Season 1, Episode 3
In episode 3 of the Conversatio podcast, Dr. Clark Summers and Professor Michael Watson discuss what constitutes “just” war in the 21st century and apply this framework to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This is the second part of our discussion on the 2022 conflict between these two countries. Listen to Episode 2 to hear Part 1.
Dr. Summers, Julia Long, Professor Watson
Julia Long 00:02
Welcome to Conversatio up to the Belmont Abbey college podcast. This podcast focuses on the way of formation and transformation, so that each of us reflects God’s image in an ever more palpable and transparent way. I’m Julia long. And today I’m joined by Dr. Clark Summers and Professor Michael Watson. And we’re going to be looking at the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and discussing the history and ideas of just war. Before we kick this off, I’m excited to have Dr. Summers and Professor Watson introduce themselves. Dr. Summers, why don’t we start with you.
Dr. Summers 00:37
Thank you very much for having me here today. I’m a lecturer in the history and politics department. So I teach Western civilization international relations. My background is philosophy of technology, degrees in international relations and Strategic Studies. And before coming to the Abbey I was, I am a retired Army officer.
Professor Watson 01:00
And I’m Professor Michael Watson. I am an economist from George Mason University. Now I teach at the Abbey. My interests are monetary history theory, Catholic social thought and economics and Polish history. I’ve actually clerk summers and I taught a class last semester on the intermarry, and that is the land between the black and Baltic Seas. He was a co-taught class, we looked. So the line between the black and Baltic Seas is going to be Estonia down to Poland, up and down to Ukraine. So the topic today is quite relevant to that class. It was an international political economy classes the way you’d, you’d describe it.
Julia Long 01:43
Great. Thanks to you both. So I think you really set the stage nicely there, Professor Watson. So where we wanted to start today was really helping our audience understand what got us to this point. So we have these two countries, and we’re seeing this coverage of the war and the conflict going over going on over there. And I think one thing on everyone’s minds is like, Oh, my goodness, how do we get here? And there’s a lot of history and a lot of context. So can you maybe just walk us through a little bit about the history and in your opinion, kind of what got us to this point.
Professor Watson 02:16
Okay, so you have to go back to history in history going back 1000 years to really understand the conflict. There’s this and central to that question is, who are the Ukrainians? What is Ukraine? There’s a lot of propaganda out there. And actually quite a few folks on the right on the conservative bent, who believe that Ukrainians are simply Russians. That of course is false. There are those on the left if we had looked, historically, at least will a lot of people on the left would have simply considered Ukrainians. Russians as well. So who are the Ukrainians? I’m gonna give a little bit of a personal story here. My great-grandmother. Ukrainians would call her Ukrainian today. However, she would have never considered herself a Ukrainian. She called herself Oh to Shinka that is easily translated roussin Are you saying, which is diminutive for Ruthenian, which in most Slavic languages, you would say Lucia. So she considered herself a Ruthenian. And, or a rousson rather than a Ukrainian. What’s interesting, where I’m where my family comes from, in Poland that the Sonne River. The children in the Ukrainian speaking schools call themselves Ukrainians, but their parents call themselves Ruthenians. So they had a separate term, identifying who they were. If you go back a little further and the term Ukrainian, not Ukraine, Ukraine is an ancient term, but Ukrainian is actually a new term 90, that term folks that didn’t identify themselves as Ukrainians and Koreans until the late 19th century. And it really took off and really didn’t take off until early 20th century. So before then, those people the Ukrainians would have been called the Ruthenians and Ruthenians. Ruthenia is from the Ukrainian ket, from Kyiv, to Minsk, to Novgorod to Moscow. That would be kind of the area of what would be considered Ruthenia with all the different ruthenium principalities and things like that. So, and actually, if you look at Austrian Hungarian censuses from the 19th century, you’ll actually see poles Germans, all these different groups, and you’ll see this one group Roshini, which are the Athenians, so even the Austro Hungarians recognize that there was a group speaking a language that wasn’t Polish wasn’t Russian etc, but was retaining. So going back into history 1000 years The Kevin rousse is where it all begins. And from the Kevin Roose, we get all these different Ruthenian principalities. Some of them still, I guess in some sense exists. We have Belarus, which is white Ruthenia. If you look into history, on maps, you’ll often see it’s called White Russia. That of course was bad translations, although that serve the purposes of the Czar’s of Russia and Russia to make English speakers think that, Oh, they’re just Russian, there’s a different group of Russians. Right, Ukraine is often