Paul Pillar

The Perils of Territorial Annexation

The case of the Golan Heights may provide a clearer test than Crimea does of the administration’s inclinations in that regard, given that it poses a simple question of recognition or nonrecognition, without any diplomatic engagement at stake. Netanyahu’s government—feeling especially confident, after Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, about its ability to steer U.S. policy—is pressing the administration to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan. A Republican Congressman from Florida recently introduced a proposal to that effect, but it was not brought to a vote. It is unclear whether the administration weighed in on the matter with the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. But given the recent history with the embassy issue, it would not be surprising if Trump eventually were to bow to the Israeli government’s wishes on this issue too.

Trump doesn’t like the concept of a “rules-based international order.” Reportedly the U.S. delegation at the G-7 summit objected to use of that term in the summit communiqué. Trump probably does not understand the extent to which that order, which the United States had a huge part in shaping after World War II, works to the advantage of the United States. To the extent he is dwelling in the realm of slogans, which he probably is, then “rules-based international order” always will lose out to “America first” or “make America great again.” But focusing on one specific rule gets out of the realm of slogans and into well-defined norms of international behavior. Will Trump accept that a rule against states using military force to seize pieces of another state’s territory is in U.S. interests as well as the interests of international peace and stability?

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor at the National Interest and the author of Why America Misunderstands the World.

Image: A Russian serviceman stands near Ukrainian tanks on freight cars before the departure from Crimea to other regions of Ukraine in the settlement of Gvardeiskoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 31, 2014. Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from a region near Ukraine's eastern border, the Russian Defence Ministry was quoted as saying by state news agencies on Monday. The United States says progress on resolving the East-West stand-off over Ukraine depends on Russia pulling back troops massed on the border. It was not clear whether other troops would pull back or had already withdrawn. REUTERS/Stringer