An action is legitimate if the pertinent community deems it so. Most would agree that Russia’s conduct in the 1990s in Georgia was illegitimate. Military intervention in another state, unless the other state is preparing an imminent attack on one’s own territory, or is engaged in the systematic abuse of one’s own citizens, is a violation of the international norm of sovereignty, at a minimum. Some have argued that European politics has gone beyond this ‘territorial integrity norm’ to something more expansive, to a consensual renunciation of any and all territorial claims on other states. This was first codified in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
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