Putin’s Threats and Dreams: Impose sanctions now for threatening the use of force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter



1) Andrew E. Kramer and Steven Erlanger, “Russia Lays Out Demands for a Sweeping New Security Deal With NATO; The proposal, coming as Moscow masses troops on the border with Ukraine, would establish a Cold War-like security arrangement in Eastern Europe that NATO officials immediately rejected, New York Times, December 17, 2021.

2) “Ukraine: Putin’s “red lines” and the “red lines” of the U.N. Charter and international law, The Trenchant Observer, December 3, 2021.

Vladimir Putin has a weak hand.

He is threatening to invade Ukraine further (beyond his 2014 invasion of the Crimea and the Donbas region in the eastern Ukraine), in order to force the U.S. and NATO to agree to never admit Ukraine or Georgia (which Russia invaded in 2008) into the NATO alliance.

Russia has reportedly even advanced draft treaties laying out its demands. The treaties were put forward by a lower official, not even by foreign minister Sergey Lavrov or by Putin himself, and must be regarded as part of a transparent negotiating pkoy.

Any treaty secured under the current Russian threat of using force against Ukraine would be null and void under the jus cogens prinviple of international law that a treaty secured by the threat or use of force is void. This norm of peremptory international law is codified in Article 52 of the 1969 U.N. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Putin is violating the prohibition against the threat or use if force contained in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, itself a norm of jus cogens or peremptory international law.  It is the mosr important principle in the United Nations Charter, the foundation stone on which it is built.

The U.S., NATO countries, the EU, and other allies should immediately adopt sanctions sagainst Russia for threatening to invade Ukraine.

In addition, the U.S. and its allies should introduce a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly reaffirming these principles and the right of all sovereign states to join any military alliance or economic union they want to.

These basic principles of international law have been reaffirmed in the General Assembly’s 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations and Peaceful Relations Among States. The proposed resolution should reaffirm the Declaration on Friendly Relations, once again.

These principles are supported by an overwhelming number of states. The vote on the resolution in the General Assembly  would be a powerful reminder to Russia–and China–that the prohibition against the threat or use of force retains the strong support of the great majority od states.

With regard to China, the Declaration on Friendly arelations contains specific language that makes clear that any Chinese use of force against Taiwan would violate Article 2 (4) of the U.N. Charter.

The U.S., NATO, the EU, and their allies should impose sanctions against Russia now for its violation of Article 2 (4) by threatening the use of force against Ukraine. Such action would do far more to deter Putin and Russia from invading Ukraine than mere  talk of “serious consequences” for Russia if it invades Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.