called Mala or Sia, which is little Russia. So those are things to be cognizant of. But going back into history, these are all different principalities. Now to keep things brief, over the Mongols invade, and, and oh, actually, before I even set the Ruthenian principalities were Patria ammonium, that is they were we had the Prince and the prince ran everything. Right? It wasn’t democratic, wasn’t a republic. It was rather authoritarian to some extent. The Mongols invaded from the east and Moscow collaborated with the Mongols. They didn’t fight them. Ivan the Terrible did eventually kick them out. But the rush the Moscow and modern Russia comes from Moscow. So the Muscovites collaborated with a Mongolians to really take over redrew Athenian principalities and that gave Moscow its power that’s where Moscow began to get his power because before then it was a backwater on the earth so so then Ivan the Terrible comes to power and Ivan’s terrible, expands and he destroys Novgorod Novgorod was a principle that was a ruthenium principality that was oligarchic but a republic and actually quite capitalistic, you know, there was blossoming of freedom there. In the West, you have the post with waning Ruthenian Commonwealth it wasn’t officially called post 20 Ruthenian Commonwealth but half the population spoke or some Ruthenian language. And in the Commonwealth, you had Western institutions with so we’re talking about democracy 10% of nobility voted, you had hate the equivalent of habeas corpus you had Neil Novi nothing without us nothing new without us. So if the king wanted to create a law, he needed permission from the same incentive that was not the case in Moscow. So in the West, you have the Commonwealth in the east to Moscow, and they a conflict comes about between them and Ukraine is at the heart of that conflict. The Ukraine, of course, back then it was a territory. And one important group in Ukraine were known as the Persian Cossacks, you actually see it’s still Zaporizhzhya is Voivodship in I mean, not a Voivodship Oblast fellowships, the Polish version, so it’s an old boss in Ukraine. This is approaching Cossacks, and a lot of Ukrainians. Ukraine nationalism identifies with this approaching Cossacks is approaching Cossacks were a bit like pirates. They were a bit democratic. Kind of an interesting combination of everything. They defended the eastern borders of the southeastern borders of the Commonwealth against Tatara raids from Crimea and Ottoman Empire. They did pirate piracy on the Black Sea. They were freemen right, and they were warriors, and the magnates that is the upper nobility of the routine the Ukraine in the Commonwealth. There were in the Ruthenian often polarized Magneto like guy named Vishnevsky. He owned a huge amount of land they decided they wanted to in surf does approaching Cossacks and surfing Warriors is a bad idea. Free Men do not like to become unfree. The king could have interfered intervene in this and they did not fact the so they did because he didn’t interfere this approach and Cossacks rebelled bloody rebellion, a million people something near million people died. And the Russians and this is an important point because the Russians don’t act when other countries are powerful. They act according to what I would like to loosely call salami tactics. They take things slice by slice. And they like to invade when or take advantage of weakness and their neighbors. So the Commonwealth is in the middle of a civil war, and then the Swedes invade and all this other stuff. And so the Russians get involved and is approaching and then they promised as I was approaching Cossacks, more freedom. So there’s a pros and cosec switch to them. And then about 10 years later, they realize Wow, the Russians are and Moscow are worse than the polls. We want to go back to Poland but Russians weren’t going to let that happen anyhow, back and forth these winter. This is approaching causes kept skipping around during the Ottoman Empire, one part, they tried joining the polls and they were in the Russians and they just, you know, they, they were stuck. The Russians finally said, Okay, we’re going to work things out. And they’ve been rebelling and having all sorts of issues. They came to an agreement. They were they the Russian military, strong them after the agreement and sent them eastward, took them all and just sent them eastward. And that’s how the Russians have often dealt with. Muscovites have often dealt with populations that don’t agree with them. But this other important important important point here is that is that Ukraine has been a flashpoint between East and West. And throughout this, the years, you’ve seen this build up, to have history repeating itself,
Julia Long 10:46
I think there’s something so there was a lot there, and in some really good historical context. So thank you, Professor Watson, I think something that stuck out to me as someone who is not an expert in this space, is what you said about Russia, which was Russia doesn’t strike when other countries are strong. I think that’s really interesting. And Dr. Summers, that kind of made me think about you and a conversation that you that I heard you having, because you were saying how you’re well versed in war strategy. And so I think that’s an interesting comment. And wondered if you had an opinion on that. If, in your opinion, is that true of Russia? What’s your take on that?
