The following definition of countermeasures is, therefore, suggested:
This definition needs an explanation. First, countermeasures can only be taken in response to a violation of an international obligation,1 which the offending state owes to the injured state. This means, for example, that anticipatory countermeasures are not permitted; the violation has to have occurred prior to the countermeasures. This also means that countermeasures cannot be taken to enforce an environmental policy, no matter how well the policy is based in international law, unless taken in response to a violation of an international obligation. Violation of domestic laws of the injured state does not justify countermeasures, even if the violation can be attributed to a state and is committed within the territory of the injured state. If the act cannot be argued as a violation of international obligations, countermeasures cannot be justified. See further discussion in part II, chapter 8.
Second, a number of unilateral acts fall outside the concept of countermeasures. Among them are acts taken in response to unfriendly, or even illegal, acts of states but do not require a legal justification, as they are legal per se. For example, a decision taken by one state to reduce cultural cooperation with another state because of poor compliance with environmental standards by the latter falls outside the concept of countermeasures. Another example is a decision of one state to not recognize judgments of another state because the latter no longer adheres to that practice. Thus, it is only when the unilateral measure is illegal per se that states have a real reason to invoke the countermeasures doctrine. This issue will be further discussed in part I, chapter 3.