Upholding the Rule of Law: Countering the Age of the Strongman Commentary
Romario99 / Pixabay
Upholding the Rule of Law: Countering the Age of the Strongman

The world continues to grapple with the challenges posed by strongman leaders who prioritize their own power and interests over global stability and cooperation. This essay explores the notion that the age of the strongman remains as threatening as ever. However, it argues that countering this threat requires upholding the rule of law rather than resorting to appeasement or turning a blind eye to aggression. In this context, it emphasizes the importance of holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for his international crimes, particularly his aggression against Ukraine.

The age of the strongman refers to the rise of authoritarian leaders who consolidate power, undermine democratic institutions, and pursue aggressive foreign policies. These leaders often prioritize their own interests, disregard human rights, and undermine the principles of international cooperation. Such behavior threatens global stability, peace, and the democratic values that form the foundation of many nations.

In the face of the strongman phenomenon, the rule of law serves as a crucial safeguard against abuses of power and acts as a mechanism to hold leaders accountable for their actions. The rule of law promotes fairness, justice, and equality, providing a framework within which disputes can be resolved peacefully. By adhering to the rule of law, nations can demonstrate their commitment to democratic principles and strengthen global norms that discourage aggression.

Appeasement, or yielding to the demands of aggressive leaders in the hope of avoiding conflict, has proven historically ineffective in deterring aggression. It only emboldens strongmen to push further boundaries and jeopardizes international security. Instead, a firm stance grounded in the rule of law is necessary to address and counter the threats posed by strongman leaders.

Peace cannot be achieved by ignoring or appeasing aggression; it requires the collective efforts of the world’s democracies to confront such behavior. Democracies, with their respect for human rights, transparency, and accountability, must unite in a commitment to protect the rule of law and ensure that strongman leaders are held accountable for their actions.

The case of Russian President Vladimir Putin serves as a prime example of the need to hold strongman leaders accountable for their international crimes. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea and support for separatist movements, violates international law and undermines the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. By taking a principled stance and demanding accountability, the world’s democracies send a clear message that such aggression will not be tolerated.

The age of the strongman continues to pose significant threats to global stability and democracy. However, the rule of law provides an effective countermeasure to this phenomenon. By upholding the rule of law, avoiding appeasement, and holding leaders accountable for their international crimes, particularly in the case of President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, the world’s democracies can promote a more peaceful and just international order. It is through this commitment to the rule of law that the world can navigate the challenges posed by the age of the strongman and safeguard the principles that underpin a prosperous and harmonious global community.

*Founding Chief Prosecutor, UN Special Court for Sierra Leone; Founder of the Global Accountability Network; part of a working group to set up a Special Tribunal for Ukraine on the Crime of Aggression.

Suggested citation: David Crane, Upholding the Rule of Law: Countering the Age of the Strongman, JURIST – Professional Commentary, July 3, 2023, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2023/07/countering-the-strongman-age.

This article was prepared for publication by JURIST Commentary staff. Please direct any questions or comments to them at commentary@jurist.org

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.