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Ukraine and the Crisis of International Law

Jeffrey Sachs


International law itself is at a crossroads. The US, Russia, the EU, and NATO cite it when it is to their advantage and disregard it when they deem it a nuisance. Again, this is not to justify Russia’s unacceptable actions; rather, it is to add them to the sequence of actions contrary to international law.

The same problems may soon spill over into Asia. Until recently, China, Japan, and others in Asia have staunchly defended the requirement that the Security Council approve any outside military intervention in sovereign states. Recently, however, several countries in East Asia have become locked in a spiral of claims and counterclaims regarding borders, shipping lanes, and territorial rights. So far, these disputes have remained basically peaceful, but tensions are rising. We must hope that the countries of the region continue to see the great value of international law as a bulwark of sovereignty, and act accordingly. 

There have long been skeptics of international law – those who believe that it can never prevail over the national interests of major powers, and that maintaining a balance of power among competitors is all that really can be done to keep the peace. From this perspective, Russia’s actions in the Crimea are simply the actions of a great power asserting its prerogatives.


Read the full article at Project Syndicate

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