Dr. Summers 11:24
Simply said, Yes, it’s true. And, and to the Russian defense, because it sounds, you know, little, you know, disreputable. In fact, practically every modern power in seeking after their national objectives, there, they’re going to move or take action, when it’s advantageous for them. One of the things that Professor Watson in, in trying to sort of compress all of these details is one of the challenges is, over the last 250 years, are what we our concept of modern statehood. And the relationship between states and nations and countries, right has has been both evolving. And in the beginning of the 20th century, is really the when this idea of that a nation of people should have their own state and have self-determination. That wasn’t the norm, prior to 1919. It was an ideal that had been evolving, you know, for about 200 years at that point, but it was by no means universal. And so within the 100 years prior to that, so from the first half of the 19 century. This ideal, particularly with regard to the region, the Ukraine, and its various subsets, for example, Crimea, then in the Crimean War between including Russia, Great Britain, France, and the Ottoman Turks was all about control of this particular very strategic and important piece of ground, the Crimean peninsula, right, who at the time was the native population, there were Cossack, and Muslim. And in fact, the Russian claim the current contemporary Russian claims of national identity with that particular piece of ground is in fact, a modern invention, meaning modern within the last 100 years. And that’s one of the things that complicates this particular issue is that many of the subtleties between nations, ethnic groups of people who have shared language, shared history, shared mythology, shared modes of dress, shared religion, which they all identify with and define them as a people associated with Yes, a particular piece of ground, but not necessarily having ever been more self governing in a modern statehood sense. And so one of the things that that modern Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union, is taking advantage of that confusion to make claim to Amman, portions of the modern state and saying this really should just be Russia, because of the following complicated and detailed history. So that then brings us to the immediate question that we’re kind of, you know, approaching and groping towards is one does Russia have a just claim, and if they’re going to use military force, Is that valid? Is that just under international law?
So on Crimea, the Tatara is there During the Soviet Union were all picked up one day and sent to Siberia. And then Russians removed it. And that’s an Russia does this over and over again, throughout history. If you look at Sao Paulo, so Ukraine in April version one was split between Poland, and and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was industrializing, and collectivise. Our agriculture collectivizing, agriculture is in history killed millions of people. Private property aligns incentives for production, collectivization does not they will also it may have been purposeful what occurred is called the Holodomor. It’s a massive famine that occurred in eastern Ukraine. And remember, if you looked, if you look at maps, Ukraine is actually larger, the Ukrainian speaking population is actually larger than it today would actually wrap around even further around the Black Sea. So during the flood, the more during the collectivization of agriculture, where all this food was taken and sent to other parts of the country, about anywhere from 20 to 30% of population died in eastern Ukraine, and where there were a greater proportion of population died. The more ossified it is, the more Russian it speaks. What’s interesting, though, if you look at the census data is that despite the fact that 30% of the population died in those areas, they and they were refined, and they were in Russians moved in. When you look at the census data, the majority of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine identify as Ukrainian. So they still and they, they have a memory of what happened during the floods, or, you know, during the Soviet you really didn’t couldn’t talk about this stuff. It was, I remember my grandparents, when they would talk about things, especially in the 50s, or in the Stalinist era, you would, uh, you would make sure all the kids were asleep, so they didn’t overhear, because that’s, that’s one way you determine who were people you didn’t want in your country. And then you’d also pose someone outside to see if anyone was coming by to sneak and listen. And so all these conversations were very hidden, but enough of that got through so that the Ukrainian population is remembered the Holodomor. And then when we crane got its independence, that is one part of suffering that they were able to identify with the challenge
