Tanisha M. Fazal

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The Return of Conquest?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long declared that Ukraine has never existed as an independent country. The former Soviet republic is “not even a state”, he said as early as 2008. In a speech on February 21 of this year, he elaborated, arguing that “modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia”. Days later, he ordered Russian forces to invade Ukraine. As Russian tanks streamed across the Ukrainian border, Putin seemed to be acting on a sinister, long-held goal: to erase Ukraine from the map of the world.

What made Russia’s invasion so shocking was its anachronistic nature. For decades, this kind of territorial conquest had seemed to be a thing of the past.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of a Ukrainian territorial defense battalion set up a machine gun on Feb. 25, in Kyiv. (Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is shocking because it is so unusual for one country to so brazenly attack another’s political independence and territorial sovereignty today. A norm against territorial conquest — especially, against the wholesale erasure of countries from the world map — has conditioned international relations since the end of World War II.

Russia’s behavior raises the question: Are we witnessing the demise of that norm?

Not necessarily — but maybe.

Countries used to conquer other countries frequently

Conquest of land, including of entire countries, used to be relatively common. As I show in my book, “State Death,” buffer countries — traditionally, countries that lie between two countries that are rivals — were especially vulnerable to conquest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises from a blaze at a vehicle gathering point for civilians fleeing from the south of Idlib province after a government bombardment in the village of Maar Shurin in northwestern Syria on Aug. 25. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

By most accounts, the Syrian civil war seems to be winding down, with the exception of the Kurdish stronghold in the north. Rebel fighters have been almost entirely backed into a final stronghold in Idlib province, without a feasible strategy to fight back against the regime.

In the post-Cold War era, this situation would typically be accompanied by a renewal of diplomatic efforts to end the war. But peace talks appear to have stalled alongside the conflict. Instead, the war seems to be ending via a slow surrender by a fractured insurgency.

A slow surrender in Syria

The changing nature of the more than 80 cease-fire agreements that have sprinkled the conflict show the slow process of rebel surrender.…  Seguir leyendo »

From left: British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Italian Council President Vittorio Orlando, French Council President Georges Clemenceau and President Woodrow Wilson attending the opening day of the Conference for Peace in Paris. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

June 28, 2019, marks the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I. The major parties to the war negotiated among themselves to resolve the issues under dispute, making Versailles a classic peace treaty.

As such, it’s now an endangered species, as my research on peace treaties explains.

Soldiers and civilians alike cheered the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice and subsequent treaty. But historians have frequently disparaged the Treaty of Versailles — and its infamous war reparations clause, which some experts maintain was a cause of World War II. The United States abstained from signing this treaty. The United States also did not join the League of Nations, the international dispute resolution forum conceived by President Woodrow Wilson — another factor that may have hindered the treaty’s efficacy.…  Seguir leyendo »