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Foreign intervention as a means of influence on the internal political conflict: the experience and prospects of use
Material posted: Publication date: 25-09-2014

In modern conditions of formation of a multipolar world, despite the efforts of international organizations and civil society, armed aggression remains not only a popular alternative to a diplomatic settlement of the conflict, but also one of the violent practices are constantly improving.

According to experts, at the moment the history of the world occurs a large-scale introduction of military methods into the field of international relations. The place of war, formerly, in fact, the only form of armed confrontation of countries and peoples in the XX – early XXI centuries increasingly are terrorism, genocide, intervention, etc. the Last of these concepts are currently becoming more and more widespread on the international scene, although in "foreign policy Concept of the Russian Federation", approved by President V. Putin on 12 February 2013, such transactions are called "undermining the foundations of international law".

According to the Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia S. V. Lavrov, the use of military interventions to change political regimes in poor countries is "a direct path to loss of control over global processes that would painfully strike on all members of the world community, including the initiators of external intervention"[1]. This belief is supported by the staff of foreign scientific organizations, according to which, now "almost impossible to establish a global democratic control over the intervention," and "starting the intervention, it becomes impossible to control"[2]. The danger is reinforced by the fact that in such operations the main acting force is often not the army, and other government agencies and institutions (e.g. special services), whose shares are, as a rule, are hidden, implicit in nature.

Meanwhile, the study intervention from a theoretical point of view is for domestic science is comparatively new. Although individual cases of foreign military intervention in the internal Affairs of independent States (Korea, Greece, Vietnam, etc.) are reflected in the research literature, at this point it is difficult to talk about the existence of a General theory able to explain the essential features of such operations. This fact cannot but cause concern, if one considers that in 1874 the book "the Beginning of non-intervention" by Professor L. A. Kamarovsky the question was raised about the necessity of a General theory of interventions. He believed that to reject the possibility of the existence of such a theory can only "people are less familiar with the nature of the state and the laws"[3], to date, however, treatment researchers to this topic have been quite rare. As a result, the scientific literature on this issue lacks even a unified set of terminology.

Typically, scientists use the term "intervention" to mean "the forcible intervention of one or more States in the internal Affairs of another state"[4]. This definition is well established, but it is hardly possible fully to agree with him. This definition, describing a special kind of international conflicts, does not allow to fully understand the reasons and objectives of the implementation of the intervention, no specific means used to achieve this goal, no system of relations arising in the process of it, between the warring parties.

Foreign experts were also unable to come to a uniform definition of "intervention" – the most classic definition was the German lawyer F. L. Oppenheim, sounding as follows: "the forcible intervention of one state in Affairs of another state for the purpose of maintaining or changing the status quo"[5]. However, now in political science and use a more simplified definition: "the forcible intervention of one state in Affairs of another state"[6].

Naturally, to use such a vague definition in any large-scale scientific study is not possible, as in this case, the terminological boundary between different types of political-military operations would be virtually erased. And if now, say, confusion between the concepts "intervention" and "war" in the research literature, as a rule, do not occur, the concepts "intervention" and "invasion" are often quite incorrectly used as synonyms. To understand the main characteristics of intervention is necessary, first, to identify the features that distinguish this type of conflict from other forms of interstate confrontation.

First of all, an important difference of the intervention of war or invasion is the fact that the intervention can be carried out without direct participation of army units with the help of special intelligence and sabotage agencies, funds and diplomacy (forms of intervention may be called political murders, the blackmail, the organization of conspiracies and coups, etc.[7]). Hence, there are overt and covert intervention – if the first is held with the open use of military force, the latter are implemented using secret, secret methods and means. In modern conditions this aspect of intervention has become very topical, and the foreign conflicts the objectives of the parties increasingly are achieved not through direct armed impact, and using alternative forms: sabotage, economic, diplomatic, informational, psychological, etc.[8] In this regard, the Russian military expert Vladimir A. Zolotarev believes that "a new era "neointima" wars in which political goals are achieved not through direct military intervention, but through the use of other forms of violence, undermining the power of the enemy from the inside"[9] opened a political confrontation between the USSR and the USA in the second half of the twentieth century. However, it can be argued that the beginning of this "era" was associated, rather, with the First world war, when the use of intelligence-subversive means to fomenting further political destabilization opponents unwound – like methods with varying degrees of success were used as powers of the triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.

