Annexing of Crimea is unlawful, says ex-Archbishop

Published: 25 March 2014 at 11:48

Lord Rowan Williams gives speech on ethics of war at Anglia Ruskin University

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Rowan Williams said Russia’s is behaving “unlawfully” by moving troops into the region of Crimea, which is part of the sovereign state of Ukraine.

Responding to a public question following his talk at Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus on Monday night, Lord Williams said:

“The annexation of Crimea is a legally pretty dubious venture. To have a plebiscite in a certain region of another sovereign state and declare that therefore you can annexe it seems to me a deeply worrying re-run of the 1930s.
“I’m wary of any military action to defend Ukraine against Russia. I'm looking hard to see what further diplomatic as well as sanction-based initiatives may follow because I don't think it is simply a case of ‘wicked aggressive Russia and plucky little Ukraine’.
“There are more complex issues there, not least the inherent instability of Ukraine as a sovereign state. It is one of these awkwardly cobbled-together units likely to fall into east and west under pressure. Russia is quite clearly behaving unlawfully.”

In a 45-minute speech, Lord Williams, honorary doctor of pastoral theology at Anglia Ruskin, asked whether there is a new “ethic for warfare” in the modern world.

Lord Williams explained that the traditional criteria for a “just war” – such as sparing the innocent, knowing when you have won, and that violence is a last resort - are increasingly at odds with modern-day conflicts.

Referencing key thinkers in new and old war theory, he said types of modern warfare include cross-boundary conflicts such as in central and eastern Africa with the Lord’s Resistance Army, and interventionist multi-national conflict such as in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the welfare of the population is a concern.

Lord Williams said:

“We have a fast-shifting moral map of modern warfare. It is often a matter of proxy wars, wars between private and public, wars that spill over in different directions across national and other boundaries and war that increasingly uses humanitarianly deplorable methods to sustain itself.”

Lord Williams added that in the next half-century, the availability of simple resources such as food and water could be the trigger for an increasing number of conflicts, a concern that Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute has also been researching.