The Questionable Vladimir Putin (Part 3)

Annexation of Crimea

In February of 2014 Putin convened an all-night meeting with the heads of security to figure out how to extract the deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. On February 23rd of that year masked Russian troops took over the Supreme Council of Crimea. Russia initiated a military intervention in Crimea and Russia annexed Crimea on March 14th.

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International Law

Edward Poser, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, says Russia’s military actions in Ukraine violate international law, full stop.

Ruma Mandal, Senior Research Fellow at the Chatham House, points out that the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Russia and Ukraine requires both states to respect each other’s borders and resort to peaceful discussions to resolve disputes.

Mandal also says Russia’s actions fail to uphold the terms set in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum “where Russia, the UK and the US reaffirmed their obligations to ‘refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations’.”

There is some dispute over whether Putin broke international law, but it seems pretty clear Russia broke international law. The United Nations charter (article 2(4)) requires that all members refrain 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.” Russia is a permanent member of the UN so it should abide by its laws. Ashley Deeks, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, says:

Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter prohibits states from engaging in any threats or uses of force against other states. Although this clause has engendered untold hours of debate about its meaning, the transfer of one state’s armed forces into another state in significant numbers without consent almost certainly falls within Article 2(4)’s prohibition.

For Deeks Russia’s actions constitute an “unjustifiable armed attack on Ukraine.”


Ben Saul, Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney, puts it plainly, “Russia has unilaterally invaded Ukraine’s territory, and not by invitation, in self-defence, or with UN blessing. That is contrary to international law and the UN Charter, and amounts to the international crime of aggression.”

Tom Grant, Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, concurs and offers another crucial piece to our brief legal analysis. A centerpiece of international law is the rule of territorial stability. This rule requires that territories only change hands by consent and never by force. Russia’s actions in Crimea are clear violations of this rule.

Vladimir Putin violated international law.

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