Further, the wide circulation was received, for example, economic intervention, including the funding of opposition forces; the provocation of strikes; the counterfeiting of the national currency; the imposition of sanctions of an economic nature, etc.[10] These methods are used in 1951 against China after its entry into the Korean war, in 1972-1973, in Chile, in 1980-ies against Nicaragua, etc. Even the activities of the Comintern for funding socialist parties and groups in Europe and beyond can be considered a form of economic intervention. In this regard refer to the decision of the UN International court of justice in the case "Nicaragua V. USA". This document contained a rather curious statement that "assistance to rebels in the form of arms supplies or of providing logistical or other support", as a form of intervention, is not a form of "armed attack"[11]. Thus, the possibility of unarmed intervention was officially recognized.

In addition, in the framework of modern concepts, more and more experts are inclined to the idea that intervention can only be described operation which is carried out in the countries where already there are serious internal contradictions, or passed into the phase of armed struggle, or tending to it. This is its fundamental difference from invasion, which were directed mainly against internally stable Nations, and has as its objective, just, destabilizing them for profit (territorial seizures, the imposition of reparations, the spread of influence, etc.). With regard to intervention, one can observe a completely different picture – in the words of the famous American political scientist Samuel Huntington, "political reasons, provoking military intervention... lie in the areas of absence or low level of effectiveness of political institutions"[12], that is, internal weakness, not strength, of the state creates preconditions for foreign intervention.

Moreover, military interventions "do not occur in a vacuum, and have never been totally unexpected", "they are born from a series of serious political crises"[13] in far wealthier countries. By the time of the introduction of foreign troops into the territory of an independent state, the legitimacy of the current government already is in doubt, as it was in Cuba in 1906, or in Soviet Russia in 1918. Although foreign interventions are also often focused on profits, but I assume its getting through conflict resolution in a certain area, and not provoke them or escalate. Even the minimal experience of their study shows that foreign military intervention is often aimed not only at suppressing violence in a specific territory, but also for instigating social and political change. Among these can be considered as the autonomy or independence of individual regions of the country subjected to intervention (if a fierce struggle for independence was the reason for intervention), demilitarization, and the adoption of new laws and regulations, changes in forms of government (from democracy to military dictatorship), etc.

This feature drew the attention of many scientists. For example, researchers from the U.S. S. Blank and L. Grinter came to the conclusion that "since 1775, in every major civil war or revolution, international intervention played or aspired to play a huge role"[14]. They echoed and academician of the Academy of military Sciences of the Russian Federation, Professor L. I. Olsztyn, according to which, "the revolution and the civil war in history were often linked with the intervention of external forces in different forms and scales"[15]. On the same writing and fellow of the American Strategic research center K. Paul, pointing to the fact that the intervention is born as a response to any unexpected crisis that could lead to unacceptable consequences and therefore require immediate action[16].

Professor at Oxford University sir A. Roberts have identified 8 main causes of interventions that have taken place in the history of international relations: assistance to the legitimate government in the civil war; response to intervention (counter-intervention); the protection of its own citizens in another country; self-defense; support of the nation or colony in the struggle for self-determination; obstruction of riots and terrorism; the prevention of mass violations of human rights[17]. As can be seen, almost all of these reasons are connected with the presence in the country subjected to intervention, the armed struggle between different groups.

Other major Western researcher of this phenomenon – Harvard University Professor S. Hoffmann – also saw a direct relationship between external intervention and internal conflicts. In the book "World disorder" 1998 edition he argued that the two main reasons that create the need for foreign military intervention in the Affairs of sovereign States, can be a threat to international peace with his hand, or mass violation of human rights it[18]. Both of these factors directly characterize the degree of conflict political regime. This concept fits even the intervention of the Entente in Russia, because, on the one hand, the desire of the Bolsheviks to the organization of the world revolution threatened global peace and held in the USSR the policy of "red terror" could be interpreted as a large-scale violation of human rights. Accordingly, the legitimization of interventions, as a rule, is associated not so much with the national interests, but with the need to uphold universal values, the preservation of peace and stability both on specific areas and on a global scale.

