10 July, 2024

At this particularly dangerous juncture in international relations, it is worth re-emphasising the condemnation of aggression by the Charter of the United Nations, in force since 24 October 1945 and to which virtually all states have signed up (the Holy See and Palestine are represented by permanent observer missions).This is why I have just made another link to it via the UN logo now placed at the top of the right-hand sidebar of this website.

The key provision is Article 2.4, which states that ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations’; as stated in the Preamble, armed force is only to be used ‘in the common interest.’

It is unavoidable that it should be the major powers, formally constituted as the permanent (veto-wielding) members of the Security Council, that have the right to ‘determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression’ and then what should be done about it ‘to maintain or restore international peace and security (Article 39). It is also probably inevitable that, from time to time, a member of the Permanent 5 will seek to avoid the consequences of its own aggression by calling it something else (for example, ‘a special military operation’) and perhaps asserting as well that the target of its military action is not actually a state, even though it is a long-standing member state of the UN itself. Any member of the P5 come to mind? Such postures should be seen for what they are: actions prompted by expansionist dreams dressed up in a skyscraper of lies that would make even Boris Johnson blush. Lesser states that, for one reason or another, are inclined to support or wink at such international law-breaking rather than at the least vocally condemn it should reflect that one day they might themselves be its victim, and be the more vulnerable because of their earlier want of courage and foresight. The UN Charter must be respected by all.