Russia, the use of force and self-defence – The continued relevance of Public International Law

Jun 01, 2022 | by
  • Description

In a speech delivered by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, justifying his invasion and attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, he claimed that he was lauching a 'special military operation' in self-defence due to the expansion of NATO eastward, and the increasing military, technology and other capabilities of Western states posing a security threat to Russia (Putin, 2022). He also argued that the Russian Federation was acting in collective self-defence with the Ukrainian regions: Donetsk and Luhansk, which had declared independence earlier in Feburary 2022 and had been unilaterally recognised by Russia. Without providing evidence Putin claims, that the Russian-speaking population of Donetsk and Luhansk are "facing humiliation and genocide, perpetrated by the Kyiv regime" (Putin, 2022). He alleged that the 'special military operation' was not an occupation, nor did it intend to interfere with the interests of the Ukrainian people, but rather that it was a response to the hostage-taking of Ukraine by neo-Nazis and Western powers. It should come as no surprise that the West's perspective is the exact opposite, accusing the Russian Federation of violating international law and the rules governing self-defence (Kerr, 2022). In the face of Russia's unjustified use of for against Ukraine, and the apparent inability of the international community's mechanisms and institutions to reign, Putin, in the continuined relevance of international law needs to be reviewed. To determine whether public international law is still alive and well, it is first necessary to look at the relevant law that governs the situation, the context and actions of the relevant stakeholders, and the enforcement mechanisms of the United Nations. Of course, it has become clear that the Russian Federation has committed violations of international law beyond the use of force prohibition in their armed attacks in Ukraine, which is beyond the scope of this article.