Dr. Summers 17:09
comes back. And there are so many challenges here in you almost need a scorecard, to keep all of the complicated players at work. One of the fascinating aspects of all this is that during the Soviet era, Marxist communist doctrine completely rejected the whole concept of nationality. The only thing that counted was economic class. It was the workers who provided value in the form of labor. And there was the parasitic overlords, the capitalists, the ruling class, nationality, completely dismissed as an organizing principle. However, the irony is, is that both in how Russia within the framework of the Soviet Union behaved towards all of the other satellite and subordinated nations that they were sorting to attempt to cobble together into the Soviet Union in this in this grand worker’s paradise. But then, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has essentially reverted back to the same nationalist focus that never truly went away. And, and hence, Michael’s observation regarding the salami tactics is very consistent. Russia has always extended its power and authority as a centralized power as an empire through the use of these tactics, and we see what’s happening, what is currently happening in the Russo Ukrainian war matched how they behaved in 2008. With regards to Georgia, right, is how they they’re the initial violation of Ukraine sovereignty with regard to Crimea, and, and the Donbass region, in particular, Donetsk and Luhansk. And those actions, again, in terms of just by a straight dry analysis of international law, those actions were illegal. The problem is, is that the West in the form of NATO, the UN, the US, none of these sort of have co-equal powers at the great state level. Did other than sort of, tut, tut, tut, this isn’t how nice people behave, right? That didn’t change the fact that as far as in terms of Russia’s calculation of what their interests were, they were going to push until they achieve their desired end state.
Julia Long 19:46
So Dr. Summers one thing I don’t mean to interrupt you, but one thing I’d like to jump in on and ask here is there a lot of players here there, there’s a lot of historical implications, but what you just said about you know, Russia’s Russia’s actions what is it that caused this war? What made Russia decide to invade? Let’s kind of set that for our audience.
Dr. Summers 20:10
Michael and I are looking at each other. To try to tackle this one. Russia has historically sought to ensure that they maintain a buffer zone between Mother Russia, and both the West and quite frankly, the east. That part of the Russian national character. For all its many admirable qualities, one of them has been a persistent perception that they are under threat from the west. They can look at examples and say, look how often Russia has been invaded by European powers or by other empires, to which we were at no fault at all. And right. And we know the Germans invaded, the French invaded France and England got involved in a war where the Ottoman Empire was really the aggressor. Swedes invaded. Back in medieval history, we forget that there was a whole, you know, conflict between the Han Chinese Empire and the Russian Far East. Right, that so so none of this is new.
Julia Long 21:28
And Professor Watson alluded to that a little bit ago, when he said, This is what Russia does. I mean, Russia has done this before, in
Dr. Summers 21:34
to Russia’s credit, their perception in their concept of themselves as a nation is that every time they have sought to peaceful coexistence, within their rightful place in the international order, they feel like it doesn’t they end up being the ones defending the Motherland against invaders. Now, the accuracy of that perception is a discussion for a whole nother time. But that’s their perception. And they end So Russia now looks at the growth and expansion of the European Union, backed up with the strategic alliances of NATO. And they’re seeing the EU backed up with the military power of NATO, expanding towards rather Mother Russia. And what they want to ensure is there will not be a hostile regime, all the way up on the Russian border that compromises Russian security, that’s the justification that that Russia has been offering for their actions in Ukraine.
Professor Watson 22:46
Whereas you also say part of Russian strategies to have a lot of land to fight over. So I mean, even when they went after World War Two, they took the Eastern lands of Germany sent the Germans into their central and western areas, and then took pop and then force the poles in Eastern Europe, in eastern Poland to move into what is now western Poland or Eastern German.
