Contestation in the Non-intervention Norm

  • Betcy Jose
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Political Science book series (BRIEFSPOLITICAL)


As declared by the International Court of Justice, the non-intervention norm is one of the most foundational norms in international relations today (International Court of Justice 1969). The non-intervention norm governs a variety of inter-state behavior, from official public statements to the use of force, which can intrude on a state’s domestic affairs. It is widely accepted among the global community of states. This chapter focuses specifically on how the norm regulates the use of inter-state force and its exceptions. One exception in particular permits states to use force against another state for humanitarian purposes. This exception has yet to be codified in international law, yet, historically and currently, state practice suggests a general acceptance that the parameters of the non-intervention norm allow for these humanitarian exceptions. However, much as is the case with the civilian immunity norm, ambiguity has plagued the non-intervention norm, impeding intersubjective agreement and generating contestation. This chapter illustrates these dynamics by first providing a historical overview of the norm and its humanitarian exceptions as well as the ambiguity contained within them. It then discusses dominant explanations for non-compliance with the norm, highlighting their assumption of intersubjective agreement among normative actors. The chapter continues with a discussion of how the logics of appropriateness, practicality, and contestedness within the norm contestation framework utilized here apply to the non-intervention norm and humanitarian intervention. This discussion is then followed by an exploration of how the norm contestation framework contributes to our understanding of the global discussion on Russia’s actions in Crimea as captured by the global media and official statements. It does so by illustrating how despite its long-held embrace of the norm and the idea of humanitarian intervention, Russia’s attempts to justify the Crimean intervention revealed an understanding of the norm which greatly differed from those held by the norm enforcer. The chapter continues by arguing that Russia’s willingness to maintain a commitment to this particular normative understanding was more indicative of the logic of appropriateness informed by the logic of contestedness and the logic of practicality than the logic of consequences.

Works Cited

  1. Allison R. Russia, the West, and Military Intervention. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Averre D. From Pristina to Tskhinvali: The Legacy of Operation Allied Force in Russia’s Relations with the West. International Affairs. 2009;85(3):575–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayoob M. Humanitarian Intervention and State Sovereignty. The International Journal of Human Rights. 2002;6(1):81–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Badescu CG. Authorizing Humanitarian Intervention: Hard Choices in Saving Strangers. Canadian Journal of Political Science. 2007;40(1):51–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bazyler M. Reexamining the Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention in the Light of the Atrocities in Kampuchea and Ethiopia. Stanford Journal of International Law. 1987;23:547–619.Google Scholar
  6. Beaulac S. The Power of Language in the Making of International Law: The Word Sovereignty in Bodin and Vattel and the Myth of Westphalia. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers; 2004.Google Scholar
  7. Bellamy AJ. Humanitarian Intervention and the Three Traditions. Global Society. 2003;17(1):3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bellamy AJ. Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq. Ethics & International Affairs. 2005;19(2):31–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Binder M. Humanitarian Crises and the International Politics of Selectivity. Human Rights Review. 2009;10:327–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brunnée J, Toope SJ. The Responsibility to Protect and the Use of Force: Building Legality? Global Responsibility to Protect. 2010;2(3):191–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bundegaard C. The Normative Divide in International Society: Sovereignty versus Responsibility. Danish Institute for International Studies Working Paper. 2010;2010(27):1–20.Google Scholar
  12. Burke-White WW. Crimea and the International Legal Order. Faculty Scholarship. 2014. Paper 1360. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  13. Cassese A. Ex Iniuria Ius Oritur: Are we Moving towards International Legitimation of Forcible Countermeasures in the World Community? European Journal of International Law. 1999;10:23–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Choi S-W. What Determines US Humanitarian Intervention? Conflict Management and Peace Science. 2013;30(2):121–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chomsky N. The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo. London: Pluto Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  16. Crawford NC. Just War Theory and the US Counterterror War. Perspective on Politics. 2003;1(1):5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. D’Aspremont J. Mapping the Concepts behind the Contemporary Liberalization of the Use of Force in International Law. Journal of International Law. 2014;31:1089–149.Google Scholar
  18. Evans G. From Humanitarian Intervention to the Responsibility to Protect. Wisconsin International Law Journal. 2006;24:703.Google Scholar
  19. Finnemore M. Constructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention. In: Katzenstein PJ, editor. The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics. New York: Columbia University Press; 1996.Google Scholar
  20. Finnemore M. The Purpose of Intervention. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  21. Finnemore M, Sikkink K. International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. International Organization. 1998;52(4):887–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fixdal M, Smith D. Humanitarian Intervention and Just War. Merson International Studies Review. 1998;42(2):283–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fonteyne J-P. Forcible Self-Help by States to Protect Human Rights: Recent Views from the United Nations. In: Lillich RB, editor. Humanitarian Intervention and the United Nations. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia; 1973.Google Scholar
  24. Fordham BO. Power or Plenty? Economic Interests, Security Concerns, and American Intervention. International Studies Quarterly. 2008;52:737–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Franck TM. The Power of Legitimacy and the Legitimacy of Power: International Law in an Age of Power Disequilibrium. American Journal of International Law. 2002;100(1):88–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Franck TM. Power of Legitimacy and the Legitimacy of Power: International Law in an Age of Power Disequilibrium. TheAmerican Journal of International Law. 2006;100:88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frye T. The Downsides of Crimea for Russia. The Monkey Cage. March 19, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2016).
