The International Court of Justice, the top United Nations court for settling disputes between states, this week called on Russia to immediately stop its invasion of Ukraine, saying it was “profoundly concerned” about the use of force and dismissed its justification for military intervention.

Russia is unlikely to heed the order, but that does not mean that it does not matter. The ruling reinforces the foundational principle that rules govern relations among states, not raw power. It is up to governments to give that decision substance so that it is not just empty words.

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