Dr. Summers 23:08
Correct. And that, again, it becomes complicated. In 1918, newly communist Russia being before it becomes the Soviet Union, exits World War One signs a separate peace with Imperial Germany. And in order to get a settlement, they accepted the establishment of the Russian frontier, about where the line where the German army currently was sitting and controlled. Well, that had been traditionally Poland. And as soon as World War One ends, and Poland, the Polish state is reestablished, after 150 years, 20 323 years of having been essentially, you know, divided between three other empires, Poland is restored. And the first thing that Russia does is attack Poland to reestablish what Russia decided was its what’s true, true frontier, well, polling wins, polling defeats Russia, in 1920 21. Russo Polish War, resetting the boundary that Russia had agreed to, in 1918. In 1939, in the midst of the alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, that and they attack Poland again. At the start of World War Two, we forget Russia, the Soviet Union, they were allies with they were working together and had been working together for a decade and they seize the opportunity to go back and retake the land that they had felt that they had been denied in the in 19 2021. At the end of World War Two, they reestablished and they essentially pushed Poland, taking the comparable portion of land that Russia had taken from Poland, they carved it out of Germany and said, that’s where the new boundaries of Poland are going to be. And they weren’t really particularly worried about whether the Germans who are now displaced from what had been Germany, and being basically told, you go into the modern state of Germany, because we’re making room for the poles that we’re pushing out from what we claim now to be Russia.
Professor Watson 25:37
The Ukrainians also in the, in the polls, Russell, or they were split, again, split between what side, bunch of them joined the Soviets, a bunch of them joined the polls, and then some of them flip flopping back and forth. And so there has been this historical legacy of the Ukrainians kind of being split between these two forces. Right. And there’s even an over the religious point is that Western Ukraine is recruiting Catholic and Eastern, Central and Eastern Ukraine is Orthodox, and traditionally that Moscow would have been there. The patriarchy they would be under
Dr. Summers 26:16
will know, that illustrates the point of how complicated these issues become. Because we think of religion being this, particularly now in contemporary Western society. We frequently contemporary secular Western society tend to dismiss religion as being, oh, well, just simply, you know, it’s not really important anymore. It’s not part of, you know, because and sadly, that’s one of the things that that is undermining the moral authority of the West. However, religion is one of the key most important things of identification within a nationality, and that shared understanding of the role that faith is in makes. And so for, particularly for the Ukrainians now, this prospect of a forcible political hegemony, being extended from Russia is in some ways, the Russian actions in this current war is doing more to strengthen and enhance Ukrainian nationality than anything else they could have done otherwise. Because Ukrainians both who are first language, Ukrainian and those whose their first language is still Russian, they’re practically all bilingual. And they are increasingly even in the Russian dominated areas. The more that Russia tries to impose hegemony by military force, the stronger they are making Ukrainian nation.
Julia Long 27:55
So I think we’ve set the stage in a way that it could be understandable potentially for Russia’s motivations. Right. Okay, here’s the slant, here’s what they’re trying to do. Here’s why they might feel compelled to invade Ukraine. Is the idea here then that the Ukraine has done nothing to deserve this? Not that someone would deserve something like this. But what I’m trying to understand here is Okay, so here are Russians actions. Did Ukraine’s actions contribute to this conflict in any way? Or is it just a matter of what Russia wants to do? So this is a byproduct of the invasion. Because I think as we kind of track along this discussion and talk in determining what the idea of just war is, right, the question around Ukraine’s actions is important. Were their actions taken? Or did they just simply were they just invaded?
Professor Watson 28:53
So we have to go back in time to the 2000s we had the Orange Revolution. Okay, so Ukraine gets its freedom when the Soviet Union falls. But it never decolonized, it did some reforms, the reforms have been atrocious. It’s an incredibly corrupt economy. I mean, until 2020, there was a moratorium on the sale of land, agricultural land, so no one. And you can tell the peasants that those farmers could not know if they didn’t trust the government to enforce contracts, because they refused the plant anything that did long, kind of long run planting, it was all like short run short run agriculture. And they have black earth, right. They have most productive land probably in the world. And they have some of the lowest productivity of agriculture in the world, because nobody knows if they actually the government will enforce the contracts. And so the people were opposed to allowing their the viewed buying and selling of land because they didn’t believe the legal system would protect their property rights until 2020. And so just That’s how corrupt it is. Right? There’s a mass have desire in Ukraine. And I’ve seen this in with Ukrainians. I knew a lot of Ukrainians when I studied in Poland. And then when you just look at Ukraine itself, they want to become, they don’t want to be poor anymore. They don’t want to corrupt the government they want and they see advancements, or many of them see advancement as being further away from Russia. This was split, though, until I think, until Russia invaded. So then we have my dawn in 2014. And in part of me, I was all I’m all about Ukraine, you know, the use of PCC said, There’s no such thing. There’s no such thing is free Poland without a free Ukraine 1920. So I’m like, I have that sympathy I have that I kind of think that’s somewhat true. And so, you know, I’m all about the freedom of Ukraine, but it’s like in 2014, that’s when Russia kind of reasserted itself, right. They had reserved himself in Georgia, they had been rebuilding their military. And I thought I’m back. And I’m like, you know, while I want Ukrainian freedom, why couldn’t they had done this, these revolts, or these protests or whatever we want to call them like 15 years ago, when Russia was weak? Because if they had if they had done in the 90s and early 2000s, they probably could have gotten away with it. Right? At least a much greater extent than today.
