Lease in International Law

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lease in International Law


the granting by one government to another of rights to utilize part of its territory; the purpose, term, and payment are determined by international agreement. Under the terms of such a lease, the lessor permits the lessee-government to exercise specific rights in the leased territory and, at the same time, correspondingly limits the lessor’s rights in this territory; the scope and character of such rights are also determined by the agreement. The lease agreement must correspond to the interests of both sides. The lease is implemented only in accordance with the purposes provided for in the agreement. The leased territory cannot be utilized in violation of the sovereignty and security of the lessor-government. The lease cannot be of unlimited length. At the end of the lease’s term, the lessee-government exhausts all rights in the leased territory, and even during the term of the lease this territory continues to remain under the sovereignty of the lessor-government: the lessor-government retains in this territory all its rights, with the exception of those rights granted for the term of the lease.

In the conduct of international relations, the lease is granted for the construction and exploitation of transportation routes (canals, pipelines), various scientific stations, for the establishment of free zones in seaports, and the like. Imperialist governments (especially as practiced by the USA) often utilize the lease agreement to establish military bases on the territory of other states. The aggressive character of these military bases, the infringement of the rights and interests of the governments whose territory they occupy, represent a breach of the most important principles of international law. Imperialist governments, by distorting the substance and principles of the lease agreement, utilize it to retain under their control the territory of other states. For example, the unlimited’ ‘lease” by the USA of the Panama Canal Zone was involuntary in character; it was effected at the insistence and in the interests of the USA, and literally all authority within the boundaries of the leased territory is exercised by the USA. All this provides a basis for considering such a lease situation illegal. Basing themselves on this practical application of leases in international law; a number of jurists from bourgeois countries view such a lease as a de facto transfer of territory, which contravenes the generally accepted norms of international law.

In its conduct of international relations, the USSR utilizes such a lease as a means for the development of peaceful collaboration with other countries and for strengthening the security of the USSR. Thus, by an agreement of Sept. 27, 1962, between the USSR and Finland, the USSR, meeting the desires of Finland, granted it a 50-year lease for the Soviet part of the Saimaa Canal and Malyi Vysotskii Island. This lease has a special purpose: only freight is to be transported along the water routes; the transport of military personnel, arms, ammunition, and other military materials is forbidden. Finland pays the Soviet Union a fixed sum for the use of the canal and other leased territories. This lease is meticulously regulated, taking into consideration the interests of both sides in accordance with the generally accepted principles anu norms of international law. Soviet legislation and Soviet organs of authority continue in force in the leased territories, but with some exceptions by rights granted to Finland to regulate in accordance with its own laws the interrelationships between Finnish citizens and institutions in the leased territories. At the same time, cases of lawbreaking, committed in the leased territories by Finnish citizens but not involving the security of the USSR, are turned over by Soviet organs of authority to the organs of authority on the territory of Finland for their examination and judgment.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.