Crimea, International Law, and the West Bank (Commentary Magazine)
June 3, 2014
By Eugene Konotorovich
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the spring shuttling between his two major foreign-policy concerns—Russia’s control over Crimea and Israel’s control over the West Bank—entirely unaware that he was engaged in a world-historical irony. Both these situations turn on identical international-law principles. Indeed, the failure of the United States to apply these principles consistently has led to the long-standing failure of its Middle East initiatives, while inadvertently opening the door for Russian aggression.
The legal principle that explains why Crimea was and remains under Ukraine’s sovereignty also validates Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
Let us start with the less controversial case. The international community agrees that, despite Russia’s annexation, Crimea remains sovereign Ukrainian territory. On March 27, the UN General Assembly voted 100 to 11 to continue to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine. Russia cannot rewrite Ukraine’s frontiers at will.