Tactical Agreements and Peace Treaties

Countries can protect themselves by negotiating tactical agreements and peace treaties, which endure while they are mutually convenient

The term ‘tactical agreement’ in this context describes one which has been negotiated outside the framework of international law – which means that it lacks the resilience that a legal framework can provide (5.3.6).  Such deals are agreed by the countries involved, as attempts at self-protection.  They can be brought into the framework of international law at a later date, if disputes are referred to the International Court of Justice, but that depends on mutual consent.  A party can otherwise walk away from a tactical agreement or peace treaty if it chooses to do so.

●  Parties can sign treaties, for example to resolve a border dispute, without choosing an external arbitration authority.  Renegotiation, withdrawal, or the threat of force are the only means of rectifying breaches of such treaties.

●  They can form ad hoc alliances or coalitions to combat perceived military threats.  Again, there is no formal mechanism for rectifying breaches – countries must renegotiate to resolve them.

Tactical Agreements

Some tactical agreements are negotiated to achieve a limited purpose.  The leaders of China and Russia declared that “Friendship between the two States has no limits” at the opening of the Beijing Olympics in February 2022, for example.  The Reuters coverage of this statement was typical of how it was seen by the West: China, Russia partner up against West at Olympics summit.  The existence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was not mentioned in the article – yet that was the strategic context in which the announcement was made, as described above (  The SCO is a major international alliance, for long-term collaboration as its name implies, but China and Russia asked for commitments by the West on specific issues:

“Beijing supported Russia’s demand that Ukraine should not be admitted into NATO, as the Kremlin amasses 100,000 troops near its neighbour, while Moscow opposed any form of independence for Taiwan, as global powers jostle over their spheres of influence.

“…Moscow and Beijing also voiced their opposition to the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the United States, saying it increased the danger of an arms race in the region.

“China joined Russia in calling for an end to NATO enlargement and supported its demand for security guarantees from the West.”

The AUKUS alliance referred to above is an agreement which “will let Australia build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US”.  It was announced in September 2021 – as described by the BBC: Aukus: UK, US and Australia launch pact to counter China.  The same article also refers to the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes New Zealand and Canada who are not in AUKUS – further illustrating the tactical nature of such groupings.

Another example of an ad hoc alliance is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) which revived in March 2021, after a long pause, with the Quad Leaders’ Joint Statement: “The Spirit of the Quad”.  It opened with this statement:

“We have convened to reaffirm our commitment to quadrilateral cooperation between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific. We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.”

Peace Treaties

There is a crucial difference between limited tactical agreements and peace treaties.  The signatories to a peace treaty might hope that it will endure.  It often doesn’t, though.  This is illustrated by some examples involving NATO, Russia, and Ukraine:

●  The Budapest memorandum, signed by America, Britain, Russia and Ukraine in December 1994, gave a commitment “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”.  Those three major powers also affirmed “their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial or political independence of Ukraine”.  Russia violated that by annexing Crimea in 2014 and invading Ukraine in February 2022.

●  Several attempts were made to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea.  A BBC article, Leaders urge implementation of Minsk peace deal in 2016, describes how repeated ceasefires were broken and the conflict continued.

●  NATO and Russia signed a joint declaration in the 2002 Rome summit: “NATO member states and Russia will work as equal partners in areas of common interest”.  America invaded Iraq in 2003, though, despite a veto by Russia.

These examples illustrate the inherent fragility of peace deals reached without an enforcing power.  As a contrasting example, the 1995 Dayton Accord put an end to a “three-and-a-half years of war in the Balkans”.  NATO peacekeepers were put in to enforce it, replaced by an EU peacekeeping force in 2004.  The agreement was lodged with the UN from the outset, and the peace has endured.  UN peacekeepers, though, had not been able to bring sufficient force to bear to keep the peace, as described later (7.4.4).

From this analysis, it follows that Ukraine would be unwise to accept any peace settlement that came without NATO membership.  Only on that basis could any loss of territory be justified, because only then could Russia be prevented from coming back later for more.  And a speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg included a willingness for this to happen: “Ukraine’s future is in NATO”.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/7272.htm.