This paper examines international in the context of politics, as practiced in national states through international law. Countries operate in a legal system that affects their relations in international law. This is because national laws promote state interests and international law advances benefits for the benefit of the international community. In times of conflict, national interests must be considered. In this regard, the Chechen conflict is examined in its historical context.


This paper considers the Chechen conflict and the operation of international law and politics. Through international law States sign treaties and multilateral agreements, consenting to the rules which should bind them. It is about practical authority and the validity of a legal system. Concerning this, the domestic legal system can affect the perception and practice of international law. In this regard, this article will consider the analytical jurisprudence of international law and politics and how it is reflected in legal and political theories. Also, it will assess how a national legal system can impact internationally as it is observed in the Russian and Chechen conflict.

 International Law and Politics

In seeking to address the concept of international law, it is relevant to consider what is law? The concept of law encompasses the rule of law, which signifies that States operate using the principles of fairness and justice. International law is different in many ways from domestic law in that it provides a set of rules that seek to influence state behavior. Fairness and justice are concepts often reflected through judges, lawyers, and observed in democracies in the legal system in which they operate.

The Academy of International Law at The Hague in its launching an institution saw the necessity of developing a systematic and practical approach to international law, to promote international justice.[i] This approach was appropriate because International law encompasses international landscapes, jurisdictions, customs, and culture. Its relevance is observed in the nature and scope of international law makes and its importance as a course in legal studies and as a career choice. The challenge may be that international law is often associated with politics. The practicality of this approach and its association with politics may be pragmatic. According to Zaleski, removing the non-legal structure of international law does not de-politicize international law but takes away its context.

The transition of international law into modern times has brought different specializations. The interconnections are observed by Zaleski that: The social, economic, and other branches shape a particular area of international law which fosters a relationship between different legal branches even if they differ.[ii] This relationship of diversity is observed by Roberts and Stephan et al in their article Comparative International Law: Framing The Field, who notes that, ‘the principle of international law arises from multilateral treaties or general custom and applies to all States equally.[iii]

International Law in Perspective

Although there is a relationship between law and politics, at the international level there is a challenge to determine the form of the relationship. For instance, Zaleski describes the relationship in the modern era with a distinctive form and practice, observing that ‘the international legal order shapes politics through its discourse of international autonomy…’[iv] The perspective of autonomy suggests that States have the right to self-determination in international law.

In modern international law, to achieve mutual coordination in the world, there should be codes and rules of conduct that can ‘facilitate harmonizing of States.’ That is the adherence to rules to avoid unilateral actions that undermine other States.[v] This accords with Hisashi’s view that there may be a conflict if a State in its ‘obligation goes beyond its sphere of activity or exceeds its competence as determined by international law.[vi] Roberts and Stephan further state that comparative international law may be useful in trying to determine whether national courts can provide similar or different interpretations of treaty obligations? Also, how do they have a transnational dialogue with other courts and States?”[vii] The concept of international law is multifaceted and because of variables, should be observed in any conflict.

International Law and The Chechen Conflict

The concept of international law is based on the nature and scope of the law. The theoretical underpinnings and jurisprudence reflect both naturalists’ and positivists’ views. Although the application of the law is not always reflected in international law, it is integrated with international politics and is provides a multifactorial approach. This can be observed in the Chechen conflict and the international response.

The factors considered in the Chechen conflict are The Russian government; the Chechen people; the international community; and the issues faced by the European Court of Human Rights. In respect of the Russian government, the first thing to consider is international law in the domestic affairs of Russia and its legal system.

The legal system in Russia has been described by Dahlke and Tissier as a departure from the path of legal development in Europe.[viii] There was a legal transformation in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. “The USSR’s relations with other states are based on…fulfillment in good faith of obligations arising from the generally recognized principles and rules of international law, and international treaties signed by the USSR.[ix] Dahlke and Tissier’s article provide limited scope into the jurisdiction of the domestic courts. However, in the 1993 Constitution, there was a change that made international law relevant in Russia, where article 15 (4) provides:

“That the generally recognized principles and norms of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation should be an integral part of its legal system, and if other rules have been established by an international treaty of the Russian Federation than provided for by law, the rules of the international treaty shall apply.[x]

The 1993 Constitution is more inclusive and acknowledges international treaty agreements and Russia’s commitment to abide by the treaties. The importance of the treaty agreements in international law is affirmed in Nye’s statement that public international law consists of treaties which are agreements among States and customs, which are the generally accepted practices of the States.[xi]  Russia’s theory of international law has been marked by the Marxist-Leninist ideology. In this regard, Russia is bound by a hybrid ideology brought about by the revolution of Eurasians and Bolshevism.[xii] Bolshevism is based on idealism that is not reflective of international communism. The premise is that international communism is alien to the Russian people.[xiii]

The struggle between the two forces of socialism versus capitalism has been reflected in Russia’s approach to law in general, and international law in particular, the struggle of which is seen in the Marxist ideology.[xiv] The fall of the Soviet Union also brought the fall of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. The evolution of international law was observed in the ushering in of the human rights movement in Russia. In the 1990s more officials and scholars became outspoken in Russia. This resulted in criticisms of Russia and its handling of Chechnya.

