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Russia is NOT the aggressor… Part 7
A look at Just War doctrine
Part 1, Is Russia’s cause justified? The historical run-up
Part 2, A just cause in the face of violence and a Neo-Nazi resurgence
Part 3, A just cause in the face of violence, deceit, and a policy of regime change
Part 4, Some history and background on bioresearch
Part 5, Ukrainian biolabs and US attitude towards bioresearch
Part 6, Use of chemical weapons in Ukraine confirmed
Part 7, Russia is NOT the aggressor…
Part 8, …but the US, NATO and EU are!
Part 9, America’s nuclear gambles.
Part 10, Are we the baddies?
We don’t realize that when we talk about Russia, we have decades worth of propaganda influencing us. Cold war rhetoric has never really ended, even when the Cold War itself was officially declared over (won by the US, who was now the sole superpower). An enemy was needed, in order to justify the spending and mingling in foreign affairs of other countries. 9-11 gave a very good excuse, and the War on Terror began. Who can be against defending innocent citizens against indiscriminately being blown up, burned alive or beheaded under the most cruel of circumstances? While war with the Soviets could no longer threaten everyday life, terrorists could, in an even more personal and insidious way. Yet Russia remained in the slot of ‘enemy states’.
In Part 1 I detailed the thinking of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and as the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and very influential on US foreign policy, and how he saw Russia still as a threat to be dismantled. This theme was picked up by others, not in the least by Dick Cheney, vice president under Bush ‘W’. In his book “Duty - Memoirs of a Secretary at War”, former Deputy National Security Adviser and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote about Cheney that he “wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”
And of course, we saw the pivot towards portraying Russia as the bogeyman to portray Trump as a foreign controlled puppet. “Russia, Russia, Russia!” What this does, is create a subliminal reflex to think about Russia in negative terms.
Which is at least in part not undeserved: the Soviet legacy is not one of roses and human rights achievements, and mistakes were made in the immediate aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR, where the corrupt ruling class of the Soviets picked the country clean and gave themselves the most profitable jobs and monopolies. Whoever thought that Russia (or any former Soviet republic) could simply break clean with their very authoritarian past, and, with the same people and without any guidance, usher in ‘democracies’ and open societies, is delusional. It almost looks as if they were set up to fail.
The Soviet legacy has not been fully resolved, either. I, for one, am still waiting for an official admission of guilt regarding the massacre of Katyn, which would allow a proper closure. The current situation only leaves a void that invites festering, or at best a very sour memory that does not create much goodwill towards Russia as heir of the Soviets.
Russia itself realizes that with their position to accept becoming heir of the Soviets, they not only did maintain control over all the nuclear weapons of the USSR, but did also inherit all financial, legal and moral responsibilities left over from that era. Putin described the struggle within Russia to come clean with all this very succinctly: “Anyone who doesn't regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.” With that, he shows a sober and realistic view on their own past. In a very even-keeled and neutral article from 2000, the sketched a very interesting portrait of Putin’s history, with an honesty that we wouldn’t see in stories about Russia or Putin in more recent years. Comparing Putin to his former KGB boss, Yuri Andropov, the article stated: “He may have little use for Mr. Andropov's Soviet system, and a greater appreciation for law and order and the value and efficiency of Western-style business. But he has shown himself a man every bit as intolerant of Russia's disarray, and as determined to do something about it.”
The article continues with this nugget of insight: ''Why did the Soviet Union break up?'' he asked in a December interview, then answered himself: ''Because things were allowed to happen; laxness. And if we continue like this, Russia will fall to pieces, and it will happen so quickly you and I cannot even imagine. Then there will be a real tragedy, much bigger than we are seeing today in the north Caucasus, much bigger,'' he said.'' People today often interpret Putin’s words to express some kind of Neo-imperialist ideals, a desire to restore Russia to her former greatness, including their expansionism. Yet the next part shows a much more sober drive, from an insider who knows how the world and politics work: ''You can imagine what will follow if we see the Russian Federation fall apart, a nuclear power. We do not have the right to be lax; we do not have the right.''
