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First Wednesday Webinar: Ukraine and the Return of International Armed Conflict: How the Global War on Terror Has Left Us Ill-prepared for Russian Aggression

Total Credits: 1 Illinois

National Security Law
Claire Finkelstein |  John M. Geiringer
1 Hour 11 Minutes
Audio and Video
Original Program Date:
May 04, 2022
Product Type:
On Demand
Access for 365 day(s) after purchase.


The conflict in Ukraine has forced consideration of numerous issues in the law of armed conflict that scholars and policymakers had put on the back burner during the twenty plus years of fighting the Global War on Terror.  The challenges of asymmetric warfare seemed to suggest that the nature of war had fundamentally changed, and that the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) was becoming of limited utility in fighting non-state actor groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. There was talk for years of needing a revised set of LOAC rules, and that the Geneva Conventions and other rules of humanitarian law were now outdated and quaint.  In taking this stance, however, the US may have contributed to weakening the authority of international law in the context of armed conflict.  At the very least, it seems fair to say that the disdain in which the US has held International Humanitarian Law deprived us of an opportunity to strengthen international constraints in armed conflict and weakened our ability to insist on compliance with LOAC in an International Armed Conflict (IAC) such as the one Ukraine currently faces with Russia. Thus, for example, the disrespect with which the US has held institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) has contributed significantly to weakening that institution and has inflicted damage precisely at a moment that the U.S. should have been seeking to build up the legitimacy of the ICC in the international arena by willingly submitting to its jurisdiction.  Ukraine, by contrast, declared its acceptance of ICC jurisdiction for crimes committed on Ukrainian soil in 2014, following the invasion of Crimea.  That embrace of ICC jurisdiction may turn out to be critical for Ukraine as efforts move forward to conduct war crimes trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine by Russian forces.

In this talk, Claire Finkelstein will address rule of law compliance in international armed conflict, focusing on the situation in Ukraine. How should the United States and the rest of NATO, as well as non-NATO countries in the area and the international community, hold Russia to the laws of war?  Should NATO allow compliance with LOAC to languish due to fear on nuclear escalation?  Is there a way to protect compliance with humanitarian and other international norms without risking co-belligerency with Ukraine?  What forms of accountability are possible for Russian state actors and for Russian leadership when Russia recognizes no international authority over it?  And finally, how can the U.S. lead by example to shore up its commitment to LOAC and IHL in the international community, recognizing the problematic nature of U.S. practice in the area of detainee policy and practice and adherence to POW laws.  Is it time to rethink the relationship between domestic and international law in the context of armed conflict?


Claire Finkelstein's Profile

Claire Finkelstein Related seminars and products

Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy

University of Pennsylvania

Professor Finkelstein is the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also the Founder and Faculty Director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), a non-partisan interdisciplinary institute affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). She is a distinguished research fellow at APPC and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). An expert in the law of armed conflict, military ethics, and national security law, she is a co-editor (with Jens David Ohlin) of The Oxford Series in Ethics, National Security, and the Rule of Law, and an editor of five of its volumes: Targeted Killings: Law & Morality in an Asymmetrical World (2012); Cyber War: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts(2015); Weighing Lives in War (2017); Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority (2018); and Preserving Cultural Heritage in Times of War (forthcoming). Professor Finkelstein has briefed Pentagon officials, U.S. Senate staff, and JAG Corps members on various issues in national security law and practice. She is a frequent radio, podcast, broadcast, and print commentator and has published op-eds in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Newsweek. Her other scholarly work has focused on criminal law theory, moral and political philosophy, jurisprudence, and rational choice theory. She is the editor of Hobbes on Law (Ashgate Publishing, 2005) and is completing a book called Contractarian Legal Theory.

John M. Geiringer's Profile

John M. Geiringer Related seminars and products


Barack Ferrazzano LLP, Chicago

John Geiringer, the Regulatory Section Leader of the Barack Ferrazzano Financial Institutions Group, is a nationally recognized banking attorney who advises financial institutions on regulatory, governance, and investigative matters.  He also serves as a founding co-director of the Center for National Security and Human Rights Law (and its Consortium for the Research and Study of Holocaust and the Law) at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he teaches classes on banking, national security, and the Holocaust.  Among his other publications, John is the editor of, and contributor to, Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Law and Policy, recently published by the American Bar Association, and is the co-editor of an upcoming treatise on legal issues surrounding the Holocaust.