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Philip Hammond: Britain Doesn't Break International Norms. (It Makes Them)

Only Russia 'breaks' international norms, Britain makes them as it goes along


Britain's outspoken foreign minister struck again last week. Speaking to Reuters during a visit to Georgia (the country) he explained Britain could not possibly work with Moscow against ISIS:

“Russia ignores the norms of international conduct and breaks the rules of the international system. That represents a challenge and a threat to all of us.” 

<figcaption>'International norms are for Britain to make and for Russia to follow'</figcaption>
'International norms are for Britain to make and for Russia to follow'

“There has to be a way that respects the rules of the international system if we are going to be able to do business together.”

“I have no doubt that Russia is sincere in its desire to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.” 

“But we need to work together on these things and we can only work in partnership with countries which accept the international rules by which we all have to live.

“We can't be working in partnership with a country one day and find that it is doing just exactly whatever it wants.”

In saying that Britain can't possibly partner Russia because Moscow breaks international norms he is implicitly saying that Britain does not break such norms.

Naturally the British FM is right on both counts.

Russia is a classical great power, and as such it will ocassionally set "international norms" aside if it is to its advantage in a matter that is very important to it.

For example it did so in 2008 when it recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to punish Georgia for starting a war on South Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers, and again in 2014 when it seized the military control of Crimea from a disoriented Ukrainian army.

Britain, however, never does such things.

Now you may think that Britain's 2003 unprovoked invasion of the sovereign country of Iraq may have broken a norm or two. Or the redrawing of Serbia's border against her will in 2008. Or the 2011 military campaign to unseat the government of the sovereign state of Libya. Or the attempt since 2011 to set up a proxy rebel army on the territory of sovereign Syria.

Some may be led to think these show Britain is a habitual breaker of international norms.

They would be dead wrong.

Britain is a civilized country and as such it is by definition impossible for it to break "international norms". Only uncivilized countries like Russia are capable of breaking international norms  which are of course spelled out by civilized countries specifically to inform the behavior of other, less civilized countries.

So of course Philip Hammond is right. Britain can not possibly work with Russia when Russia "ignores the norms of international conduct" which Britain lays down for her.


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