The ban on violence

We can only free ourselves from this spiral of violence if we return to the principles of international law and end both the use and the threat of force.
For they both pursue the same goal – the subjugation of the adversary – and they lead inevitably to real violence.

The ban/ prohibition on violence
A single article of international law could bring peace.
By Christoph Pfluger
[This article published on 4/9/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

One thing that finds too little entry into the current debate is that the UN Charter prohibits not only the use of force, but also the threat of force. Both behaviors belong together and pursue one and the same purpose: the subjugation of the opponent. However, the threat in particular is often underestimated in its effects. Sometimes it creates the very problems it seeks to prevent by deterring. And it is by no means only Russia that violates these sensible guidelines. If the war is to be ended as quickly as possible, all parties must remember principles that have long existed but are almost routinely violated.

The UN’s prohibition of the use of force applies to both the use and the threat of force. If Article 2 of the UN Charter were respected, Russia, the U.S. and their vassals could end the conflict through negotiations.

Faster than on any issue in recent decades, the whole world split into two camps on March 31. They wish each other defeat and are doing everything they can to make it happen. Neutrality seems impossible. The world is neither safer nor more peaceful as a result. Whoever wins in this confrontation: a victory will be a defeat for all.

Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter states:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or otherwise inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Those who are continually threatened with violence will sooner or later respond with violence.

So what is prohibited is not only the use of force, as Russia is doing now, but also the threat. The two aspects cannot be separated, not only because they are formulated in a single principle of international law, but because they are practically interrelated. A person who is continually threatened with violence will sooner or later respond by using violence.

A bully who terrorizes his classmates in the schoolyard with the threat of violence and thus secures privileges for himself will sooner or later reap real violence – namely, when the students or the school authorities realize that peace will not come until the oppressor is unequivocally put in his place or expelled from school or otherwise taught a lesson in a language he understands.

The threat and use of force must also be understood as one because they pursue the same goal: The subjugation of the adversary to one’s own will. Not for nothing did the famous strategist Carl von Clausewitz say that war is merely the continuation of politics by other means.

It is probably the greatest deficit of international political culture that the threat of force, although forbidden by the United Nations Charter, has become such a commonplace geopolitical instrument that we no longer even recognize, let alone sanction, its illegitimacy. The schoolyard of the humanity community is dominated by bullies who carry baseball bats and brass knuckles unhindered. And everyone thinks it’s normal.

The threat of violence sets in motion an ominous spiral

Getting used to the threat of violence is deceptive: we think it will stop at the threat. But: Either the threat is carried out sooner or later, or the threatened country itself responds with force – if it does not give up its self-determination guaranteed under international law. The threat thus sets in motion an ominous spiral that inevitably leads to the crossing of a red line.

This line has now been crossed in several respects in the Ukraine conflict. On the one hand, a war has been waged in the Donbass for eight years, which has led to more than 13,000 casualties, according to UN figures, despite the ceasefire commitment under the Minsk Agreement.

On the other hand, Russia has apparently come to the realization that the confrontation with NATO will sooner or later lead to greater use of force, given developments in Ukraine. It sees its self-determination so threatened by the repeated waves of NATO eastward enlargements and by the construction of anti-Russian missile bases in Poland and Romania that it believes it can only respond with force.

We can only free ourselves from this spiral of violence if we return to the principles of international law and end both the use and the threat of force.

For they both pursue the same goal – the subjugation of the adversary – and they lead inevitably to real violence.

What then is the story of the European schoolyard? There, for decades, a colossal bully with heavy youth wreaks havoc – the Soviet Union – and in 1991 collapses under the weight of its misdeeds. In the era of the drunkard Boris Yeltsin, other disciples, with the help of the United States and a few oligarchs, seize its coveted resources and, in a first expansion, include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in their military alliance.

By the time Vladimir Putin becomes prime minister in 1999 and president in 2000 of the former bully state, Russia’s early education and geopolitical positioning are already underway. Republican senator and presidential candidate John McCain will sum up the West’s attitude a few years later: “Russia is a giant gas station masquerading as a real country.”

