The word “annex” means that the process is non-consensual. It is a breach of the U.N. Charter. However, as Kissinger suggested in the Spiegel interview (Sketches, November 17), there are special cases. He mentioned Crimea. Ukraine is in the same category. For centuries Ukraine used to be part of Russia.
Putin’s lawyers would not get far if they used this argument in a U.N. proceeding condemning him.
The question can, however, be considered in a political, non-legal perspective, as Kissinger does. The art of politics requires subtlety. If countries wish to re-integrate former possessions, they should use subtle methods to achieve their objectives.
Americans should stop lusting after Ontario and New Brunswick, which were once populated by Loyalists. It would be rather crude if Mexico simply marched into California. No, subtlety is required. China should study Confucius before attacking Taiwan. Lithuania should hesitate before assaulting Ukraine and forget that their empire once extended to Kiev. Sweden should stay out of Norway and Russia, Austria and Germany should, please, respect Polish borders.
The trouble is that the world is full of special cases.