Accepting Russia’s illegal conquest is a recipe for much more war
Hoaxlines could not find any major parties that explicitly do not wish for peace in Ukraine. The five prior agreements that Russia violated are why many are skeptical that lasting peace can be achieved through another.
Russia returned to the battlefield just a few years after suffering an embarrassing defeat in Chechnya in 1996. With a strong history of reneging on agreements, Ukraine would almost certainly be at risk again after Russia recuperated.
The data show that we might usher in an era with more conflict deaths per capita than from 1400 to today. More importantly, upending current norms and rewarding bad behavior could invite more violent land seizures. Norms are precisely what experts warn could disappear in a world that legitimized Russia’s illegal conquest.
The current international norms are flawed and need an update that reflects modernity. Still, the current order has judged by the number of deaths per person in state-based conflicts, been demonstrably more peaceful, judged by the number of deaths per person in state-based conflicts, than the era of illegal conquest during World War 2.
To prevent such catastrophic loss of life from occurring again, the international community generally accepted that combat victory would not lead to the transfer of rights after World War 2. To accept Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could invite death on a scale the world has seen only during the great pandemics.
The grim potential consequences were recently outlined in the article " Why the world can’t afford to let Russia get away with its land grab.” To paraphrase the work of Joseph O'Mahoney, an Associate Professor of International Relations:
Suppose Russia gains rights over these territories (as well as in Crimea) because it conquered them in battle, and the international community accepts these rights. In that case, the relatively solid expectation that illegal warfare conquest doesn’t pay is likely to evaporate.
Any negotiation that traded Ukrainian land would almost certainly result in more large-scale war crimes against Ukrainians in those regions. Investigations into Russian crimes have so far documented rape, torture, killing of men, women, and children, mutilation, starvation, grotesque scenes like human heads on spikes, torture cellars, and potentially well over 500,000 stolen Ukrainian children who have disappeared into the Russian Federation.
- Chechnya, where Russians perpetrated rape and torture of women and children and carried out mass civilian executions, led to no consequences.
- Georgia, where Russia ethnically cleansed Georgians and killed civilians indiscriminately, has only seen these crimes formally acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights in the last year.
- In Syria, Russia helped the Assad regime cast doubt on its use of chemical weapons on civilians with a long-term coordinated campaign. Russia has been complicit in the torture of Syrians, killed thousands of children, used illegal cluster munitions at least 125 times, and fired on US positions. “Russia has used its right to veto many times despite becoming a party to the Syrian conflict,” which violates the Charter of the United Nations, and there have been no meaningful consequences for Russian involvement.
- Ukraine received inadequate support in 2014 and was pressured to settle for peace. Russia invaded in 2022 anyway, in violation of the Minsk agreements.