This special issue of German Law Journal (GLJ) originates from a colloquium co-sponsored by the GLJ, the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, and the Center for Constitutional Transitions that took place at the Berkeley School of Law in February 2015, just over a year after the revolutionary events at Maidan Square in Kiev triggered profound changes in the geopolitical map of contemporary Europe and shook the foundations of international order.
Beyond the gravity of the crisis itself, what animates the contributions in the following pages is an attendant awareness of the need to rethink the appropriateness of disciplinary responses to the conflict in Ukraine. Though the rhetoric of brazen takeovers, cynical ploys, stealing and redeeming, chronic authoritarianism and imperialism, hypocrisy, and broken promises have all contributed to a combustible political situation in and around Ukraine, a diverse sense of outrage has also been subtly, but nonetheless decisively, structured and amplified by the vocabularies of international and constitutional law, moral arguments, and their complicated interplay. Though differing in their practical ambitions, technical vocabulary, and the professional sensibilities they cultivate, the disciplines of international law, comparative constitutional law, and normative political theory, have each upheld one of the most important components of the modern social imaginary: The idea of popular sovereignty.
The idea that the will of the people ought to be a decisive factor in resolving the crisis in Ukraine continues to unite most commentators, partisans, and scholars, irrespective of their otherwise profound ideological and political differences. From the perspective of overarching social imaginary, the ominous geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, while dangerous in its potential outcomes, appears as a family quarrel among the believers of the constitutional creed of western political modernity. Unlike another geopolitical crisis of our time—the attempts of ISIS to redraw the map of the Middle East—the situation in Ukraine is not a conflict over the existence of international legal order, but rather one over the meaning of its foundational building blocks: The internal and external self-determination of peoples, territorial integrity, and the sovereign equality of independent states.