This is what baffles me about the current attempts in the West to dismantle Russia into even smaller units. First, how well can the West control that demolition? Can they guarantee that no stalwart group would rise up, hell-bent on revenge, and seize part of the nuclear arsenal? That every part of the military will quietly acquiesce their sudden loss of power and prestige, like they stunningly did in the early 1990s? Where during the fall of the USSR the people within that empire arguably had every reason to be happy to be freed of that yoke and heavy-handed oppression (even if their preferred outcome would have been very different or varied among themselves), what popular support is there today within Russia to further demolish it and pick it apart in even smaller and more insignificant and powerless entities? None. Absolutely none. This would be forced UPON the people, which would be against any democratic principle the West purports to defend.
The irony and hypocrisy here is that the West would ‘dismantle an imperialistic and colonialist state’, by acting like an imperialist and colonialist conqueror and overlord themselves. But such ideas are alive and well, as evidenced in this article by The Atlantic, titled “Decolonize Russia - To avoid more senseless bloodshed, the Kremlin must lose what empire it still retains”.
It should be clear that Putin is NOT the KGB, is NOT the USSR, is NOT the Czarist empire. And the faults and errors of those systems, as well as those committed by Russian leadership between the fall of the USSR and his own ascendancy to leadership, cannot be used to attack every single decision Putin makes today. That would be the genetic fallacy (the logical error where you point at the source of origin of an argument or position in order to dismiss it, rather than the content or independent reasons for it), as well as an ad hominem (a logical error where the argument is directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining), perhaps even with poisoning the well mixed it (an informal fallacy where negative information is spread, usually preemptively, to discredit something the target is saying or doing).
If the Special Military Operation in Ukraine is objectively wrong, it should be possible to point that out without using such roundabout ways. You could indeed place it in a patter of acts that you paint as negative, but even there, simply fitting in a pattern, that is made out to be negative as a pattern, does not automatically make every single act within that patter negative in and of itself, either. When Hitler focused on building the Autobahn, that was part of a pattern of militarization, the modern counter of the Prussian use of railroads. But does that mean that building highways is something that is bad in and of itself? And can have no other neutral or even positive reasons to implement?
Now, any of those above fallacies cease to be fallacies, if subsequently it is argued how the Special Military Operation (SMO) is bad or even evil, unjustified, in and of itself. At that point, those above fallacies become important background. But you cannot use those fallacies as proof to denounce the SMO. By that logic, Russia can never again do anything good, as those errors from the past remain what they are, regardless of any effort Russia makes to steer itself away from that. It is like the nagging wife who keeps reminding her husband of all the mistakes he made, as she tears down any attempt of his to make up for those. (Or vice versa, of course)
But can we argue that the SMO is indeed evil, unjustified, an unprovoked act of aggression?
If you have followed my series ‘The War in Ukraine’, it should become clear that one cannot simply make that argument. In this part 7, I will go even a step further: the SMO is NOT an evil, unjustified, unprovoked act of aggression. Instead, I posit that it is possible to justify the SMO, even under the rules of the Just War Doctrine!
Let’s begin with explaining what the Just War doctrine is, and then look, point by point, how it applies (or not) to the current war in Ukraine, supported by relevant source material.
Just War Doctrine
Most people agree that war is not a desirable state to be in. War is old as day, yet people realize that even war needs rules and restrictions, or at least, very good reasons, in order to prevent the worst in humanity to take over and create a hell on earth that is even worse than war. It was Christian thinkers such as Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas who formalized a framework of thought by which to judge war, building on older ideas and principles from Greek and Roman philosophers such Plato and Cicero. The problems they faced, was how to reconcile a set of contradictory ideas.
First, the realization that taking human life is seriously wrong.
Second, that the state has the duty to defend and protect their own citizens, and to defend what is right and good (justice).
Third, that such defense and protection sometimes demands the willingness to use violence in order to protect innocent lives or important moral values.