  28. Glanville L. Intervention in Syria: From Sovereign Consent to Regional Consent. International Studies Perspective. 2013a;14:325–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Glanville L. The Myth of “Traditional” Sovereignty. International Studies Quarterly. 2013b;57:79–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Glassman A. The Evolution of the Prohibition on the Use of Force and its Conflict with Human Rights Protection: Balancing Equally Forceful Jus Cogens Norms. UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs. 2011;16:345–80.Google Scholar
  31. Goodman R. Humanitarian Intervention and the Pretexts for War. American Journal of International Law. 2006;100(1):107–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gordon MR, Myers SL. U.S.-Russia Talks on Ukraine Fail to Ease Tension. New York Times March 14, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  33. Havercroft J. Was Westphalia “all that”? Hobbes, Bellarmine, and the Norm of Non-Intervention. Global Constitutionalism. 2012;1(1):120–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hurd I. Is Humanitarian Intervention Legal? The Rule of Law in an Incoherent World. Ethics and International Affairs. 2011;25(3):293–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnstone I. Security Council Deliberations: The Power of the Better Argument. European Journal of International Law. 2003;14(3):437–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kahler M. Legitimacy, Humanitarian Intervention, and International Institutions. Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. 2011;10(1):20–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Karagiannis E. The Russian Interventions in South Ossetia and Crimea Compared: Military Performance, Legitimacy, and Goals. Contemporary Security Policy. 2014;35:1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kardaş Ş. Humanitarian Intervention: The Evolution of the Idea and Practice. Journal of International Affairs. 2001;6:2.Google Scholar
  39. Keene E. International Hierarchy and the Origins of the Modern Practice of Intervention. Review of International Studies. 2013;39(5):1077–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kegley CW Jr, Raymond GA, Hermann MG. The Rise and Fall of the Nonintervention Norm: Some Correlates and Potential Consequences. The Fletcher Forum of Foreign Affairs. 1998;22(1):81–97.Google Scholar
  41. Kelley J. Who Keeps International Commitments and Why? The International Criminal Court and Bilateral Nonsurrender Agreements. American Political Science Review. 2007;101(3):573–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knudsen TB. The History of Humanitarian Intervention—the Rule or the Exception. Annual Meeting of the ISA’s 50th Annual Convention. New York City. 2009.Google Scholar
  43. Kreß C. Major Post-Westphalian Shifts and Some Important Neo-Westphalian Hesitations in the State Practice on the International Law on the Use of Force. Journal of the Use of Force and International Law. 2014;1(1):11–54.Google Scholar
  44. Kremlin. Vladimir Putin Answered Journalists’ Questions on the Situation in Ukraine. March 4, 2014. 2014a. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  45. Kremlin. Address by President of the Russian Federation. March 18, 2014. 2014b. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  46. Krisch N. Legality, Morality, and the Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention after Kosovo. European Journal of International Law. 2002;13(1):323–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Krasner S. Compromising Westphalia. International Security. 1995/1996;20(3):115–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kim HJ, and Sharman JC. Accounts and accountability: Corruption, human rights, and individual accountability norms. International Organization 2014;68(2):417–48.Google Scholar
  49. Kirschbaum E. Putin Says He’s Convinced Solution to Ukraine Crisis Possible. Reuters. November 16, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  50. Kurowska X. Multipolarity as Resistance to Liberal Norms: Russia’s Position on Responsibility to Protect. Conflict, Security, and Development. 2014;14(4):489–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Leclerc-Gagné E, Byers M. A Question of Intent: The Crime of Aggression and Unilateral Humanitarian Intervention. Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. 2009;41:379–90.Google Scholar
  52. Lynch M. Russia Vetoes Last Ditch UN Effort to Prevent Crimea Annexation. Foreign Policy: The Cable. March 14, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2016).
  53. MacFarlane N, Weiss T. Political Interest and Humanitarian Action. Security Studies. 2000;10(1):112–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mathew J. Ukraine Crisis: Russian Rouble Slips to All Time Low despite Central Bank’s Rate Hike. International Business Times. March 3, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2014).
