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The Return of Conquest? Why the Future of Global Order Hinges on Ukraine

Authors: :Tanisha M. Fazal
Affiliation: Political Science professor at Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota
Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs
Date/Place: May-June, 2022/ USA
Type of Literature: Journal Article
Word Count: 3604
Keywords: Ukrainian War, Geography, Norms against Territorial Conquest, State Death, the Future of Global
The author argues that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a decisive test of norms against the territorial conquest of other countries by force and changing the borders—a tradition that was established in the international order after the end of the Second World War. This prevailing norm, which preaches the sacredness of borders and maximizing their importance, has prevented the swallowing-up of the weakest countries, especially those geographically adjacent to the major powers. The Russian invasion of Ukraine revives the ancient law of acquisition by conquest and threatens the future stability of the international system if the global community does not strictly move against it. It forebodes the extinction of more states from the world map and the changing of borders. The article is based on the author’s book published in 2007, entitled: “State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation.” The article is divided into four parts. The first part explains the phenomenon of “state death” in history, defining its reasons and tracing its steady decline since the early twentieth century. State death expresses the formal loss of control over foreign policy to another state after submitting to the latter, and the inability to act independently on the world stage. At the beginning of the modern state era, the reason behind state death was mainly the blunt force trauma that a country may be exposed to from another. Between 1816 and 1945, countries were disappearing from the world map because of this trauma every three years, on average. The countries located between the competitors were more likely to be seized. For instance, Poland was carved up by its surrounding strong powers (Austria, Prussia, and Russia) between 1772 – 1795, and it completely disappeared from the map of Europe for more than a century. In addition to the unfortunate geographical location of such countries, the author determines other reasons for the state’s death including its lack of strong diplomatic relations with the colonial powers. The “strong” trade relations conducted by many countries in Africa and Asia with the colonial powers were not sufficient for their survival. Here, the author compares those countries to others in the Middle East and Latin America that established strong diplomatic relations with colonial powers that helped them to keep their survival. Since the early twentieth century, this phenomenon has known a remarkable decline. The emergence of the United States as a great power—that had completed its invasion of lands in the American continent—contributed to the decline in the “death of state”, in addition to President Wilson’s 14 principles that were promoted during his era and after, especially the selfdetermination and defense of the territorial integrity, despite the US’ double standard in its use of these principles. In addition, the horrific events of the Second World War contributed to restraining states from territorial-conquest behavior in the post-war era



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