War is thus an evil, but a necessary and ‘lesser’ evil, not desirable, but permissible. And a war is only just when it is justified, AND waged the right way. The goal does NOT justify the means.
To balance the requirements of each of the three realizations described above, they came up with a system that is commonly called ‘the Just War doctrine’ or theory. While it recognizes that war is evil, it accepts that there are legitimate reasons to wage war, and it also sets boundaries within such war is to be waged. Just War Theory has taken on different forms in the course of history, but the main principles remain the same of similar.
Here, I will be presenting the excellent outline presented by the Australian The Ethics Centre.
Today, just war theory is divided into three categories, each with its own set of ethical principles. The categories are jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum. These Latin terms translate roughly as ‘justice towards war’, ‘justice in war’, and ‘justice after war’.
Jus ad bellum
When political leaders are trying to decide whether to go to war or not, just war theory requires them to test their decision by applying several principles:
Is it for a just cause?
This requires war only be used in response to serious wrongs. The most common example of just cause is self-defense, though coming to the defense of another innocent nation is also seen as a just cause by many (and perhaps the highest cause).
Is it with the right intention?
This requires that war-time political leaders be solely motivated, at a personal level, by reasons that make a war just. For example, even if war is waged in defense of another innocent country, leaders cannot resort to war because it will assist their re-election campaign.
Is it from a legitimate authority?
This demands war only be declared by leaders of a recognized political community and with the political requirements of that community.
Does it have due proportionality?
This requires us to imagine what the world would look like if we either did or didn’t go to war. For a war to be ‘just’ the quality of the peace resulting from war needs to superior to what would have happened if no war had been fought. This also requires we have some probability of success in going to war – otherwise people will suffer and die needlessly.
Is it the last resort?
This says we should explore all other reasonable options before going to war – negotiation, diplomacy, economic sanctions and so on.
Even if the principles of jus ad bellum are met, there are still ways a war can be unjust.
Jus in bello
These are the ethical principles that govern the way combatants conduct themselves in the ‘theatre of war’.
Discrimination requires combatants only to attack legitimate targets. Civilians, medics and aid workers, for example, cannot be the deliberate targets of military attack. However, according the principle of double-effect, military attacks that kill some civilians as a side-effect may be permissible if they are both necessary and proportionate.
Proportionality applies to both jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Jus in bello requires that in a particular operation, combatants do not use force or cause harm that exceeds strategic or ethical benefits. The general idea is that you should use the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve legitimate military aims and objectives.
No intrinsically unethical means is a debated principle in just war theory. Some theorists believe there are actions which are always unjustified, whether or not they are used against enemy combatants or are proportionate to our goals. Torture, shooting to maim and biological weapons are commonly-used examples.
‘Following orders’ is not a defence as the war crime tribunals after the Second World War clearly established. Military personnel may not be legally or ethically excused for following illegal or unethical orders. Every person bearing arms is responsible for their conduct – not just their commanders.
Jus post bello
Once a war is completed, steps are necessary to transition from a state of war to a state of peace. Jus post bello is a new area of just war theory aimed at identifying principles for this period. Some of the principles that have been suggested (though there isn’t much consensus yet) are:
Status quo ante bellum, a Latin term meaning ‘the way things were before war’ – basically rights, property and borders should be restored to how they were before war broke out. Some suggest this is a problem because those can be the exact conditions which led to war in the first place.
Punishment for war crimes is a crucial step to re-installing a just system of governance. From political leaders down to combatants, any serious offences on either side of the conflict need to be brought to justice.
Compensation of victims suggests that, as much as possible, the innocent victims of conflict be compensated for their losses (though some of the harms of war will be almost impossible to adequately compensate, such as the loss of family members).
Peace treaties need to be fair and just to all parties, including those who are guilty for the war occurring.
Just war theory provides the basis for exercising ‘ethical restraint’ in war. Without restraint, philosopher Michael Ignatieff, argues there is no way to tell the difference between a ‘warrior’ and a ‘barbarian’.
(the Australian The Ethics Centre)
So, let’s take a look.
Jus ad bellum
Is it for a just cause?
Russia: Their cause is complex, but immediate.
It is self-defense.
As chronicled in my previous articles in this series, the US has painted a target on Russia, and is using NATO and Europe to neutralize and threaten Russia. The West has realized the vital importance of Ukraine for Russia since the early 90s, and they understood the geostrategic reasoning: the US used the same argument during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and is using it again today (2022, see part 3) in an ongoing standoff with the Chinese over their presence in the Solomon Islands.
The presence of NATO weapons in Ukraine, that close to the Russian mainland, IS a geostrategic red line, that Russia had every right to enforce. Just as much as the US had every right to demand, under threat of war, to remove Russian missiles from Cuba. Weapons are never just ‘defensive’, despite what Western propagandists want to tell us: it takes only a split second after the command to attack is given, that ‘defensive’ weapons become ‘offensive’…
Also not unimportant, is the talk among Ukrainian leaders and some of their European allies, about the Ukrainian acquisition of nuclear weapons to force their demands, as laid out in part 1. Was all that just bluster and blackmail? Probably, but they raised that specter, and now Russia must take that possibility, however remote, into consideration.
It is to defend others groups
The illegal coup in 2014, the violence towards the pro-Yanukovych camp, the increasing killing, the presence of Neo-Nazi elements, the threat of NATO take-over of vital Russian military installations, prompted the Russian support of the Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts. Crimea voted to become part of Russia from the beginning, and one could argue that this was a thinly veiled annexation by Russia, where Ukraine never accepted that vote. International law holds that such acceptance is not necessary, and the very recent NBC report by NBC News journalist Keir Simmons proves what we had known since the beginning: the vast majority of people in Crimea are Russian or Russian speaking, and feel greater affinity for Russia than for Ukraine. (Which promptly ‘earned’ Simmons a place on the Ukrainian kill list Myrotvorets)
"Every one of them [Crimean people Simmons interviewed on the streets] told us they are Russian and if President Zelensky thinks that Ukrainian forces can come here they will fight them," Simmons reported. "President Zelensky said the Ukraine war started here and it will end here. But no one was able to tell us how it will end and how much more blood will be spilled."
Ukraine was using cluster ammunition and deliberately attacked civilian settlements in the Donbas republics, from 2014 on. Hundreds of thousands of Ethnic Russian Ukrainians or Russian speaking Ukrainians from the Eastern area fled to Russia (!!) as refugees, as this Sep 2, 2014 BBC article attests to. The targeted killing of civilians and the massive refugee stream are very similar to the reasons used by NATO to justify their own intervention into Serbia in the 1990s.
These military attacks never stopped, but were intensified, and legal restrictions on those groups were imposed as well by Kiev, adding another layer of violation of human rights in the East. Let’s not forget the integration of Neo-Nazi groups into the army and the highest echelons of the civilian/political leadership, and the very pointed anti-Russian propaganda and open incitement to hate that those Nazi elements started to push on the whole Ukrainian population, aimed against their fellow Ukrainians who were either ethnic Russians or Russian speaking (this open state support allowed the Neo-Nazi ideology to publicly flourish, and the 2019 New Zealand Mass Shooter Brenton Tarrant wore a typical Azov Battalion emblem, showing how this hate ideology started to spread worldwide). This culminated in the preparation of a massive attack on the Donbas republics by a large NATO trained army, early 2022, which the Russians preemptively stopped by starting their attack first.
Any attack to stop such violations of human rights and support for Neo-Nazi groups would appear to be a just cause.
Is it with the right intention?
Yes. To protect the people in Crimea, Lugansk and Donetsk from an impending attack by an army that had shown to deliberately target civilians, with cluster ammunition and other illegal weapons, hid military equipment in civilian infrastructure, exposing those civilians to counter-fire, etc.
The goal was demonstrably NOT to conquer Ukraine, or any other dream of expansionism/revanchism: the amount of troops with which Russia started this SMO simply was not nearly enough for the combined roles of combat, support, and occupation! It was even considerably smaller than the Ukrainian army! See Part 3 for a more in-depth explanation of the military tactics and reality, proving this point beyond dispute.
Another important point to keep in mind, proving the intent by the Russians, is the Minsk Accords. Minsk II stipulated that, after Ukraine made a constitutional amendment to guarantee the rights of the people in Lugansk and Donetsk, that Russia and the territorial troops from both republics would withdraw to pre-2014 borders, giving Ukraine full control again. Russia kept insisting Ukraine kept their word, and give the people there those protections, but Ukraine never did. On the contrary, we now know, from directly involved non-Russian sources, that the goal of Minsk was to buy time so Ukraine could build up their army again, with help of NATO, to seize both republics and Crimea back.
The whole negotiated peace deal that the West blocked early April 2022, when Putin and Zelensky were ready to meet and sign this peace treaty in Ankara, again stipulating that Russia would withdraw from both Donbas republics in return for legal protections of the Russian speaking people living there and for which Russia as a sign of goodwill withdrew all their forces from around Kiev, Sumy and Kharkov, further underscores that even after the SMO began, the intent was NOT to conquer or expand Russian territory, but was primarily aimed at the protection of Russian speaking and/or ethnic Russians in Ukraine, from the attacks against them.
Is it from a legitimate authority?
Yes, Putin had the authority to start this Special Military Operation, and his case was laid out in plain and logical language in his Feb 24 2022 address to the Russian nation.
Russia recognized both Donbas republics, which had declared their independence from Ukraine on April 27, 2014. Critics will either say that those republics did not qualify as ‘independent states’, as they were not recognized as such by other nations, or that Ukraine had not threatened or attacked any other nation, and that the reasoning by Russia that it qualified under the Article 51 stipulation of ‘individual or collective self-defense’ was thus invalid. But this exposes the grey zones in international law, which also recognizes the right to self-determination of people, and that a region that wishes to secede from a nation does not need to do so within the legal framework of that nation (as few nations would willingly and peacefully allow such to happen). Even today, there are strong attacks against the legal justification for any action as ‘humanitarian intervention’: according to that school of thought, even in case of genocide or other human rights violations, no country has the right to invade the country where such takes place.
Of course, many in the west simply ignore the claims on human rights violations and genocide, even with the hundreds of thousands of refugees since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, the repeated and deliberate attacks on civilian population centers, the very clear incitement of hatred through dehumanizing propaganda, the legal targeting of ethnic Russian or Russian speaking Ukrainians through restrictive laws (such as the language laws), etc. But as we could see in the case of the targeting of nuclear facilities since the start of the SMO by Ukrainian forces, the international nuclear guard agency, the IAEA, even after their own inspections, where they were shelled by the Ukrainians (!!), they could not bring themselves to name the side who was doing the shelling of this nuclear facility, and doing so was risking a major nuclear catastrophe that would hurt and endanger millions, even far away from the conflict zone itself (look at their own press release, when they were ‘alarmed’ by the shelling of the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant, the largest in the country: not a word about who was doing the shelling).
Does it have due proportionality?
Without a doubt: at the beginning of the SMO, Russia had committed the least amount of troops possible, refrained from an all-out bombing campaign that would have hurt civilians more than the military, imposed strict rules of engagements, has remained open to negotiations despite having been deceived and lied to many times before, etc.
The Russian army has gone out of their way to limit collateral damage: look at the recent battles surrounding Vhuledar, for example: a small town atop a ridge, that has a cluster of concrete high-rise buildings that offer perfect view of the approaches and interlocking fire on the entrances to the individual buildings. Russian Marines have been attacking this for weeks, at great cost. Why are they not simply razing the buildings to the ground with long range artillery and rocket attacks, and simply eliminate this obstacle, instead of risking troops to take it, building by building? Because there are civilians in the basements of these buildings. In past wars, US troops have not shown such care and restraint.
This self-imposed rule of war, as seen elsewhere on the Ukrainian front, such as in Soledar, fits in the overall attempt of the Russians not to antagonize the Ukrainians in the North (at least in the first phase of the war, see this article on the military strategies in Ukraine), and in the South because these civilians were the ones they had set out to protect. Can’t just sacrifice them in blind fire, can you? This little military fact alone strongly supports that the Russians are indeed invading because they want to defend their own people there.
Only after the West destroyed a nearly concluded peace deal between Zelensky and Putin, and after the West resuscitated an almost bled dry Ukrainian army with a massive infusion of money, heavy weapons, munitions and troops (‘volunteers’ and ‘mercenaries’, of course, but NATO trained and able to operate the NATO heavy weapons), bringing all the Russian efforts back to square one, did Russia switch: they incorporated the two republics into Russia through a referendum, as well as the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, and did it start a much more intense air campaign to take out Ukrainian energy infrastructure (again, while limiting civilian casualties and civilian use infrastructure as much as possible).
All this shows great proportionality.
Is it the last resort?
Russia has tried every diplomatic way since the fall of the USSR, warning the West and pleading NOT to expand NATO all the way up to the Russian borders. They participated in a joint structure with NATO to show goodwill, did not take action when time and again the promises made were broken. Russia kept the promise to respect Ukrainian territorial integrity through a willingness to abide by Minsk II and the March-April 2022 negotiated peace plan with Zelensky.
It started the SMO only after Ukraine was readying 60,000 NATO trained troops for a massive invasion into the Donbas republics, which also threatened Crimea. What other avenues did Russia have left, at this point? None.
Let’s now take a look at the way the war is being fought:
Jus in bello
Is Russia only attacking legitimate targets? Yes. They are going through great pains to ensure they limit collateral damage as much as they can, even when the Ukrainians are breaking the rules of war by placing military materiel and troops in civilian buildings or areas, making them legitimate targets for the Russians (who even then show great restraint).
Under this rule of discrimination of the Just War Doctrine, Russia would be allowed to raze the high-rises of Zhuledar, as the cost for their own troops exceeds the lives of the civilians being spared. As such, Russia is going above and beyond the basic limits of this Just War Doctrine.
This is the same as above, but now specifically applied to the continued military attacks. Is Russia using the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve legitimate military aims and objectives? It is clear that they are trying their very best. The same arguments as in the section for Jus ad Bellum apply here, too.
An example: Russia set apart troops to evacuate civilians from buildings they had taken over in Soledar, just north of Bakhmut. Even then, Ukrainians were firing upon those soldiers, and one of the Russian soldiers got wounded as he brought a family to safety. To set apart troops for such humanitarian aid in the middle of an active battlefield, shows where their priorities lie, and that they are attempting a very proportionate approach.
No intrinsically unethical means
As far as I am aware, no such intrinsically unethical means have been deployed by Russia, but I am open to be corrected on this point. (Here, words are very important. Key word: intrinsic.)
Some might debate what constitutes as intrinsically unethical means, and might include cluster bombs into that category, as they point at reports that Russian troops used cluster munitions. Looking at several of the reports, from various sources, it is a fact that Russia has used those cluster munitions, as well. I remain skeptical about claims that they were used against civilian targets, because of the also proven habit by Ukrainian forces to hide among civilians, and because the overall approach of the Russian army in the north was to avoid collateral damage as much as possible. Another point to consider, is whether cluster munition is intrinsically unethical: I have not seen that point properly argued, even if it is clear that there are some serious ethical issues connected with certain types, qualities, or possible abuses of such weapons.
Also, the use of white phosphorus by Russian troops has been reported, including by Russian sources themselves. There are reports of both Ukrainian and Russian use of such weapons. This is a grey area, as some uses of those weapons are allowed (but not always in civilian areas, where the Ukrainian penchant to hide precisely there is not an excuse for the deployment of such weapons, but something that cannot be ignored, either), and some other incendiary weapons will look like white phosphorus, but are not the same.
An important observation is that the vast majority, if not all, of the video’s I have seen from Russian sources, or others, about the use of alleged white phosphorus by the Russians, was that they were at night time or in the late evening, when it was dark, and the incendiary rounds exploded way high over the target, to the point that most of the burning particles, save a very few of the largest ones, where burned out before they hit the ground. Such use for illumination is an accepted use, in all instances.
One factor to keep in mind, is that Russia nor Ukraine have signed the treaties banning the use of these weapons (neither has the US), and neither weapon is ‘intrinsically’ unethical (meaning that any use, at any time, would be deemed unethical): there are finely defined and restricted ways where their use is allowed and justified. The main point is, in any case: you cannot use these weapons against concentrations of civilians. An excellent source to read to better understand the use of White Phosphorus is this article by Lawfareblog.com, titled “The Jus in Bello of White Phosphorus: Getting the Law Correct”, basically explaining why the use of white phosphorus by itself is allowed in warfare, under the same restrictions and rules as any other weapon.
This is a point of concern that I must report, where Russia seems to be skirting (or perhaps even flat-out violating, depending on the details of individual reports, if true) an important pillar of the Just War Doctrine. As all points of the Just War Doctrine must be met for a military action to be considered ‘just’, this is the one point that prevents me from assigning this SMO with full certainty as ‘Just’, meeting all required points.
‘Following orders’ is not a defense
To my knowledge, no unjust orders have been given, and this defense is not being made by Russian troops.
While the SMO is still ongoing, we can see in the Russian occupied territories how they are approaching this next section, even if most points are still too early to say anything about:
Jus post bello
Status quo ante bellum
We see in Mariupol that Russia invests heavily in rebuilding, restoring roads, infrastructure, commercial buildings and areas, as well as civilian infrastructure: houses, schools, etc. which they make available to the local population.
Punishment for war crimes
Russia has not undertaking disparate or indiscriminate ‘revenge’ against captives, as far as I know, even those captured while out on sabotage missions in civilian areas. They do talk about holding the Neo-Nazi fighters responsible for their actions, for example, when it comes to certain documented cases of crimes.
We will have to wait to see this play out in full, as this cannot be properly assessed yet. I do hope that Russian military that has either disobeyed orders and committed atrocities or crimes, where/if applicable, or did so through mistake, will get a fair hearing in court as well, with proper restoration/restitution to the victims or their families, where possible.
Compensation of victims
This point is too early to assess, as well. When the fighting is over, and the dust settles, proper investigations and interviews can be done, to find out what happened, if anything amounted to a crime or violation, and where compensation is required or desirable.
Russia has been very patient in light of repeated deceptions and lies, and has remained open to respect Ukrainian territorial sovereignty until September 2022. With the incorporation of the 4 South-Eastern oblasts into Russia, they drew a very clear red line, and announced that they were done playing games.
Now that the situation is bleak for Ukraine, and Western leaders and military planners are recognizing that victory on the battlefield is not in the cards, we hear talk about peace plans and negotiations again. China has stepped in, even, offering their own peace proposal (which was outright rejected by the West). It is hard to predict, at this juncture, what peace will look like, and what conditions will be agreed upon by the parties involved.
As it stands, I am impressed by how many of the points of a Just War, under the Just War Doctrine, Russia’s Special Military Intervention manages to meet.
Not perfectly, I do acknowledge (my job is NOT that of a blind apologist), but I DO want to push back against those who wish to incriminate Russia at all cost (and who themselves appear blind to the open errors and faults in the West’s approach and handling of this conflict).
I am afraid that a truly just peace will require the West to take a very deep look inward, and acknowledge their own fault and guilt in first provoking this war, then preventing it to end, and finally prolonging it by direct support to Ukraine.
Next, I will look at exactly that: what can we find, if we look at how the West has handled this? I will focus mainly on the US (more precise: certain elites within the US), in my next article, chronicling a history of deception, power hungry gambles, in a world where they, as the sole remaining super-power, thought they were untouchable.