GGeorge HW Bush dreamed of it. A ” new world order “he had launched in 1990, after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, could emerge from this crisis, “a world where the rule of law prevails over the law of the jungle, where the powerful respect the rights of the weak”.
The world order that Vladimir Putin proclaimed by ordering the invasion of Ukraine is the exact opposite of this utopia. The then American president hoped to resuscitate the original spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, brought to the baptismal font in 1945 by his predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, and based on the renunciation, by the signatories, of “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.
This order received its final blow on February 24. The Cold War had certainly rendered it inoperative. The response to the invasion of Kuwait, in accordance with international law, had seemed to presage its resurrection, but this hope fizzled. The interventions of NATO in Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, then of the United States in Iraq in 2003, in fact violated international law, whatever the justifications put forward – the protection of the Albanian populations or the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
This had also been the case in previous violations, when an anti-Communist insurrection and the Communist Party leader’s call to counter it had been invoked (Budapest, 1956), the defense of the “socialism” (Prague, 1968), alleged demands of the communist government (Afghanistan, 1979), a coup (Granada, 1983)… Acting in coalition – Warsaw Pact, NATO or ad hoc coalition – could be seen as bringing a veneer of legitimacy to these offences.
Before the Iraq war, and in particular after the attacks of September 11, 2001, some American jurists had sought to justify a new doctrine, that of“pre-emptive action” supposed to authorize a military intervention without waiting for the criteria of legitimate defense to be met, which makes the use of force conform to the law. Michael Glennon, one of the defenders of this thesis, baptized “school of disuse”put it bluntly: “When a rule of law has been repeatedly and over a long period of time violated by a significant number of States, there is no longer any reason to believe that the States feel bound by it (…). At this stage, the rule has fallen into disuse, it is no longer mandatory, (…) it ceases to be international law. »
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