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The Necessity of Territorial Integrity

In seeking to build a lasting peace after decades of mass violence, the World War II generation declared aggression the highest international crime, and made territorial integrity the foundation stone of the global order. Nothing good could come from allowing these principles to be eroded.

STOCKHOLM – After World War II, global diplomatic efforts sought to create a new international order that would prevent the world from descending into war, chaos, and anarchy again. A major part of that project was to refine the international legal order by establishing tribunals to prosecute war crimes. Hearings held in Nuremberg and Tokyo established that aggression is the “supreme international crime” – one for which leaders from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were sentenced to death.

The Nuremberg Tribunal’s judgment was very clear on this point: “To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Since then, the international order has rested on the territorial integrity of states. To challenge this core principle with a violent act of aggression – the supreme international crime – is to put the entire world at risk of sinking into disorder, chaos, and war.

In a resolution adopted on March 2 of this year, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Russia for committing precisely this offense. Viewing Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine as an act of aggression, the resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

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