In 1991 Chechnya declared unilateral independence from Russia, which was a breach of the Soviet Constitution.[xv]  This resulted in Russia’s military intervention in 1994. It justified Russia to protect its territorial integrity.[xvi] It was the beginning of the decades-long conflict. Russia’s 1993 Constitution provided a list of human rights and freedoms, nevertheless, the Chechnya war in 1994 brought unprecedented brutality. It is reported that in 1995 Sergei Grigoryants, the Chair of the Glasnost Foundation stated that: ‘Russia is again ready to teach the lesson to the rest of the world that authoritarian regime can be more bloody than the totalitarian one.’[xvii]

In 2001 Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, appointed a Special Representative for the President of the Russian Federation for Human Rights in Chechnya, responding to criticisms of Russia’s handling of Chechnya.[xviii] The impact of the crisis in Chechnya was made by John Russell in his article Obstacles to Peace in Chechnya. In the article, it was noted that, however much the United Nations, the OSCE, PACE, and the European Court of Human Rights call for the international norm to stop the violence unless real sanctions are threatened, they are likely to be ignored.[xix]

Putin had linked the actions of the Chechens to terrorism and stated that Russia was forced into action against the terrorists, comparing them to Al Qaeda.[xx] The first Russian Chechen war, 1994-1996, brought with it a defacto government in 1996-1999. The realization that elements of the Chechen resistance (from Akhmad to Asian Maskhadov), considered that it was best to cooperate with the Russians to save the Chechen people from suffering and possibly annihilation.[xxi] The second conflict noted by Szablewska was characterized by distinct groups of rebels which made negotiations difficult.[xxii]

It was in June 2000 that a policy of Chechenization to deal with the conflict in Chechnya began with the appointment of Putin’s representative to break the impasse with the Kremlin and their Chechen allies.[xxiii] In March 2003, there was a new Chechen Constitution, making Chechen a Republic with some autonomy but subject to Russia’s rule. It prohibited separatism with strong federal control. Some international observers thought that the referendum before the Constitution was deeply flawed.[xxiv] The nature of the Russian-Chechen conflict was because of Russia’s occupation of Chechnya, and the highly unlikely ability of the Chechens to outbattle the Russians.

The response by the international community was not a unified approach, with the West silent and cautious.[xxv] Russia as a world leader was no doubt influential in the silence from the West. This was stated by Malcolm Rifkin, British Defense Secretary, with these words: “Russia remains a nuclear power, it is very important for us that Russia should remain a stable country with internal peace.”[xxvi] 


The examination of international law and international politics presents a relevant method of using international law as the basis for reviewing the conflict in Chechen. International politics in the context of domestic States will usually base their international agreements on the domestic culture. The Chechen people wanted independence, but Russia did not consider that it was in their national interest and there was the conflict. Russia’s national culture was their reference point on its sovereignty and the thing that Russia used to justify military intervention. Russia acknowledged that the integrity of its national sovereignty had to be protected from ‘terrorists’ who wanted to take over Chechnya. The bloody war between Russia and the Chechen separatists was noticeably silent by the international community. Russia is a superpower and the international community was hesitant to interfere.

The important thing is how can national law facilitate international law, while at the same time maintain national sovereignty? The Russia-Chechen conflict emphasizes the need for international law and politics to cohabitate to promote human rights, peace, and justice. As of the date of this publication, tensions remain between Russia and the Chechen.


[i] “The Academy of International Law at the Hague Established in Co-Operation with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,” Cambridge University Press, The American Journal Of International Law, 8, no. 2 (April 1914): 11.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Roberts, Anthea, Paul Stephan, Pierre Virdier, Mila Versteeg  and Others, “Comparative International Law: Framing The Field.” 1.


[v] Szablewska Natalia, “The Politics of International Law: Implications for The Chechen Crisis,” (2010).

[vi] Hisashi Owada, “Problems of Interaction Between the International and Domestic Legal Orders,” Asian Journal of Asian Law 5, no. 2 (2015): 30, 5.

[vii] Szablewska, 158.

[vii] Roberts, Stephan and Others, 4.

[viii] Sandra Dahlke and Michel Tissier, “The Practice of Law and Justice in Russia: (Eighteenth-Twentieth Centuries),” EHESS, Cahiers du Monde russee, 53, no. 1 (March 2012), 1

[ix] Szablewska, 223. Art. 29. 1977.

[x] Szablewska, 224.

[xi] Nye, Joseph S., Understanding International Conflicts, An Introduction to Theory and History, Sixth Edition, Longman Classics in Political Science (Pearson Longman, New York, San Francisco Boston, 2007).

[xii] Struve Peter, “Russia,” The Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies 1, no. 1 (June 1992): 17. Eurasian is a distinct culture of Russia.

[xiii] Ibid, 7.

[xiv] Szablewska Natalia, “The Politics of International Law.”

[xv] Matejova Miriam, “Russian ‘Chechenization’ and The Prospects for A Lasting Peace in Chechnya,” Paragon House 30, no. 1 (June 2013): 17.

[xvi] Ibid

[xvii] Szablewska, 246.

[xviii] Ibid, 247.

[xix] Russel John, “Obstacles to Peace in Chechnya: What Scope for International Involvement?” Taylor & Francis Ltd, Europe Asia Studies, 58, no. 6 (September 2006): 5, 22.

[xx] Szablewska Natalia, “The Politics of International Law.”

[xxi] Russel John, “Obstacles to Peace in Chechnya: What Scope for International Involvement?”

[xxii] Szablewska, 252.

[xxiii] Russel, 6.

[xxiv] Szablewska Natalia, “The Politics of International Law.”

[xxv] Szablewswka, 257.

[xxvi] Szablewska, 265. Stat at an interview with Berliner Zeitung by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.

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