Such an approach is not new and occurs even in the legal concepts of the nineteenth century. For example, in the works of H. von Roteka, it was argued that in the case of state collapse for a few struggling independent entities, the provision of military assistance to any of them was perfectly legal and acceptable act[19]. British jurist and politician sir R. Villamor in the "Comments on international law" made the unequivocal conclusion that the state has full opportunity to intervene in the internal Affairs of neighbors if they have installed political regime, openly hostile to the governments and peoples of other countries[20]. And in that era, as today, the legitimacy of the intervention depended on the scale of the conflict, the number of victims and the dynamics of escalation[21].

This feature is quite pronounced and "in the report of the International Commission on humanitarian intervention and state sovereignty" 2001. In the document the main reasons for a possible military intervention in the conflict were named the state's inability to protect citizens and mass loss of life (genocide, ethnic cleansing, etc.), and the conditions of intervention proclaimed: the presence of good intentions; a line of huge objectives used tools; the exhaustion of possibilities for peaceful settlement; guarantees of a positive outcome[22].

Added to this is the remark of Professor of the University of Groningen W. D. of Verviers, according to which, the state interventionist must be impartial and not have any political or economic interest in the outcome of the conflict[23]. In addition, an important addition to this list made by the President of the law school of Tallinn University R. mullerson –according to him, the interventionist should aim "to stop or prevent the suffering of the population and not to contribute to the change of the political regime" in the country[24]. However, in practice in the modern world, achieving the first goal is sometimes practically impossible without the second. In this perspective it is not surprising that the legitimacy of intervention, as a transaction not in the nature of war, both in the past and at present, is based largely on public support[25].

In fact, it can be argued that the actions of the proponents of intervention often represent an attempt to resolve internal conflict through external. No wonder the Russian researcher I. P. Chernobrovkin called the military intervention "last resort peace control" required when "mediation and non-military resources proved insufficient pressure to stop the violence..."[26]. In this he is supported by political scientist A. A. Sushentsov, considering that for a long time "in practice, blur the distinction between military operations and peacekeeping"[27]. This is not a new opinion and foreign science – for example, in the work Dzh. Starkey and L. Oppenheim in international law, intervention is called a means of settling territorial disputes along with, say, blockade and embargo,[28].

Thus, intervention is an internationalized internal conflict ("armed action inside the country, which represent international"[29]) and is an external reaction to start in a state of rebellion, genocide, and civil war. Such cases in the history of international relations far from rare. For example, only in the XX century passed through the internationalization of armed conflicts in Finland in 1918 (opponents had been supported mostly by the USSR, Germany and Sweden), Spain in 1936-1939, (the most active foreign participants in it were Germany, Italy, Portugal and the USSR), in Vietnam in the years 1957-1975 (in this conflict in varying degrees participated in about 10 foreign countries), in Nicaragua, 1981-1990, etc. In armed conflict in Russia in 1918-1920 was also attended by more than a dozen countries.

In XIX–XX centuries, the internationalization was not so much to the initiative of the international community, as the desire of the parties to the internal conflict to gain support from abroad (such assistance was to balance power or to tip "the scales" on the side of one of the warring camps, who were able to enlist the support of more powerful States). The reason for internationalization could serve as the fundamental power imbalances (asymmetries in military-technical and political capacity), breach enemy the accepted rules and laws, and a disproportionate number of casualties on one side. Today the situation is different – widespread operations to peace enforcement, in which the dominant sequence was the "power law world". Because States generally do not tend to recognize the existence of an armed conflict within their borders (even in cases where it is obvious), therefore, the international community must use force to stop mutual violence. This mechanism of modern French researchers call "a hybrid of diplomatic and military methods of conflict resolution". Force in this system is not an essential element, but without it it is impossible – according to the French General P. Sartre, "the rejection of the use of force to achieve the objectives of peacekeeping operations gives it some style, which not only restrains the destructive elements, but may even provoke them"[30].

In the framework of modern concepts it is possible to allocate three forms of internationalisation of an internal armed conflict[31]:

  1. Direct support for groups involved in an internal struggle between different States or groups of States;
  2. The intervention of a foreign state or group of States in the conflict on the side of one of the warring factions;
  3. The intervention of a foreign state or group of States in the conflict with a view to its settlement.

The third kind can be called intervention.

