about someone's feelings. Actions speak louder than words. In 10 years time somewhere we'll see European and Russian interests come together again and no one else will give a crap about Crimea.
Anyway, I don't really want to take this argument further. I respect the other point of view, about it being a waste of time playing by rules that others don't hold themselves to, etc... such arguments are quite valid I feel. It's just personally, I'm more inclined to another approach.
Precisely and I'm mad myself that this is the way the world works though you and I are in it.