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Is the Ukraine War a just war?

April 4, 2022

Just war theory dates back at least to the ancient Greeks. Aristotle, St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have been followed by a host of modern philosophers in trying to formulate the principles that distinguish a just from an unjust war. The UN has codified its own principles (expertly analyzed a few days ago by Scott Ritter.) All of these authorities deplore the evil of war, the appalling suffering it causes, but are concerned with defining the circumstances where this evil becomes a necessary one and therefore a justifiable one.

Ius ad bellum concerns the justifiable causes or motives of war; ius in bello the justifiable means of waging war. There is no space here to go into individual philosophers’ views, but there is a surprising consensus among them. The two just motives of war almost universally agreed on are defense against aggression, and the ending of a massive violation of the basic human rights of a population. Most thinkers reject the motives of economic gain (trade wars such as the British Opium Wars), the punishing of wrong-doers (the US Afghan and 2003 Iraq War), or the recapture of lost territory (Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia.) They all insist that there must be a reasonable probability of achieving the goals of war, the expected benefit must be greater than the evils and suffering caused (proportionality), and war must be the last resort after all other means (diplomacy) have failed. Ius in bello concerns avoidance of civilian deaths and wanton destruction of infrastructure, humane treatment of prisoners, etc.

If we apply these criteria to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine we can see it conforms to the principles of a just war to an astonishing degree.

The war was waged, according to Vladimir Putin, for three reasons. The first was to save the people of the Donbass separatist republics from an imminent invasion likely to be genocidal in nature, which had already begun by a massive artillery barrage starting on 16th February. This bombardment was no longer the few dozen shells a day lobbed at the Donbass people for eight years (killing up to ten thousand of their civilians) but an intense, non-stop barrage of shelling. This was judged to be a prelude to an invasion across the fortified ceasefire line between Ukraine and the separatist republics. The republics began evacuating civilians urgently to Russia (to which one and half million Donbass civilians had already fled over the previous eight years to escape the blockade, siege and daily shelling by Ukraine’s forces as Kiev openly reneged on the Minsk Agreement it had signed, which granted the Donbass republics autonomy within Ukraine.) Putin’s judgement that an invasion was imminent was later confirmed (according to the Russians) by the capture of Ukrainian army documents indicating an invasion was planned for early March. He recognized the republics and two days later moved in his forces. The Russian army, instead of merely countering the invasion of the Donbass republics by the 60,000 Ukrainian troops massed along the line of contact, entered Ukraine from several directions, north and south. It seems from subsequent developments that the goal was not to capture Kiev or Kharkov (which would be extremely costly in civilian lives for a purely symbolic victory) but to threaten them and pin down a large part of Ukraine’s forces in the north. This would stop them moving south-east to reinforce their main army in the Donbass, which the Russians aimed to encircle and destroy. Since the Russians only invaded with a maximum of 150,000 troops, as opposed to Ukraine’s total of over 400,000, it was essential to keep Ukraine’s forces divided. The first task was to destroy the Ukrainian air force, air defenses, fuel depots, tanks and troop carriers to reduce their mobility and capacity to reinforce their main Donbass army. The second phase announced by Russia after four weeks was to withdraw some of the forces pinning down the Ukrainians in Kiev and transfer them east for the crucial battle in the Donbass. The invasion of the entire country in order to defend the Donbass republics was therefore not disproportionate, as the force applied in this pinning down operation was very moderate (with less than a thousand civilian deaths officially recorded by the UN in the first four weeks, the number killed nearly every day of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.)

