Russia Exits From Council Of Europe And Western Dominated Organizations – OpEd


After the historic fall of the Soviet era, all the 16 former Soviet republics, especially Russia dreamed of raising their status by joining international organizations. Over the past three decades, Russia became a member of many global bodies, participating actively at the United Nations. As its differences on many global and regional questions intensify with the United States and European countries, Russia is ultimately quitting from these foreign organizations.

With the emerging new world order, Russia should rather find strategic ways to strengthen its position on the global stage. Unlike China that still sustain its global footprints and further consolidating its voice on cooperation, Russia adopted sharp confrontation in approach to many questions. It has, following the ‘special military operation’ aimed at – as President Vladimir Putin explained – “demilitarization and denazification” in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, exited from a number of international associations and organizations.

Reports monitored from the local Russia media indicated that Federation Council (Senate) and the State Duma (House of Representatives) have endorsed the latest exit decision from the Council of Europe. And of course, Russia does not need Europe after more than thirty years of attempting to become European. It’s focus, right after the collapse of the Soviet era, was directed towards the region of the European Union.

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said, during the State Duma meeting held February 16, 2023, that the institutions of the Council of Europe are rotten to the core and are no longer able to unite its members, so, it is necessary to consider setting up a new international organization in its place.

“The institutions of the Council of Europe are rotten to the core, and today’s values can no longer unite its members. This is why we must think about creating a new organization, and do everything to accomplish this, so that the principles that we practice, protect and promote in international relations – mutual respect, absence of double standards, non-intervention in sovereign affairs of other states, respect for culture, traditions, history, and language – would be put at the foundation of this new organization’s operation and existence,” Volodin said.

The lower house speaker noted that the Council of Europe was established in 1949, when the world was “multipolar” and all international institutions operated based on the principles of respect for each other. “What happened then? After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world became unipolar, and all these internal institutions, created earlier, began to gradually decay. Because, what they do in most cases is serve the interests of one country – the United States, Washington,” Volodin stressed.

On March 15, 2022, Moscow notified CoE Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric that Russia was pulling out of the organization and planned to denounce the European Convention on Human Rights. On March 16, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to terminate Russia’s membership in the organization.

It is interesting to note, however, that Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in April 2011 after almost 18 years of persistent efforts and multiple negotiations, to fulfil stringent membership requirements, apparently because the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and replaced by the Russian Federation. Average accession period is five to seven years.

Now,  the WTO and even the Group of 20 are prepared to kick Russia out of these prestigious global organizations due to multiple reasons including its geopolitical confrontation with the United States and Europe. The G7 countries and allies have already stripped Moscow of its privileged trade treatment at the WTO, known as “most favoured nation” status, clearing the way for them to hit Russian imports with higher tariffs or ban them entirely.

In the early years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, communist-oriented Russian business saw the WTO as a threat in the system of global trade instead as an instrument to stimulate the economy further for foreign investors. Russia’s leaders did not really understand the benefits of its membership but have a clear vision of the limitations that the WTO imposes in terms of public procurement and transparency.

Global media reports said the United States, the European Union and largely western allies have blocked Belarus’ bid to join the World Trade Organization, explaining further that its complicity in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes it unfit for membership in the global trade group.

Long before the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the western group halted work on Belarus’ WTO accession process after President Alexander Lukashenko crushed protests following his 2020 re-election that opponents say was fraudulent. And, then came alliance between Belarus and Russia against neighbouring Ukraine.

WTO has 153 members, and negotiations on the admission of a new member are held within a working group that unites countries that have unsettled trade problems with the candidate. It was established on January 1, 1995, as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that had been operating since 1947. It is the only international body now supervising world trade.

In March 2022, Russian Foreign Ministry indicated, without mincing words, that Russia had no intention of holding on to the membership of the Council of Europe. It published a statement that Russia was not going to participate in the Council of Europe anymore because EU and NATO countries that are unfriendly to Russia continue the course towards the destruction of the organization and common humanitarian and legal space in Europe.

These issues were debated extensively at the State Duma sessions on March 10-11. Majority of the lawmakers in the State Duma maintained that the Council of Europe used to be the most important international platform for equal dialogue but it now has turned into “a puppet structure for promoting flagrant Russophobic attitudes”. Russia does not comply with that vision of the world, nor will it accept Western values.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, has already informed that the State Duma is ready to immediately process bills renouncing the Council of Europe Statute and the European Human Rights Convention if they are submitted by the Russian president.

“Should these documents be submitted, we are ready to process them immediately.” The procedure implies renouncement of the Council of Europe Statute and the European Human Rights Convention, but the decision is up to the Russian President who will submit respective renouncement documents to the State Duma.