To ensure that they can fill up there as cheaply as possible in the face of Russia’s opposition, the U.S. and, with it, NATO have done a number of things: They expanded their military alliance in 2004, 2009, 2017 and 2020 in four more waves to now 30 members, increasingly encircling Russia. In 2001, George W. Bush terminated the ABM disarmament treaty, and Trump buried the INF disarmament agreement in 2019, both unmistakable signals that, from the U.S. government’s point of view, the dispute between Russia and the United States may well once again take on military dimensions.

At the same time, hundreds of anti-government organizations in Russia and Ukraine received financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is a private but taxpayer-funded U.S. foundation. Those who currently want to check their grants on their website are served with the message that the database is out of order due to “maintenance work”.

Searching for “NED list of grants to Russia” with the search engine “Startpage” yields a promising preview, which leads to the NED website, but does not yield any countable results due to the dysfunctional database. In contrast, Swiss Policy Research provides a good overview. There are at least 73 pro-Western or anti-Russia organizations in Ukraine that are officially supported by the United States.

In summary, the U.S. has put considerable pressure on Russia over the past 20 years not only militarily, but also in terms of foreign policy – through the EU and its cooperation treaty with Ukraine – and domestically by funding a whole range of anti-government groups.

While the latter is not prohibited as a threat of violence, it is at least highly problematic as interference in internal affairs. No state likes its internal opponents to be financed from the outside.

Russia’s resistance to this development in the diplomatic arena has been largely ineffective. In 2007, during the Munich Security Conference, Vladimir Putin made it clear that NATO’s eastward expansion directly affected Russia’s security needs and was unacceptable. In response, so to speak, NATO welcomed the accession aspirations of Ukraine, with which a military partnership had already been agreed in 1997, at its 2008 summit in Bucharest.

As a final diplomatic measure, Vladimir Putin presented the U.S. and NATO with a series of demands in December 2021 – including NATO’s withdrawal to its 1997 positions and the de-installation of offensive weapons systems near the border. If these demands were not met, “technical-military” consequences would be inevitable. Observers puzzled over whether this was now an ultimatum or simply another urgent request to negotiate Russian security needs.

The two superpowers missed a final opportunity during a video conversation in mid-February 2022, when, according to the Kremlin, Putin told Biden that Washington had failed to address Russia’s key concerns and had not received a “substantive response” to critical issues, including NATO expansion and the deployment of offensive forces in Ukraine.
So how do we get out of the spiral of violence?

Sanctions – economic force – seem unlikely to do the trick. It can be assumed that the Western leaders who order them are also aware of this. Why they do it anyway, we do not know. To do so, we would need to know their longer-term strategic goals, about which, however, there is little confirmed knowledge.

What is certain is that the sanctions will hit Europe hard, while the U.S. will not only be able to supply its expensive shale gas to Europe, but will not boycott Russian oil.

At a Feb. 24 White House press briefing, the U.S. government’s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Daleep Singh, acknowledged dependence on Russian oil and said a breath later, “We’re not going to do anything that’s going to inadvertently disrupt the flow of energy because the global economic recovery is still underway.”

This means nothing other than that the U.S. will continue to purchase Russian oil and will certainly pay for it. After all, Russia is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. after Canada. Like many wars, the “operation” in Ukraine will probably have a laughing third party.

Presumably, the West will now be concerned with preventing a quick success of the Russian troops and, given the weakness of the Ukrainian army, taking the war to the people. There is no other explanation for the stationing of heavy guns in residential areas and the indiscriminate distribution of small arms to the population. The support of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of volunteers to travel to Ukraine and intervene in the war seems downright desperate.

Of course, this short text and my small voice will not be able to end the war in Ukraine. But it seems to me important that the human community is aware that rules exist to end the conflict. They just need to be applied.

Editorial note: This article first appeared under the title “Ukraine: a single article of international law could bring peace.” in the April issue of Ze!tpunkt.

Christoph Pfluger, born in 1954, studied medicine and jurisprudence for several semesters. He has been working as a journalist since 1979. Initially, he worked for the Berner Zeitung and the news agency Deutscher Depeschendienst (ddp), and later for the business pages of major Swiss dailies, weeklies and magazines. Since 1992, he has been editor of the bimonthly magazine Zeitpunkt. His most recent publication was “Das nächste Geld – die zehn Fallgruben des Geldsystems und wie wir sie überwinden” (The next money – the ten pitfalls of the monetary system and how we can overcome them). For more information, visit

This entry was posted in 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply