Background papers, International Law, Political Commentary

International Law and Exceptionalism: Russia and the US

The ravages of World War II had put a finer point on the need for the emergent community of nations to maintain a strong collective commitment to international norms and conventions. This created the bedrock for the United Nations and the international legal system in the immediate aftermath. Challenges quickly emerged as Communism and religious exceptionalism eat into the solid legal jurisprudence. However, fear of global violent conflict allowed countries and cultures to rise above individual concerns and settle into a global accepted set of international laws. Indeed the UN was instrumental since 1945 in adding very useful new laws – Law of the Oceans, Child Rights – just to mention the most obvious. These laws together with the full set of Geneva conventions were applied and upheld, albeit some what subjectively in Vietnam, Koreas, Cambodia, and a significant number of other cases like Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia.

Yet the exceptionalism that broke this fragile yet efficient safety net was equally the invasion of Crimea and the use of chemical weapons by Russia again defectors. Further, legal order and international law were effectively circumvented and negated when the United States conducted unilateral wars, black ops and the set up secret prisons and torture facilities. The fragrant violations of all laws by commencing a system of arbitrary arrests, cross border infiltrations and raids, torture, aggressive “advanced” interrogation techniques and arbitrary detention with legal redress are just the tip of the violations perpetrated by the United States against people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq. The result was an in principal tacit exceptionalism with regard to critical international laws, norms and conditions on war, human rights and humanitarian law.

The Soviet Union and Russia conducting horrific acts of mass violence and atrocities in Chechnya, occupation in Georgia and Moldova, and eventually the annexation of the Crimea. All these serious breaches of international law, of Law of Nations and of the Geneva conventions by the Russians were conducted with an eye to American exceptionalism. The US and Soviet Union seemed to play tic-tack-tow with each other through the Cold war decades in a bid to out do each other in violating important international laws, meanwhile holding the new emerging countries to high ideals and conducts that they themselves were not observing. However, it was US policy and action set a precedent exceptionalism that Russia could use as cover to proceed on a new oppressive agenda.

Then Iraq. Then Iraq again. Then Libya. Then Syria. Now Syria. Now Syria where chemical weapons have been used indiscriminately without any punitive action, legal or political or economic against the manufacturer of chemical weapons. They continue to be used but there is only chatter in the Security Council. While the United Nations did enforce action on chemical weapons usage in Syria, the initiatives did not prevent further violations.

Both the US and Russia, as well as a number of other countries like Sweden and Iran are producing chemical warfare agents that technically skirt or circumvent prevailing international norms and regiments. Any usage of chemical agents has been restricted to newly emergent nations in Africa, Asia and Middle East. So when in 2018, we have the chemical poisoning in Salisbury, UK, it was only the second time in recent times that a chemical attack occurred in a Western country; the first occurred with the poisoning of a Russian spy turncoat in the UK 15 years ago. The Security Council lead by the P3, introduced punitive resolutions against Russia while the Russian people chose to re-elect Vladimir Putin as President. The stark contrast between the ongoing war in Syria with chemical attacks and the outcry over a single act in the UK is clear and regrettable.

Meanwhile the breaches of international laws over the Cold War years have not ended. An artificial war in Yemen, apparently created to fight erstwhile mountain Beduin tribes rumored to be supported by Iran, has all put destroyed one of the oldest cultures and counties in the Middle East. The war in Yemen has created a new abrogation. The coalition leader Saudi Arabia spends billions on defense technology and equipment procurement from the USA and UK, and issuing these purchases to kill the people of Yemen.

Who gains? Who wins?

Breaches of international law , particularly the laws governing War, Geneva conventions, Human Rights and Humanitarian situations have an established precedence in actions and initiatives perpetuated mostly by the US and Russia. Their actions have rendered overall enforcement and respect for international laws much harder to enforce and uphold. 








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