Russia-Ukraine War and WTO’s National Security Exception

AuthorPrabhash Ranjan
Published date01 May 2023
Date01 May 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Russia-Ukraine War
and WTO’s National
Security Exception
Prabhash Ranjan1
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the most flagrant violations of
international law in recent times. The Russian action has received global
condemnation with various countries imposing sanctions on Russia. This article
argues that concerning imposing trade sanctions against Russia, countries can
rely on the national security exception in the World Trade Organization
(WTO). The relevant legal provision in this regard is Article XXI of the General
Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The article undertakes a doctrinal
analysis of GATT’s Article XXI. This analysis is conducted in the light of two
WTO disputes—the Russia: Transit case and the Saudi Arabia: Intellectual Property
case—that have interpreted the national security exception. The article argues
that while the national security exception given in GATT’s Article XXI is
not self-judging, countries will enjoy deference in determining their essential
security interests. The article then applies this doctrinal understanding to the
current Russia–Ukraine war. The current situation will fall under Article XXI,
and countries can impose trade-restricting measures against Russia (such as
suspension of the most-favoured-nation treatment) following Article XXI of
JEL Codes: F13, F19, F52, F51
WTO, GATT, national security, Article XXI, essential security interest, Russia,
Ukraine, war
1Jindal Global Law School, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Corresponding author:
Prabhash Ranjan, Jindal Global Law School, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana 131001,
Foreign Trade Review
58(2) 246–258, 2023
© 2022 Indian Institute of
Foreign Trade
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00157325221114586

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