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AJIL Unbound


In 1970, Thomas Franck asked a rhetorical question of enduring significance: Who Killed Article 2(4)?1 The reference is to the provision of the United Nations Charter that requires all member states to refrain “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”2 Vladimir Putin’s gambit in Ukraine, conducted with the rhetorical purpose of eliminating the country as an independent state, is the latest in a series of events that periodically cause analysts to bemoan the end of the post-World War II international order. Will this time be different? Will it mark a definitive change in international law? This short essay will argue that, bloody as the Ukraine conflict has been, the immediate response has been to reinforce rather than reject traditional norms about sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, the invasion and other states’ reaction to it illustrate both the character of, and limits to, authoritarian use of international law.

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