Dr. Summers 31:16
Well, I’m smiling here, because from a if we bring this back to this question of international law, it’s that, in fact, they did do what was necessary and what was right from, from, from, 91 to 92, when the Soviet Union collapses, and Ukraine declares its independence in 94. Russia, the successor state after the Soviet Union collapses, recognizes that the independence and sovereignty of the modern state of Ukraine and offers international guarantee. So what are supposed to be binding guarantees that they will respect the then existing frontiers and boundaries of Ukraine. The same, these same assurances of security are supposed to be backed up by the United States and by the UK by their verbal assurances. Now, this isn’t a formal military treaty. It’s not NATO. It’s not a defense treaty. But it is binding in the sense under recognized international law that they did in fact, agree to all this. So taking us back to 2014. And
Professor Watson 32:23
Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons as a result, yes,
Dr. Summers 32:27
Ukraine gave up all of the nuclear Ukraine would have been the number three or four nuke size nuclear power in 1992. And there are plenty of technical experts who said well, Ukraine could have never actually cut them. And they didn’t really belong Ukraine, they belong to the Soviet Union, Harun from the fact the matter is if Ukraine had made the decision that they were going to maintain these weapons and purchase the necessary technologies, to keep them deployable, they could have done that they chose not to. And the other nuclear power said, Well, the easiest thing is if Ukraine gives them up, we’ll promise to protect them. The lesson one of the lessons of 2022 is there’s never going to be another state that ever willingly gives up their nuclear weapons ever again. Because they will all look and see. Look what happened to Ukraine. Yeah. That whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s Iran, whether whomever it is, there will never be another state that ever gives up its nuclear weapons, again, in our lifetime. Yeah. Because of what happened in 2022. Now, Russia claims to have valid reasons for there. And here I am making dramatic air quotes, special military operation, which in any other language means invasion and war. And they claimed, and they continue to claim that they were justified doing this, because A, the government of Ukraine represented a threat to the state of Russia, because of its Nazi leanings. And its persecution of Russian speaking Ukrainians, in the eastern portion of Ukraine, and it was Russia, the state Russia’s unique duty to go protect Russian speaking Ukrainians in Ukraine against the depredations of their own government. Whether again, whether that is a valid claim or not. The use of that level of force is where it brings us back to this question of just war theory, a level of force that Russia employed to achieve that end, assuming that that end was valid if we give Russia we allow Russia The good faith argument of perhaps that’s a valid reason for seeking action, the level of force employed was so disproportionate to the stated, desired end as to be blatantly and indisputably in violation of international law.
Julia Long 35:19
So I think this is the perfect time for the million dollar question, which is, is this adjust war, we’ve looked at duty, we’ve looked at identity, we’ve looked at history on both sides, people are being injured, people are dying, this is an emotional thing. But this is also a thing that to Professor Watson’s point, dates back 1000s of years. Hundreds of 1000s. So I’m not an expert here. Right. But what I’m trying to say is that this didn’t all just happened yesterday. So I mean, I think that’s my question to both of you putting you in the hot seat a bit here is this adjust war.
