President Donald Trump through his actions shows utter contempt for international law. This is true to such an extent that you have to wonder if he even knows what it is.
Consider the following actions or failures to act:
1. Green light for Saudi coalition blockade of Qatar, in flagrant violation of the principle of nonintervention in international law;
2. Imposition of tariffs in flagrant violation of basic rules of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and in basic violation of the fundamental norm of international law that “Treaties are to be obeyed”;
3. Harsh treatment including separation of families and expulsion of asylumm seekers at the U.S.-Mexican border, in open violation of treaties on asylum to which the United States is a party;
4. Failure to oppose energetically China’s military expansion and territorial claims in the South China Sea, in violation of international law;
5. Flirting with the idea of recognizing Russia’s military invasion and “annexation”of the Crimea, territory of the Ukraine;
6. Failure to respond to Russia’s ongoing attacks on the U.S. electoral system, and its intervention in the 2016 elections; and
7. Failure to condemn Russia’s commission of war crimes in Syria, e.g., bombing hospitals and emergency medical personnel in Aleppo.
To these examples, which are only the first to come to mind, must be added the total failure of the United States to contribute to the development of new international legal regimes to deal with problems such as the militarization of space or safeguarding the planet from global warming and its effects.
When thinking about Trump’s meeting in Helsinki on Monday with Vladimir Putin, we have to ask where does international law figure in his thinking, if at all?
Reporters would do well to read up on what international law is, and to ask Trump some questions about international law and, e.g., U.S. treatment of asylum seekers at the Mexican border, or his flagrant violations of the GATT treaty and other WTO trade agreements. They should certainly be able to pose sharp questions about the Russian conquest of the Crimea by military force, and whether he supports the U.N. Charter prohibition of the use of force across international frontiers (Article 2 paragraph 4).
The Trenchant Observer