Trump is opening a Pandora’s box where states are allowed to change international borders by force. He is making not just Netanyahu but also Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping very happy.
By Max Boot | The Washington Post | Mar 22, 2019
No previous president promised to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and indeed President Ronald Reagan supported a 1981 UN Security Council resolution calling the annexation ‘null and void,’ because all previous presidents had adhered to the principle of territorial integrity.
President Trump’s announcement that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights” — which stops just short of actually doing so — is being received as yet another example of, as the New York Times wrote, his “willingness to flout diplomatic orthodoxy and shake up a debate over the Middle East that has changed little since the 1970s.” That’s true, but it greatly understates the significance of his action. Trump is subverting one of the most fundamental pillars of the post-1945 world order: the principle that no nation can change international boundaries by force.
Territorial integrity was listed as both the first and second war aims agreed to by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the 1941 Atlantic Charter: “First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other; second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.” It was then enshrined in Article 2 of the 1945 United Nations Charter: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
The United States insisted on territorial integrity, because it did not want to see a repeat of the 1930s when Japanese aggression against China, Italian aggression against Abyssinia, and German aggression against Austria and Czechoslovakia presaged the coming of World War II. Acting on this principle, the United States never recognized Russian sovereignty over the Baltic states or, today, over Crimea. US troops fought to prevent South Korea, South Vietnam and Kuwait from being swallowed by aggressors. The United States was even willing to risk nuclear Armageddon to prevent the conquest of tiny West Berlin.