Apparently, the key to this scheme is the fact that foreign military intervention leads to the internationalisation of an internal armed conflict irrespective of their intensity[32]. Thus, the number of troops sent to another country to conduct political and military operations, are decisive in this matter has not. Even a minimal amount of foreign military experts can change the balance of power and escalate the conflict. As a result of studying the various forms and methods of foreign interference, S. Hoffmann suggested their differentiation in the degree of intensity into three categories: in the first case, the actions of foreign forces is limited to providing humanitarian assistance to the population of the country in which the conflict occurs; at the second level, operations for "peace enforcement" in both defensive and in the offensive form; the third scenario envisages the use of any means, is able to induce opponents to a ceasefire and transition talks, including physical elimination of political leaders of the opposing camps. Despite the fact that such form of settlement, in fact, means going beyond the legal field, it has been used repeatedly in the course of the conflicts in the middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, in the Caucasus and in Latin America[33].

However, according to leading researcher , Institute of world economy and international relations Russian Academy of Sciences E. A. Stepanova, the use of such methods for the settlement in the second half of the twentieth century proved their insolvency – from 190 she analyzed cases of foreign military intervention, only 57 (30%) had a termination of open confrontation[34]. Moreover, thanks to research by Americans F. Person, M. O., Lounsbery from Minskogo state University was able to establish that intervention in civil war is not able to fundamentally change and the political regime of the country is considered by scientists of 109 episodes in 80% of cases of non-democratic States after foreign interventions have remained such. Thus in such countries for 7-11% more likely the lack of economic growth compared to States that are not emerging for foreign intervention, and on average 4% more, widespread corruption among officials[35].

However, these arguments have not taken into account by politicians because the intervention is perceived as the ultimate means of conflict resolution, and its emergency nature eliminates inefficiencies. In 2000, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan drew the attention of the world community: "armed intervention must always remain a last resort, but in the face of mass murder by this means it is impossible to refuse"[36].

Given these circumstances, the definition of intervention should be formulated in the following way:"it is a deliberate interference by one or more States in the internal conflict on the territory of another state with a view to its termination". This definition equally takes into account both existing standards for carrying out such actions, thus their historical form. On the basis of his intervention is not necessarily violent, but may be voluntary; it is not always intended to harm the people of the country subjected to intervention, but is intended to support it. In fact, the conflict can be achieved by reaching peace agreements, and with the help of the military defeat of one or more of the opposing teams and camps. If the famous French historian Michel Foucault has called almost the main instrument in the maintenance of inter-state balance in Europe the war[37], the most radical means of restoring the political balance within the country was considered and is considered an intervention.

[1] S. V. Lavrov Foreign policy philosophy of Russia. // International life. 2013. No. 3. P.3.

[2] M. Pandolfi, L. McFalls Global Bureaucracy. // Conflict, Security and the Reshaping of Society: The civilization of war. London: Routledge, 2010. Pp. 182, 183.

[3] L. A. kamarovsky the Beginning of the intervention. M., 1874. C. 1.

[4] Soviet encyclopedic dictionary. M.: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1986. S. 496.

[5] Oppenheim L. International Law. Vol. I. London, 1955. P. 134.

[6] H. Kelsen General Theory of Law and State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1945. P. 332.

[7] Arkhipov A. I. dictionary of Economics. M.: Prospect, 2004. S. 269.

[8] Ludene G. V. Sovremennye the concept of war: social-philosophical analysis: abstract. Diss. ... candidate. watered. Sciences. M., 2011. S. 19.

[9] Zolotarev V. A. the Military security of the Russian State. M., 2001. C. 291.

[10] G. S. hohloch the Lessons of the struggle against the counterrevolution. M.: Mysl, 1981. P. 142-143.

[11] summaries of judgments, Advisory opinions and orders International Court of justice. 1948-1991. New York: United Nations, 1993. P. 205.

[12] Huntington S. P. Political Order in Changing Societies. Yale, 1968. P. 195-196.

[13] K. Kapetanyannis Socio-Political Conflicts and Military Intervention. The case of Greece: 1950-1967: PhD Thesis. London, 1986. P. 317, 335

[14] S. J. Blank, Grinter L. E., Magyar K. P., Ware L. B., B. E. Weathers, Conflict, Culture, and History: Regional Dimensions. Washington, 1993. P. 5.

