Russia-Ukraine Conflict: International Legal Enforcement Takes a Sideline Seat to Economic Prowess, Chaisson Bowen

Russia-Ukraine Conflict: International Legal Enforcement Takes a Sideline Seat to Economic Prowess, Chaisson Bowen

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which escalated with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the recent invasion of Ukraine in 2022, has raised significant questions about the effectiveness and enforceability of international law. This blog post will examine the legal issues surrounding the conflict and their implications for the international legal system.

One of the primary legal issues in the Ukraine-Russia conflict is the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. According to the United Nations Charter, all member states must respect the territorial integrity and political independence of other states [1]. Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine clearly violate this principle, as they involve the use of force against another sovereign state without the authorization of the UN Security Council [2].

Moreover, Russia’s annexation of Crimea violates the principle of non-annexation, which prohibits states from acquiring territory through the use of force [3]. This principle is enshrined in the UN Charter and has been reaffirmed in numerous international agreements, including the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 [4].

The international community has widely condemned Russia’s actions, with many states imposing economic sanctions and diplomatic measures in response [5]. However, the effectiveness of these measures in deterring further aggression and ensuring compliance with international law remains uncertain [6].

Another legal issue raised by the conflict is the question of self-determination. Russia has justified its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine by claiming to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in these regions [7]. However, the right to self-determination does not grant states the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other states or to annex territory without the consent of the affected population [8].

The conflict has also highlighted the limitations of the UN Security Council in addressing threats to international peace and security [9]. Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has used its veto power to block resolutions condemning its actions and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict [10]. This has led to calls for reform of the Security Council to prevent individual states from using their veto power to shield themselves from accountability [11].

The Ukraine-Russia conflict has significant implications for the international legal system as a whole. It demonstrates the challenges of enforcing international law when 73 from the original 195 countries who signed the UN Charter, additionally agreed for the dispute allocation to be settled in the International Court of Justice [12]. It allows manipulation and confusion to the general public because of the indirect, if not misleading conclusions that the procedural criteria has created up to this point, especially when comparing the current situation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [13].


One thing is for sure, only wealthy countries have an easier time starting and maintaining wars [14]. So, how is Russia capable of keeping up this war on foreign soil hindered by tremendous sanctions from the Western world? One word: China. China has been able to supply Russia with many vital components that make for a functioning market [15]. Thus, one answer to the enforcement issue would be to sanction the middleman [16]. However, it seems like this solution might be 40 years too late [17].

In conclusion, the Ukraine-Russia conflict raises important questions about the effectiveness and enforceability of international law in the modern world. While the international community has taken steps to condemn Russia’s actions and impose consequences, the conflict remains unresolved, and the long-term implications for the international legal system are uncertain. As the international community seeks to address this and other challenges to the rule of law, it will be essential to strengthen existing mechanisms for enforcing international law and to develop new approaches to conflict resolution that prioritize diplomacy, dialogue, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.


[1] U.N. Charter art. 2, ¶ 4.

[2] Christian Marxsen, The Crimea Crisis: An International Law Perspective, 74 Heidelberg J. Int’l L. 367 (2014).

[3] Sharon Korman, The Right of Conquest: The Acquisition of Territory by Force in International Law and Practice (1996).

[4] Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, Helsinki Final Act (1975).

[5] Jonathan Masters, Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia, Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations 2022 (updated February 14, 2023 7:00 am),

[6] Here Come More Sanctions: How Effective Are They at Stopping Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?, AP News, Here come more sanctions: How effective are they are stopping Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? | AP News.

[7] Vladimir Putin, Address by President of the Russian Federation, The Kremlin, Moscow (2014).

[8] Milena Sterio, The Right to Self-Determination Under International Law: “Selfistans,” Secession, and the Rule of the Great Powers (2013).

[9] Limits on the Powers of the Security Council, in The UN Security Council and International Law (Devika Hovell ed., 2021).

[10] U.N. SCOR, 64th Sess., 7138d mtg. at 136, U.N. Doc. S/PV.7138 (March 15, 2014).

[11] Martin Binder, The United Nations and the Politics of Selective Humanitarian Intervention (2015).

[12] Declarations Recognizing the Jurisdiction of the Court as Compulsory, Int’l Ct. Just., Declarations recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory | INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE (

[13] Amb. Alan Baker, The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Legal and Political Implications, 22 Jerusalem Ctr. for Pub. Affs. No.4, The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Legal and Political Implications (

[14] Which Countries Are Most Likely to Fight Wars?, Economist, Which countries are most likely to fight wars? (

[15] Ana Swanson, Why Sanctions Haven’t Hobbled Russia, N.Y. Times, Why Sanctions Haven’t Hobbled Russia – The New York Times (

[16] Trevor Hunnicutt & Michael Martina, Exclusive: US Seeks Allies’ Backing for Possible China Sanctions over Ukraine War, Reuters, Exclusive: US seeks allies’ backing for possible China sanctions over Ukraine war | Reuters.

[17] H. R. McMaster, US Restraint Turned Russia and China Into Bigger Threats, Foreign Pol’y, US Restraint Turned Russia and China Into Bigger Threats (