  55. Menkiszak M. The Putin Doctrine: The Formation of a Conceptual Framework for Russian Dominance. OSW Center for Eastern Studies: Commentary. 2014;131:1–7.Google Scholar
  56. Mohamed S. Restructuring the Debate on Unauthorized Humanitarian Intervention. North Caroline Law Review. 2009;88:1275–332.Google Scholar
  57. Mohamed S. Taking Stock of the Responsibility to Protect. Stanford Journal of International Law. 2012;48:319–39.Google Scholar
  58. Morris J. Libya and Syria: R2P and the Spectre of the Swinging Pendulum. International Affairs. 2013;89(5):1265–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Murphy SD. Humanitarian Intervention: The United Nations in an Evolving World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1996.Google Scholar
  60. Osiander A. Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth. International Organization. 2001;55(2):251–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Panke D, Petersohn U. Why International Norms Disappear Sometimes. European Journal of International Relations. 2012;18(4):719–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Paust JJ. Relative Sovereignty and Permissible Use of Armed Force. Michigan State University International Law Review. 2011;20:1–10.Google Scholar
  63. Petty KA. Criminalizing Force: Resolving the Threshold Question for the Crime of Aggression in the Context of Modern Conflict. Seattle University Law Review. 2009;33:105–50.Google Scholar
  64. Philpott D. Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  65. Pitts J. Intervention and Sovereign Equality: Legacies of Vatel. In: Recchia S, Welsh JM, editors. Just and Unjust Military Intervention: European Thinkers from Vitoria to Mill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2013.Google Scholar
  66. Reus-Smit C. The Concept of Intervention. Review of International Studies. 2013;39(5):1057–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sayapin S. The Crime of Aggression in International Criminal Law. The Hague: TMC Asser Institute; 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Scheffer DJ. Toward a Modern Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention. University of Toledo Law Review. 1992;23:253.Google Scholar
  69. Shannon VP. Norms are What States Make of Them: The Political Psychology of Norm Violation. International Studies Quarterly. 2000;44(2):293–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Smale A, Erlanger S. Ukraine Mobilizes Reserve Troops, Threatening War. New York Times. March 1, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  71. Snetkov A, Lanteigne M. ‘The Loud Dissenter and its Cautious Partner’–Russia, China, Global Governance and Humanitarian Intervention. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. 2014;15(1):113–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Thakur R. R2P after Libya and Syria: Engaging Emerging Powers. The Washington Quarterly. 2013;36(2):61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Trim DJB, Simms B. Toward a History of Humanitarian Intervention. In: Simms B, Simms DJB, editors. Humanitarian Intervention: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tsygankov AP, Tarver-Wahlquist M. Duelling Honors: Power, Identity, and the Russia-Georgia Divide. Foreign Policy Analysis. 2015;5:307–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. United Nations. The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Report of the Secretary-General. 2011. General Assembly/Security Council Resolution A/65/877–S/2011/393. June 27, 2011, (last accessed January 26, 2016).
  76. United Nations. Territorial Integrity of Ukraine. General Assembly Resolution A/68/262. April 1, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2016).
  77. UN News Center. Ban and Russian Foreign Minister Discuss Need to De-escalate Situation in Ukraine. March 3, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2016).
  78. UN Secretary General. Secretary-General Reiterates Call for Preservation of Ukraine’s Independence, Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, Direct Dialogue to Solve Crisis. March 1, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29,2016).
  79. Valek P. Is Unilateral Humanitarian Intervention Compatible with the U.N. Charter? Michigan Journal of International Law. 2005;26:1223.Google Scholar
  80. Vincent RJ. Non-Intervention and International Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1974.Google Scholar
  81. Walzer M. Just and Unjust Wars A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic Books; 2006.Google Scholar
  82. Weiss T. Halting Genocide: Rhetoric versus Reality. Genocide Studies and Prevention: an International Journal. 2007;2(1):7–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wheeler LK. The Grenada Invasion: Expanding the Scope of Humanitarian Intervention. Boston College International and Comparative Law Review. 1985;8(2):413–30.Google Scholar
  84. Wheeler N. Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  85. Wiener A. Contested Compliance: Interventions on the Normative Structure of World Politics. European Journal of International Relations. 2004;10(2):189–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Yakovlov-Golani H, Kravets N. Is Crimean Independence or Annexation a Good Outcome for Russia? The Monkey Cage. March 6, 2014. 2014. (last accessed January 29, 2016).
  87. Zacher MW. The Territorial Integrity Norm: International Boundaries and the Use of Force. International Organization. 2001;55(2):215–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zajadlo J. Legality and Legitimization Humanitarian Intervention. American Behavioral Scientist. 2005;48(6):653–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Ziegler CE. Contesting the Responsibility to Protect. International Studies Perspectives. 2014;17:1–23.Google Scholar
  90. Zifcak S. The Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Syria. Melbourne Journal of International Law. 2012;13:59–61.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betcy Jose
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations