Since signing the Charter of the United Nations in 1945, the only violation of Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the charter, which declares that no state can use military force to conquer another state’s territory, was in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Russia had about 130,000 troops stationed at the Ukrainian border, as of Feb. 4. If Russia invades Ukraine, this would be the second ever violation of this section of the charter.
To Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, this is a massive threat to an essential norm of international law.
“We can’t really lose the rule, but boy it gets weaker if we let Russia invade Ukraine,” O’Connell said of Article 2(4). “The U.S. has a real interest in stopping this kind of aggression to save the world order.”
Notre Dame international relations professor Michael Desch disagrees. “We’ve overstated our interest [in Ukraine],” he said. “It’s not trivial, but I don’t think it needs to be as big a deal as it’s become.”
Instead, Desch predicts that Russian president Vladimir Putin is threatening an invasion of Ukraine to force the West into giving Russia something. “My own view is that the Russians are not likely to invade,” Desch said. “That they’re putting on the pressure to try to achieve some diplomatic objectives.”