Sea Control 27 – International Law, Crimea, and China

In this episode, Anthony Clark Arend, Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service speaks about International law. International law comprises not only written agreements from the UN, from multilateral organisations or from a bilateral understanding, it includes also unwritten norms and customs on the international level. Because we have a state based international system, the states themselves create International law. This is possible in two ways: First through treaties and second through practice. The validity of an international norm doesn’t depend on which way it was created, but it is not always enforced. Therefore, in certain areas exists questions about the legitimacy of some specific rules.

Regarding the Russian invasion into Crimea, Russia is violating the second article of the Charter of the United Nation, which states that “[a]ll Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. It seems clear, but in fact it isn’t. Since 1945, several states have used force with a proper justification. Because International law is also created by practice, there may be justifications, which legitimate a such invasion. Arend thinks that the Russian invasion into Crimea is not that different of hundred similar actions of states since 1945 (US Invasion in Grenada, US intervention in Panama, Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan and so on). Actually, the case is much more complicated because of the Crimea’s historic connection to Russia and because of the Referendum of March 16. Even if these arguments are highly controversial, they are also honest. On the other side, Arend thinks that it is important to challenge Russia about the annexation of the Crimean peninsula because this influence the law further. A good example of the importance to challenge a claim is China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. If other states tolerate this claim, it will create a precedence case for a new International law.

A man waves a Russian flag as people look at fire works in the center of the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously voted on March 21 to ratify the treaty incorporating Crimea into Russian territory (Photo: Viktor Drachev).

A man waves a Russian flag as people look at fire works in the center of the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Russia’s upper house of parliament unanimously voted on March 21 to ratify the treaty incorporating Crimea into Russian territory (Photo: Viktor Drachev).

In this interesting conversation, Arend explains further, how the US and/or NATO could react in response to the Crimean Crisis, that the options are limited and that in general the use of “red lines” isn’t a good idea.

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CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

This entry was posted in English, Sea Control, Security Policy, Ukraine.

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