Effective Responses to Russian Aggression in Ukraine are Needed

It is already the second month of a truly epic confrontation between Ukraine and Russia’s unprecedented brutal aggression. The war that is forced to wage, Ukraine has become, without exaggeration, the people’s one.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine are destroying the enemy on the battlefield, the economy is working to the limit where the situation allows, volunteers have taken on many functions of the state that it is simply unable to perform, doctors do not leave operating rooms for days, saving people’s lives, rescuers almost continuously liquidate consequences of rocket and bomb attacks.

Across Ukraine, and even in the area of active hostilities in the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv regions, the sowing campaign began actively. People in countries far from the war find it hard to believe. But it is so!

Without undue pathos, we can say that the vast majority of Ukrainians, not only in Ukraine, but in all corners of the globe, help their Motherland in every possible way, bringing victory closer.

Today it has already become obvious that the entire civilized world is on the side of Ukraine. The country is receiving humanitarian aid, many countries are hosting millions of women and children fleeing the war. Thousands of rallies in support of Ukraine have become commonplace for the cities of Europe, the USA, Canada, and Japan.

In fairness, it should be noted that many countries are not limited to humanitarian aid, selectively providing Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons. But the situation is unfolding in such a way that we have to state that this assistance is not enough.

Unfortunately, the world is in a “captivity” of the stereotypes of perception of what is happening that have developed in peacetime. Often the reality is such that consciousness refuses to perceive it. Real, adequate and effective actions are hindered by repeated reinsurance, “painful” scrupulousness, a tendency to follow formal conservative norms and procedures. What is the key to successful development in peacetime is a huge problem in wartime.

It must be admitted that Russian specialists in the field of information and psychological influence have studied the “West” well as a future enemy, found its most vulnerable places, and as a result, developed an effective strategy for carrying out information and psychological operations, which, along with the military component, are the most important striking force in the doctrine of hybrid warfare.

A simple, but unfortunately effective technique was the “euphemization” of the concept of war, i.e. its replacement with the phrase “special military operation”, which “driven” lawyers into a dead end, who have been trying for more than a month in the sources of international law to find an answer to the question: “Are there legal signs of war in Russia’s actions, and are conventions and other sources of international law in which this concept is used.

This is not the first time Russia has used this technique of “breaking consciousness”. “Peace enforcement” in 2008 in Georgia, “we are not there” in Crimea and Donbass in 2014, “international assistance to the fraternal Syrian people” in Syrian Aleppo in 2021. And this is not an exhaustive list of “perversion of reality” Russia. Unfortunately, this technique still works effectively. The justice of civilized countries is “mired” in the casuistry of international law, and cannot pay tribute not only to the perpetrators of crimes, but also to the inspiring organizers. In the current conditions, Russia, as it were, pushes to the thought: “no subject – no answer”! Russia provokes: “Try to prove that this is a war. Try to prove the obvious !

What to do in this situation? It is necessary, of course, to return common sense to the law, that is, to recognize the obvious without delay, and to prove only the non-obvious, to exclude as much as possible the possibility of Russia abusing the law. Court decisions must be prompt and absolutely unambiguous, in order to avoid the possibility of a “convenient” interpretation for Russia. The time has come to make not only “refined” legal decisions, but also political and legal decisions. All Russian organizers and perpetrators of crimes must be sent a signal: “Your methods no longer work, you will answer”!

There is some progress in this direction. On March 7, during hearings at the International Court of Justice on interim measures in the dispute “Ukraine Vs Russia” on the basis of the Genocide Convention, Yale University professor Harold Khonju Koh, who represented the interests of Ukraine, outlined the position of Ukraine and the requested interim measures. In his very emotional speech, and most importantly, a political argument was made regarding the long-term significance of the court’s decision in this case for all international law and the world legal order.

Khonju Ko , asked the court to recognize that Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is committing a pre-planned and undisguised act of aggression against its neighbor on the basis of senseless accusations of “genocide”. In addition , he added: “In such conditions, the Court simply does not have the right to show weakness.”

Professor Hongju Koh stressed the importance of the Court’s precedent decision, which should “ignite a spark” in the work of other international institutions dealing with Russian aggression, war crimes and violations of human rights.

According to him : “This is a dispute between Russia and the world legal order, formed after the Second World War. The unwillingness of the Court to decisively oppose this will be a confirmation of the collapse of the world legal order and the helplessness of the UN, together with the Court as such.”

The arguments given by an authoritative lawyer were not purely legal, but political and legal. However, his arguments worked. And this is another precedent. On March 16, the Chief Justice of the International Court of Justice, Joan Donoghue, announced the decision of the International Court of Justice: “The Russian Federation should, pending a final decision on the case, suspend the hostilities that began on February 24, 2022 on the territory of Ukraine.”

This decision of the International Court of Justice will become a starting point in optimizing the practical activities of international courts in cases of Russian crimes in Ukraine.

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