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At The Hill, Prof. William Burke-White warns that the international order will hold Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine

March 04, 2022

“Precisely because of the flagrancy of Putin’s violation, the world has emerged united behind the United Nations Charter,” writes Burke-White.

The following is an excerpt of “Putin tried to break the international order — it will hold him accountable,” written by William W. Burke-White, Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and recently published at The Hill:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a history of manipulating international law and institutions to advance his imperial ambitions and break the post-World War II order. After the failures to stop him in Georgia and Crimea, Putin has underestimated their power and resilience. His brazen breach of the most fundamental rule prohibiting aggressive war has backfired. Today, the post-WWII international order is stronger than ever, and international law will hold Putin to account.

Law has been but a toy for Putin since he studied it in St. Petersburg during the Soviet era. In 2008, he sent Russian troops to Georgia, claiming the legal right of self-defense in response to non-existent Georgian aggression. He justified his 2014 annexation of Crimea on a twisted version of the international law rule self-determination — the same rule that gave Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan their independence. His current conquest similarly distorts the law yet again. He recognized the separatist Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent nations and entered into “treaties” with their self-appointed leaders, to manufacture an “invitation” for Russian troops to enter Ukraine. He was well on his way to breaking the international system.

Invading Ukraine, however, is proving to be the step-too-far that the international community needed to reboot the international order and hold Putin to account… .

Burke-White is an international lawyer and political scientist, is a leading expert on U.S. foreign policy, multilateral institutions, and international law. He researches and writes on the relationships between law and politics in international affairs and has particular expertise on the design and implementation of complex global governance solutions that involve multiple countries, international institutions, and multilateral legal regimes. He has significant regional expertise on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. His current research examines the role of sub-state actors in the international legal system and the impacts of changing global power dynamics on the norms and structures of international law.

Read the full piece at The Hill.