Dr. Summers 36:04
There are, there are five criteria recognized in just war theory, these come from they were best synthesized by Thomas Aquinas. During the High Middle Ages. International law is a distinct in one, it’s part of this wonderful legacy of Western European Christendom. That was seen as the rest pubblica. Christendom of the Christian Commonwealth. And from that all, contemporary international law ultimately draws its foundation. Those five principles, what’s called a juice add Bella, what’s just when is it just to go to war? The first is self defense or defending those who cannot defend themselves. And that score Russia, quite frankly, no, Russia was not attacked by Ukraine. Russia would make the argument that they acted to protect ethnic Russians, right. And so, again, allowing them a good faith intent was the was the level of force proportionate to that end, those same Russians are suffering in the exact same level of violence. So that criteria is a no, yeah, second, competent sovereignty or competent authority. Did Russia have the authority to declare war as a state? It does? The problem is, is that Russia is one of the five members on the UN Security Council that has both the authority to veto any action and is charged with the responsibility of keeping peace within the authority of the United Nations. Now, that’s a kind of loosey goosey concept, which we could spend semesters trying to decide. But the bottom line is, is under its authority. In under the UN Charter, Russia is charged with the additional responsibility of preventing aggressive war, not using their position on the Security Council to insulate themselves from sanction, which is what they have done. Correct intentions, is it ethically and morally valid outcomes that they’re attempting to? To achieve? Perhaps, we might say a maybe because if one considers the two breakaway regions that Russia has recognized as independent states, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, right? If we accept just unsurfaced value that those two have a valid claim, then is the intention of protecting those two independent states valid? Well, their status is at best indeterminant and their breakaway status, they had a mechanism for in fact, seeking that status under the Ukrainian constitution, as did Crimea. Right. And in all three cases, the Ukrainian constitution self wasn’t even attempted to be used before force was sought. So we kind of have to set that one aside was the use of force a last resort, by no means Russia had not exhausted diplomatic or nonviolent methods for resolving their claims. They essentially spent about 12 months positioning their forces using the implied threat share and then executed that threat. And then last, the last one, they have a responsibility to mobilize quickly. There’s no indication that they are; in fact, all the indications are is that we’re looking at an increasingly long war that I would estimate is probably going to go your years, if not decades; now, I’m a retired soldier, I have no particular expertise in that regard. This is just my own, my own impression looking at, from, from my training background and experience, I would say, buckle, you know, buckle your chin straps, this is going to be a long, long war.
Professor Watson 40:20
Also, I mean, the war people is acting as if it just began Crimea was taken by Russian forces, you know, and then Russian mercenaries, or whatever you want to call them have been in Donetsk and Heins. So this is started in 2014. Yeah, this is an expansion of what was already occurring. Unofficially.
Julia Long 40:38
Do you have any closing remarks that you’d like to make? Dr. Summers, any additional thoughts?
Dr. Summers 40:43
I probably, you know, finishing on that, on that happy note of we’re looking at years, if not decades, years, probably about? I think that one, the church in America has a very important role to play, if for no other reason than just the recognition of the historical importance, that in the development of international law, the Western Church starting in the high Medieval Period, was foundational, right that even print, you know that all of the contemporary framework of international law and international relations. It’s not that other civilizations didn’t have rules for how states and political entities were going to engage. But the reality is, is that the rules of the game, the church was there at the birth of those ends there. We inherently have a place. And I think the Abbey is one of the many institutions that I sincerely hope we continue to be part of this discussion. As these events unfold. I think there’s a great deal for that we can offer our students in understanding the conflict and understanding what’s happening.
Julia Long 42:04
I know, you’re a big part of that, Dr. Summers, and I appreciate you so much for being here today. Professor Watson, I’ll hand the mic to you.
Professor Watson 42:10
I guess the good news is that the Ukrainians are fighting and I remember Clark and I talked about before the war, I said, you know, the Ukranians have a history of fighting, and they’ve taken on themselves to defend their country and nation and their identity.
Julia Long 42:22
So with that, I just wanted to say thanks to you both so much for being here with us today. And I wanted to thank our audience as well for joining us if you enjoyed Conversatio please subscribe and tell your friends Conversatio is available through Spotify and Apple and Google podcasts. Until next time, God Bless.
About the Host
Marketing Project Manager
In the role of Marketing Project Manager at Belmont Abbey College, Julia’s main focuses are brand development and external communications. This includes oversight of Public Relations, Advertising, and Social Media for the college.
With a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s in Communication, Julia’s passion for brand and communications led her to positions in corporate and higher education. She lives in Gastonia, North Carolina with her husband Justin, daughter McKenna, and two cats, Einstein and Galileo.