“Exit from the Council of Europe is carried out on the basis of Article 7 of the CE Charter at the initiative of the member-state, when it officially notifies the CE secretary-general. Membership is terminated at the end of the current fiscal year provided the notification was sent during the first nine months of the year,” Federation Council Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev explained, adding that if such a notification is filed during the last three months of the current fiscal year, “the membership is terminated at the end of the next fiscal year.”

Russians would not be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after all procedures on Russia leaving the Council of Europe are concluded. On the other hand, Russians can be more active in defending their rights at Russian courts, including the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, according to the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, Andrey Klishas.

“If Russia leaves the Council of Europe, and this is a certain procedure, then following its conclusion our citizens won’t be able to appeal to the ECHR. Our citizens should be more active in appealing for the protection of their rights within the framework of national jurisdiction, including the Constitutional Court,” he said.

The lawmaker added that the ECHR has always been a subsidiary institution, that is, an “additional agency” to protect one’s rights. He emphasized that he supported the statement by Russia’s Constitutional Court on exiting the Conference of European Constitutional Courts “due to the extreme politicization of the association’s activity”.

According to the ministry, EU and NATO countries, unfriendly to Russia, who abuse their absolute majority in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), continue to pursue “a course towards the destruction of the Council of Europe and the common humanitarian and legal space in Europe”.

“Russia won’t take part in transforming the oldest European organization by NATO members and those obediently following them in the EU into yet another site for chanting about the West’s superiority and grandstanding. Let them enjoy interacting with each other, without Russia,” the ministry noted.

The diplomatic agency stressed that the course of events “is becoming irreversible”. “Russia does not intend to tolerate these subversive actions carried out by the collective West towards setting up a rules-based order to replace international law trampled upon by the US and its satellites,” the document said.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has also announced it had suspended Russia and Belarus from any participation in that organization. The OECD is one of the world’s major multilateral economic bodies with a membership of mostly of the rich, highly developed countries. The exclusion of Russia and Belarus will mean both countries are barred from participating in negotiations on issues including taxation, international business regulation and trade.

Russia and Belarus are not official members of the Paris-based group. Russia’s accession into the OECD was postponed after the country annexed Crimea in 2014 and was terminated last month because of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The group announced a plan “to develop proposals to further strengthen support to the democratically elected government of Ukraine, including to support recovery and reconstruction”.

Chairman of the Committee on Security and Corruption Control Vasily Piskarev stressed that suspension of Russia’s membership in Interpol would affect the entire international crime control system.

“If this happens, then the Western states will only cut their noses off to spite their faces. They will lose the opportunity to get assistance in arresting dangerous criminals, like murderers, paedophiles, terrorists, drug dealers, and many others. It will be more difficult to apprehend them, as well as to extradite them and bring them to trial,” the parliamentarian said.

According to Vasily Piskarev, “that will affect the entire international crime control system”. The Chairman of the Committee noted the current effective cooperation with all 195 Interpol member states.

In 2021, Russia included 700 people in the international Interpol wanted list, and 83 criminals were transferred to Russia. Only in 2021, 104 wanted people and 47 missing people were found by the National Central Bureau of Interpol of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. In addition, 31 criminals and 26 convicted persons were extradited from Russia.

Many Western companies have suspended their business operations, other swiftly called it quits. United States and European Union bloc are taking systematic and well-thought-out measures to destabilize the economy of Russia. Several “systematic, very serious measures corresponding to the extraordinary unfriendly conditions that were placed upon us by unfriendly actions (of other countries), well thought out measures,” are being taken, President’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said during one of his media conferences.

‘United Russia’ – the largest political party in Russia, which supports President Putin’s policies – has proposed to nationalization of the enterprises of those Western companies that refused to operate in the Russian Federation. Secretary of United Russia’s General Council Andrey Turchak said that United Russia was proposing to nationalize the enterprises of those Western companies that refused to operate in Russia.

According to him, in all cases this is a purely political decision by the foreign business organizations. The state legislative commission approved the initiative providing for the possibility of nationalizing the property of foreign corporations leaving the Russian market.

Late February, the entire membership of the State Duma appealed to the Russian President to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) as sovereign and independent states. Without any further hesitation, Putin signed documents on DPR and LPR recognition, arguing that was the only way to protect people, stop the fratricidal war, prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, and bring peace.

On February 24, Russian President Putin said in a televised address that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had decided to carry out a special military operation to protect people “who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years”.

Following this, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and several other countries announced the introduction of stiff sanctions against Russian legal entities and private individuals.

Ukraine, which shares common geographical borders with Russia, and has primary ambitions of moving up to the global stage, has attempted joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. These systematic steps angered the Russian President and the Kremlin, the Cabinet, Federation Council and the State Duma, resulting into Russia undertaking “a special military operation” in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, stressed that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territorie

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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