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What are the possible mechanisms that can be used to settle territorial disputes between Ukraine and Russia should the hostilities cease? I heard that most disputes are settled through bilateral meetings between the affected parties (Russia and Ukraine), but I am interested to hear if there exist some court or institutions that can facilitate the process or involve other parties such as China or the United States.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines_v._China I know for a fact that UNCLOS was invoked to try to settle the disputes, but China simply rejected the decision, because UNCLOS had no power over China, so I am wondering if there's a more effective mechanism for dispute settlement involving territorial disputes.

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    In general, you'll want to wait more than 20 minutes after posting your question before accepting an answer one minute after it's posted (and the only answer to the question).
    – uberhaxed
    Jun 24 at 22:05

3 Answers 3

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Countries can agree to arbitration. As you mentioned Ukraine, they did agree something like with Romania... over Snake Island and the surrounding EEZ.

I can't think of any examples where countries agreed to that after going to war over said territories, though. (N.B. some examples that would qualify for the latter category are the 1968 "Rann of Kutch arbitration" which did settle some border demarcation matters beween India and Pakistan, although it hardly prevented later armed conflicts between the two countries on other/related matters. And another would be the 1988 "Taba arbitration" regarding the border on the Sinai peninsula that had been left unresolved by the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty proper.)

In any case, it's extremely unlikely Putin's government and Zelenski's would come to such an arbitration agreement. Most likely Ukraine's policy will be influenced by whatever support it's getting (or lack thereof) from the West. Back in the days of the Minsk agreements, Germany and France were quite interested in the fighting to stop (even if that meant Ukraine making fairly big concessions). And the US didn't care much about the region.

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Arbitration can be suitable if the question is exactly which mountain ridgeline or which arm of a river delta to use. Generally small areas with low population, even if they can have huge implications for maritime zones. But between Russia and Ukraine, the problem isn't where the district boundaries are exactly, it is which district boundaries to use as international border. (Or even if any should be used, according to Russia.)

The precedent for cases like that is a plebiscite. Russia organized some, but the international community refused to consider them valid. The three problems are who gets to count the vote (this can probably be overcome), who gets to write the voter rolls (more difficult), and who defines who gets the franchise (that will be close to impossible). Ukraine will likely insist that displaced persons from the areas under consideration can vote, but not Russians living there, while Russia will likely see it the other way around.

Precedents for such plebiscites are e.g. the Saarland, which wanted to stay German after WWII, and Schleswig, where the northern part decided to join Denmark after WWI.

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If Ukraine joins NATO, the nuclear deterrent becomes the mechanism that can be used to settle territorial disputes between Ukraine and Russia. Russia will not attack a NATO member.

Russia only attacked Ukraine because it could easily do so without a substantial risk of a nuclear confrontation. Russia similarly attacked Georgia and Moldova before, and similarly annexed the territories of these states.

Note that Russia did not attack many of its other neighbors, such as Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia, precisely because it prefers to avoid open warfare with NATO members, for fear of a nuclear confrontation.

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    This does not answer the question.
    – alamar
    Jun 24 at 22:28
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    When did Russia attacked Moldova?
    – convert
    Jun 25 at 11:17
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    @convert: "[...] direct intervention of Russian 14th Guards Army stationed in Moldova on behalf of the secessionist side resulted in end to fighting and the emergence of the internationally unrecognized entity of Transnistria. Russian-brokered ceasefire, cemented the status quo, and left two separate groups of Russian military forces remained in Moldova: a small peacekeeping regiment, which is part of the Joint Control Commission, and the 14th Army, which was tasked with guarding a large Soviet ammunition depot in Cobasna" See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moldova%E2%80%93Russia_relations Jun 27 at 15:12
  • @Timur Shtatland But that was not an atac even compared to Georgia and specially Ukraine. The fighting were already going for a long time when russian forces entered that teritory. A funy fact, even Ukraine was more on the side of Transnistria.
    – convert
    Jun 27 at 17:51

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