[15] See: Olsztyn L. I. Periodization and character of the civil war in Russia in the light of modern military science (military-theoretical and socio-political analysis) [Electronic resource]. – Access mode:,EN/ (accessed 21.08.2014)

[16] Paul C. Marines on the Beach: The Politics of U.S. Military Intervention Decision Making. Westport: PSI, 2008. P. 71.

[17] A. Roberts Beyond "dictatorial interference". // The Empire of Security and the Safety of the People. / Ed. by W. Bain. New-York, 2006. P. 161.

[18]S. Hoffmann, World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post–Cold War Era. Lanham: by Rowman and Littlefield, 1998. P. 161-164.

[19] See: von Rotteck H. Das Recht der Einmischung in die inneren Angelegenheiten eines fremden Staates vom vernunftrechtlichen, politischen und historischen Standpunkte erörtert. Freiburg, 1845. P. 10-47.

[20] See: Phillimore, R. Commentaries upon International Law. Vol. 1. Philadelphia, 1854. P. 433-483.


[21] C. J. Le Mon Unilateral Intervention by Invitation in Civil Wars: The Effective Control Test Tested. // New York University Journal of International Law and Politics. 2003. Vol. 35. No. 3. P. 744-748.

[22] Lipanovich E. A. Humanitarian intervention: between morality and law. // Email the application to the "Russian law journal". 2014. No. 2. S. 22.

[23] Verwey W. D. Humanitarian Intervention under International Law. // Netherlands International Law Review. 1985. Vol. 32. P. 418.

[24] R. Müllerson International legal politics and use of force. // Theory and Practice of the restoration of rights. 2013. No. 1. P. 30.

[25] J. Hillen American Military Intervention: A User's Guide. // The Backgrounder. 1996. May 2.

[26] I. P. Chernobrovkin the Principles and trends of peacekeeping control of intra-state conflicts. // Political science. 2005. No. 4. P. 141.

[27] A. A. sushentsov the War as a legal procedure. // International processes. 2007. Volume 5. No. 1(13). S. 134.

[28] J. G. Starke An Introduction to International Law. London, 1958. P. 341.; Oppenheim L. International Law. Vol. II. London, 1995. P. 132.

[29] J. Stewart.G. A single definition of armed conflict in international humanitarian law: an analysis of internationalized armed conflict. // International review of the red cross. 2003. Vol. 85. No. 850. P. 131.

[30] P. Sartre Making UN Peacekeeping More Robust: Protecting the Mission, Persuading the Actors. New York: International Peace Institute, 2011. P. 10.

[31] for details see: S. A. Egorov, the Kosovo crisis and the law of armed conflict. // International law. 2000. No. 3. S. 90-106.

[32] See: R. Cryer, "The fine art of friendship": jus in bello in Afghanistan. // Journal of Conflict and Security Law. 2002. Vol. 7. No. 1. P. 37-83.

[33] See: Kelley J. B. Assassination in Wartime. // Military Law Review. 1965. Vol. 30. P. 101-111.; L. R. Beres Assassination and the Law: A Policy Memorandum. // Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. 1995. Vol. 218. P. 299-315.; Gross M. L. Fighting by Other Means in the Mideast: a Critical Analysis of Israel's Assassination Policy. // Political Studies. 2003. Vol. 51. P. 350-368.; M. N. Schmitt, State-Sponsored Assassination in International and Domestic Law. // Essays on Law and War at the Fault Lines. Hague: Asser Press, 2011. P. 283-360.

[34] See: Stepanova E. the Internationalization of local-regional conflicts. // International life. 2000. No. 11. P. 83-94.

[35] Pearson F., Lounsbery M. O. Post-Intervention Stability of Civil War States. // Critical Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies. / Ed. by T. Matyуk, J. Senehi, S. Byrne. Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2011. P. 48-49, 51.

[36] Op. by: Moshkin S. V. Humanitarian intervention: the conditions and priorities. // Scientific Yearbook of the Institute of philosophy and law, Ural branch of RAS. Ekaterinburg, 2007. S. 242.

[37] See: Foucault, M. Security, territory, population. A course of lectures delivered at the Collège de France in 1977-1978 academic year. SPb.: Science, 2011. P. 391-393.

Ivanov A. A.

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