The second reason given by Putin for his action was to prevent Ukraine becoming a member of NATO (or a de facto one, without other members having a chance to veto it), with US and UK military bases on its territory. The fear was that this would allow the US to put nuclear missiles on the Russian border. These could threaten Moscow with annihilation from 500 kilometers away, allowing too little time for defensive systems to operate. This compensates by proximity the US lag in both hypersonic and defensive missile systems, but when they do get hypersonic missiles they could reach Moscow from Ukraine in four minutes. The refusal by the US and NATO, despite exhaustive diplomatic efforts by Putin for three months, to give a written assurance that these developments would not happen was considered a tacit admission that this was NATO’s intention. Putin was responding to a clearly signaled intention to install nuclear missiles in Ukraine that could launch a genocidal first strike on Russia (Prompt Global Strike being the new Pentagon doctrine.) Nobody doubts that if there were hostile military bases on the Mexican border threatening America in the same way, the US would take military action to destroy them (as the Cuban missile crisis showed.) Putin judged that it was better for the survival of the human race to act now to prevent this happening rather than to wait till the US bases and missiles were installed and then destroy them. This was a clear and justifiable motive for a pre-emptive war of self-defence. It was preventing an infinitely greater war later on. Nor were Putin’s fears unreasonable paranoia. The US has missiles in Romania, and is installing them in Poland, which are supposedly anti-missile systems, but could easily be replaced secretly by offensive nuclear missiles (which Poland has asked for.) US expansionist logic would be to put similar missiles in Ukraine, much closer to Moscow. The 26 US bioweapon labs discovered in Ukraine are also signs of a hostile intent of a genocidal nature. To demand the demilitarization and neutralization of Ukraine is not only a question of survival for Russia. It is also an achievable goal, as it is under discussion now in peace talks.

The third reason mentioned by Putin is to obtain a guarantee of the rights of the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine. Kiev’s nationalist pursuit of a one-language, one-culture Ukraine has been scandalously supported by the West, even though its closest analogue, China’s attempt to culturally assimilate the Uighur people of Xinjiang, has been denounced by the West as genocide. That assimilation process, forcing Uighurs to speak only Chinese and identify with Han Chinese culture, forgetting their own, is not very different in intent from imposing Ukrainian as the only language of instruction in state schools, and the only language for all official purposes. This is in a country where the Russian-speaking minority is far larger proportionately than linguistic minorities in Switzerland, Belgium, Spain or Canada, which all have the right to education and interaction with the state in their own language. They also have television channels in their own language, which Russian-speakers in Ukraine have now been denied, with the approval of Joe Biden. Why do the rights of linguistic minorities, which Europeans are so fond of asserting, not apply to Russian-speaking minorities? This is a denial of basic human rights, potentially a cultural genocide, which Putin is seeking to end, by what he calls the denazification of Ukraine — the elimination not only of the Azov Battalion thugs in Mariupol with their SS insignia, but the fanatical nationalists, bent on total assimilation of minorities, at all levels of government.

As for ius in bello, or the just means of making war, Russia has, according to US Colonel Douglas MacGregor and other experts, taken extraordinary care so far to minimize civilian casualties. After 25 days of war, the total number of confirmed civilian deaths, according to the UN, was 902. Though this figure is bound to increase as investigations proceed, especially after the fall of Mariupol, it is at the moment comparable to the number of civilians killed on an average day during much of the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003. For Western politicians and media to be accusing Russia of systematically targeting civilians, given this exceptionally low death count, goes beyond hypocrisy. It is hate-filled, lying propaganda reminiscent of the bayoneted Belgian babies stories fabricated by the British in World War 1. And while this avoidance of civilian deaths determines much of the Russian strategy (at the expense of increasing their own casualties), the same media jeer at the Russian army for its slow advance and scoff at its failure to capture major cities. The Russian army’s evident goal is not to capture big cities (at an inevitably high cost in civilian lives) but to encircle opposing troops and capture them. It has encircled some major cities and left humanitarian corridors and intact railways for civilians to leave, so that eventually only troops will remain, who can then be engaged with less danger to civilians. That is why the Nazis of Mariupol have been stopping civilians leaving along the humanitarian corridors Russia has opened every day. Refugees from Mariupol (in videos forbidden on Western media) have described how the Azov Battalion shoots civilians leaving or closes the route as unsafe, because it is shelling that route. The Nazis are afraid of what will happen to them when there are no civilians left to hide behind. That is why the Russians, in desperation, have even offered to allow the Azov Battalion safe passage out, because they dread the civilian carnage when the cornered Nazis make their last stand.

