To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.
1) Thomas L. Friedman, “Why Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Is Utterly Reckless,” New York Times, August 1, 2022;
2) “Russia suspends inspections of strategic arms under US treaty
Russia says it’s halting inspections under the New START treaty, but it remains committed to all provisions of the treaty,” Al Jazeera, August 8, 2022.
August 8, 2022
Al Jazeera reports that Russia will not allow U.S. inspections in Russia in accordance with the terms of the NEW START TREATY. This is a major violation of the only bilateral arms control treaty still in force between Russia and the United States.
Under international law this is a major event which would probably justify abrogation of the treaty.
In Putin’s imagined new world order such a blatant treaty violation is a matter of no consequence, because in a world of might-makes-right the observance if treaties is optional, as is compliance with other international law norms.
This is an early example of how international law and the international legal order may start crumbling, if Russianis not defeated in its war of aggression against Ukraine.
Similarly, there are treaties that prohibit military attacks on nuclear power plants, like the largest one in Europe at Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, which Russia is currently attacking.
Compliance with treaty obligations and international law in Putin’s world order: Purely optional.
Military threats and the use of force in Putin’s new world order
In the new world order, as Putin wants it to be, it will be quite natural for a large powerful country to threaten military action against a smaller neighbor if the latter does something it doesn’t like. In fact this is exactly what Putin did with Ukraine, until the threats turned into a military invasion.
It turns out that despite the one country two systems arrangement with the P.R.C. and Taiwan, Peking is still prohibited under international law from threatening or using force against Taiwan.
This is spelled out the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations, a U.N. General Assembly resolution which for decades has been generally accepted as an authentic interpretation of the U.N. Charter’s most basic provisions, particularly those prohibiting the use of force.
“Ukraine War, March 16, 2022: Washington Post op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to U.S. should be applauded, and approach supported by shifts in U.S. policy; P.R.C. is bound by U.N. Charter prohibition of the use of force, even against Taiwan, but don’t even think about independence for Taiwan; Kissinger’s “one country” approach has worked for 50 years; U.S. and China should jointly celebrate 50th anniversary of Shanghai Communique (Updated March 17, 2022)
Now China could argue that it is not covered by the specific language in the Declaration on Friendly Relations because technically Taiwan is not a “state”. This could be an open question, however.
The relevant language from the Declaration is:
Every State likewise has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate international lines of demarcation, such as armistice lines, established by or pursuant to an international agreement to which it is a party or which it is otherwise bound to respect.
The United States and other countries should now state clearly that they hold the official view that the line of demarcation between the P.R.C. and Taiwan is one which the P.R.C. “is otherwise bound to respect”.
Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter prohibits not only the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, but also “in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”.
A military invasion of Taiwan would be inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. This is the position the U.S. and other countries must clearly state, and steadily maintain, now, not after a Chinese invasion.
Moreover, the prohibition against the use of force is a peremptory norm of international law (jus cogens) whose contours are not limited by the Resolution.
The broader principle and others in the Charter seem to clearly prohibit the Chinese use of force against Taiwan.
With respect to Putin’s vision of international order, we can expect any number of future crises involving military threats if we return to a world of “might makes right”, as surely we will if Russia emerges victorious, with newly conquered territories, from its war of aggression against Ukraine.
We can see that the world has clearly gone mad since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
A war on the scale of the war in Ukraine is almost by definition proof that the world has gone mad, or rather returned to the perennial state of madness, endless war, that has characterized most of human history.
Might makes right. It made sense to the Germans and the Europeans on the eve of World War I before August 1914.
It made sense to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin who agreed in August 1939 to conquer Poland and divide its territory among themselves.
It made sense in Asia, where beginning in 1931 Japan began conquering the territory of other nations.
If Russia wins the war, there will be endless other wars, in Africa in particular.
Latin America settled its border disputes, by and large, in the 19th century under the brilliant and visionary leadership of a Brazilian diplomat and foreign minister, the Baron of Rio Branco, who negotiated Brazil’s border disputes with its neighbors, sometimes using international arbitration.
Outside of Latin America and Western Europe, the might-makes-right principle could pop up in almost any region. Obviously, it could also pop up in the Arctic with countries bordering Russia.
At the moment, Russia appears to be the primary protagonist of this new world order, though Turkey is also using the concept, from Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan) and Armenia to Syria whose territory it is violating to attack the Kurds.
If Putin’s vision prevails, China’s military threats against Taiwan would be just the beginning.
The Trenchant Observer
Subscribe to the Trenchant Observations newsletter on Substack, here.