Think Russia's Land Grab is Unique? Think Again.

tags: Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Crimea, Cyprus



Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, specializing in international and constitutional law.

It has become a truism in discussions of Russia's takeover of Crimea that in the post-World War II international order, countries no longer rewrite borders through force — or if they do, rarely find themselves faced with determined opposition from other states. As Secretary of State John F. Kerry put it, the Crimea campaign is a "19th century act."

Such statements ignore major pieces of inconvenient history. Though it is too early to say much about the 21st century, the late 20th century saw countries gobble up foreign territory. Indeed, even the more modest claim that such territorial conquest is unknown in Europe is not true. Sometimes these actions met determined international opposition, but just as often they did not. Immediate objections fade. Indeed, a comprehensive study of post-WWII conquest finds that United Nations condemnation happens in well under half the cases.

Russian President Vladimir Putin needed to look no further than his Black Sea neighbor Turkey for inspiration. In 1974, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, and continues to occupy the northern third of the island under an unrecognized puppet regime. Cyprus is a member of NATO and the European Union. This has not prevented the development of close relations, and even solicitude, from the EU toward its own occupier....




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