The main danger to civilians comes from the false flag attacks Azov has been staging. It took over the Mariupol Maternity Hospital, moved the staff and patients, and used it as a firing position, and then, when it was hit by a shell that killed no one, faked civilian victims. The one pregnant woman displayed as a victim has since returned home to Donetsk and recounted to reporters that Azov Battalion soldiers took over the hospital, stole the food of the pregnant women, established firing positions next to the women’s ward, and when a shell hit (not a bomb from a plane) rushed in at once with cameramen to film the pregnant women and record their shock. In short, it was a staged propaganda piece, which gullible or cynical Western media are still calling a Russian war crime. As for the Mariupol Drama Theatre, also allegedly bombed, refugees from Mariupol claim that the Azov Battalion, installed on the top floor, blew it up themselves when they left, hoping for a thousand dead among the people they had crammed into the basement. They still claim three hundred dead though no bodies have been produced. Finally, the 3rd April massacre at Bucha near Kiev four days after Russian forces withdrew was the most horrific example of a crude false flag war crime. The mayor of the town announced triumphantly on 31st March it was free of Russian troops. He made no mention of any atrocities. Ukrainian security forces swept through the town over the next two days “to cleanse it of saboteurs and collaborators.” Video film of their progress through the town shows no bodies on roads. Then on 3rd April these bodies all appear like magic, lying conspicuously in the middle of roads, and are filmed with horror by the press. Many of the victims filmed are wearing white armbands (recorded both by the BBC and in videos.) Now white armbands are worn as identification by Russian troops in this war and also by civilians in Russian-occupied areas as a sign they are pro-Russian or neutral and pose no threat to the Russian occupiers. The pro-Ukrainians wear blue armbands like Ukrainian troops. Since these bodies were only discovered four days after the Russians left on 30 March, and a day after Ukrainian security forces swept through the town to “cleanse it of saboteurs and collaborators”, it is clear these people were massacred as pro-Russian collaborators by the Ukrainians. Then, with diabolical cynicism, they accused the Russians of their crime. The killing of pro-Russian “collaborators” in areas won back from the enemy has been systematic by the Ukrainians in the Donbass War since 2014 — another fact ignored in the Western media. There is a video of a Ukrainian soldier in Bucha saying: “They’re not wearing blue armbands, can we shoot them?” Who in their right mind would believe it was Russians and not Ukrainians who would shoot pro-Russian civilians, wearing pro-Russian white armbands? Which side was more likely to tie the victims’ hands with white ribbons, symbolizing their pro-Russian treason? But of course Western media simply suppress any idea that the sanctified Nazis of Ukraine could possibly be murderers, even after we have seen them shooting prisoners. CNN even asked: “Who could have killed them if not the Russians?” The Western journalists, politicians and fake human rights groups who are calling this “a new Srebrenica” and demanding NATO military intervention without the slightest independent investigation to find out the truth are a sign of the moral depravity the Western establishment has sunk to in this war. Is it mere gullibility that makes them accept as gospel the crudely faked atrocity propaganda of an army led by men wearing Nazi insignia (while refusing to allow the videos that show Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners of war in the legs)? Or is it criminal Western complicity in a campaign of lies by Nazi mass-murderers to justify more ruinous sanctions on the Russian people? The hysterical indignation and illegal sanctions triggered by these false flag war crimes (as in Syria by MI6-funded jihadists) are a deliberate incitement of the butchers to commit more crimes. Western politicians all have blood on their hands from the hapless “pro-Russian collaborators” of Bucha, massacred by Ukrainian Nazi puppets, goaded on by the West.

In conclusion, as far as we can judge until now, and unless there is a degradation of Russian methods of war, it appears that in terms of both ius ad bellum (just motives) and ius in bello (just methods of warfare), the Russians are engaging in a just war. It is a last resort, after all diplomatic options were exhausted, to defend the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics (bound to them by defence treaties) from a genocidal invasion and Russia itself from an existential nuclear threat by US bases on its border. The evils this war is preventing are far greater than those it is causing. This is not to minimize the tragedy or horror of this war: merely to compare it with the greater tragedy and horror of the nuclear war which could occur if the US went ahead and installed nuclear missiles in Ukraine — the obvious strategic goal of its entire presence there. Not a single war of the dozens waged by NATO powers since 1960 meets the criteria of a just war as well as this one. Of course since the West has banned all Russian media, most people cannot hear the Russians’ version of events or examine their arguments. Above all Western governments don’t want their people to hear the Russian side of it. They have criminalized their views as disinformation (Youtube has banned all dissident videos about Bucha, so evidence itself is banned) and ramped up hatred of Russians to insane levels that can only end in a world war. This is the ultimate stupidity — making it impossible to hear what the other side is saying. If nuclear war ever occurs, it will be caused by hysterical, ignorant, bigoted misrepresentations of what the other side is doing or has done. That is what we are witnessing.

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