Natelson on the Constitution and the question of the declaration of war against Russia


On a recent KGVO Talk Back program featuring constitutional scholar Rob Natelson of the Denver Independence Institute, a caller inquired about a possible declaration of war on Russia, particularly after revelation of possible war crimes.

Natelson counted several of the recent conflicts in which the United States has been involved.

“To some extent in the 20th century some of our presidents (declared war),” he said. “They used various justifications. For example, the Korean War was part of a United Nations action. Lyndon Johnson used the Tonkin Gulf Resolve to fight the Vietnam War. President George W. Bush also had the authority to use military force (after the 9/11 attacks).”

Natelson described the narrow situation where a president can unilaterally declare war.

“The meaning of the Constitution is essentially that the president could act unilaterally to protect the United States from invasion or attack,” he said. “Going to war in Ukraine, however, I think would require a declaration of war, or its equivalent. I think the authorization to use force in the war on terrorism was the equivalent of a declaration of war.

Regarding the intervention in another country’s conflict, Natelson referred to the American Revolutionary War.

“Under international law, it was considered legitimate to come to the aid of another wrongfully invaded state,” he said. “This is what France did for us during the revolution. However, the declaration of war device is a means of ensuring that there is a broad consensus that we should do this. This is why you need the approval of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the President.

Natelson said the Biden administration needs a broad consensus within the federal government in order to directly intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“One of the lessons from some of these other actions in the 20th century is that when you don’t have that broad consensus represented by a congressional declaration of war, the president is handicapped in war,” he said. . “And the war sometimes ends badly, as happened with Vietnam. So I see no reason why if the President is seeking to involve the US military in Ukraine, why there would be any reason not to call for a declaration of war.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the sanctions imposed by the United States amounted to a ‘declaration of war’.

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