Provocation is not an innocent act

Provocation can amount to a tort or even a crime. In the UK the Public Order Act prohibits “abusive or threatening words or behaviour”, specifically “to provoke the immediate use of unlawful violence”. Provocation means conduct that induces another to a violent response – out of fear, anger or outrage. Whereas in international law there is an absolute prohibition of the use of force enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter, some powerful countries concoct exceptions, e.g. by postulating a non-existent right of “pre-emptive” self-defence or the so-called doctrine of “responsibility to protect”, both scams intended to circumvent Art. 2(4). Recent armed conflicts in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine document a tendency to water down the prohibition of the use of force. This is facilitated by a compliant media that manages the facts and the narrative in an attempt to “legitimize” the use of force, e.g. by the US in Iraq, or to absolve the provocateur, e.g. by downplaying NATO’s egregious provocations. It is surrealistic to claim that the use of force in Iraq was legitimate: It was naked aggression and a crime against humanity. Equally extravagant is to pretend that the invasion of Ukraine was “unprovoked”. Admittedly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entailed a grave breach of the UN Charter. The provocation too violated article 2(4), which prohibits not only the use of force but also the threat thereof.  As Professors John Mearsheimer, Richard Falk, Jeffrey Sachs and others have pointed out, NATO expansion was perceived by Russia as a hostile attempt at encirclement, hence an existential threat. Every attempt by Russia to defuse this menace by peaceful negotiation as required by article 2(3) UN Charter was rebuffed by the US and NATO. NATO’s on-going provocations in Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere amounted to geopolitical harassment in contravention of the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. It can be argued that provoking someone is more offensive that reacting aggressively to the provocation, because the provocation is deliberate, not accidental; the reaction thereof is ad hoc, lacking malice aforethought. Provoking means intentionally making someone angry,  throwing down the gauntlet, challenging to a fight. Of course, retaliation should be proportional to the provocation. But we humans have an awesome tendency to overreact. Bottom line: Both provocation and retaliation are reprehensible. But the one who provokes bears greater moral responsibility. 

1 thought on “Provocation is not an innocent act

  1. dear Professor de Zayas from Kay Weir in Wellington, New Zealand – Regarding you article on Provocation .

    Russia intervened in Ukraine on 24 February 2022 to stop a large-scale attack by Kiev’s neo-nazi-led military, on ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s Donbass region where millions of Russians live. Increased attacks on civilians in February 2022 by Kiev’s military in the Donbass were recorded by OSCE reports by mid-February 2022. Kiev’s attacks violated the UN-endorsed Minsk Agreement of 2015 . The Donbass republics requested Russia’s urgent help as they could not defend their citizens from such a large-scale military attack*. Under article 51 of the UN Charter, Russia was entitled to defend the ethnic Russians, threatened with genocide. What would have happened if Russia did not intervene? *

    These attacks against Russian civilians by Kiev’s regime have been ongoing since 2014,. There are several UN reports about it, one estimating that by 2021, 14,000 civilians had been killed, also hospitals destroyed, children psychologically damaged through attending bullet-ridden schools, with mines in the playgrounds, being taught how to cope with mines. Just imagine that at age 6 or 10?! etc.. . The conflict in Ukraine started in 2014 not 2022, its origins being an illegal US interference in Ukraine’s sovereignty, as you have written so eloquently written

    The racist, anti-Russia, Kiev regime was initially and illegally imposed in February 2014 by US diplomats, including Victoria Nuland, famous for her comment: “F… the EU,” The regime immediately banned speaking the Russian language and started attacking Russians who naturally enough opposed a regime they didn’t vote for which was banning the language they spoke, then attacking them. All this went beyond simple provocation to mass murder.


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