December 31, 2015

Russia/Ukraine and the Downing of Flight MH17

A Program at the 2015 Spring Meeting

Links and Presentations


The political crisis in Ukraine has triggered a remarkable series of destabilizing actions by Russian and Ukrainian separatist forces which have been characterized 'hybrid warfare.' Such actions threaten the foundations of the international legal order established at the conclusion of the Cold War, and may be in direct contravention to international law. From the appearance of regular albeit unidentified pro-Russian forces in Crimea, or aka the 'Little Green Men,' to direct formal Russian military intervention, the holding of a highly suspect referendum and subsequent annexation of Crimea, to continuing efforts to support insurgency, including the apparent missile strike on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the actions of Russia and its proxies harken back to an era the world thought safely relegated to the past. The claim that Russia will protect Russian-speakers anywhere in the world when threatened challenges fundamental principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. What is the international legal position on these activities? What liabilities should attach to them? What legitimate responses and prescription can Ukraine or the international legal community undertake in deterring or defeating hybrid threats of this kind, including but not limited to economic sanctions? This panel will seek to explore the actions that can be attributed to Russia in the Ukraine crisis; consider their legality under international law; and what liability attaches to such actions. The panel will also address the difficulties of bringing legal actions by governments or individuals to redress such injuries. Finally, the panel will consider appropriate and effective responses to such acts, and the legality of such responses under international law.

Program Chair(s)

James Bergeron, MARCOM/NATO
Jonathan Meyer, Attorney at Law


Gabrielle Buckley, Vedder Price, P.C.


William Banks, Syracuse University College of Law
Steven Hill, Office of Legal Affairs at NATO
Ruth Wedgwood, John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

Primary Committee

Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Committee


International Trade Committee
National Security Committee
UN and International Institutions Coordinating Committee