There are three generally agreed-to legal and ethical frameworks for the conduct of war. They are Jus ad bellum, Jus in Bello and Just post Bellum. The first governs the decision to go to war, basing it on both ethical (just cause, last resort, right intention(s) and end game) and legal grounds; (deciding authorities and reasons.) The second governs the actual conduct of war, such as proportionality in the use of force, treatment of enemy soldiers and civil population, and trying to preserve or rather not destroy what does not constitute a legitimate target. The third is obviously concerned with the moral termination of war, including preventing repetition and making just reparations, as well as rebuilding, people and property alike.
Which brings us to the subject matter of this short take. The Stalinized Hit.ler that Putin represents is just another incarnation of wanton Evil which, if left on its own, knows no boundaries to the use of mass violence, including domestically. Ukraine is his fourth invasion of a foreign sovereign nation, and that’s without counting his military operations in Syria, which are better described as genocide operations. An astute critic will probably add Russia itself as his fifth, or rather first invasion, his terror rule over his mother country being nothing short of a 21st century tribute to his soviet criminal predecessors.
And so, tagging “Putin” as a wanted person being a just cause in itself, waging war indirectly against him by “defending” Ukraine is not only a just cause, but also one that must be pursued until its proper, post bellum ending. Ending in this context is not restricted to this specific adventure of Putin, but rather, all of his adventures. The MAIN moral objective of this war and the diplomatic efforts for a solution is not ending the conflict, nor achieving neutrality to Ukraine, let alone recognizing prior annexations (and thus serving Putin’s objective, even rewarding him for his wanton thirst for blood and power) nor cessation of military activities and unconditional retreat of Russian forces. Nor will material compensations and sanctions do. The duty of the free world is to protect itself, from modern-days (Stalinized) Hit.lers and Chamberlains alike. If it doesn’t do that, it will pay an even higher price, at one point or another, in the not too distant future.
Now the question is always with the “how”, and of course, nobody said it’s going to be easy. We start by dismissing all threats of nuclear war as a reason to cower down, they actually only constitute another reason to get rid of this madman and his cohort. Extensive efforts must be deployed in reaching out to each and every one of his subordinate generals (mostly those in charge of the nuclear arsenal) and have them understand that “they” are not under threat, nor is Russia, and the only objective is Putin himself and his corrupt circle of power. Perhaps even suggest for them to help in that regard. Further, severe sanctions and legal accountability (to remain diplomatically correct and avoid saying “individual targeting”) will focus on every single military person who presses a radioactive button, including small yield tactical warheads. We continue with a massive global psy campaign that also targets the Russian people, the Russian armed forces, and Putin’s own circle. This campaign will aim to cause attrition at both loyalty and moral levels, while also providing a clear and attractive view of a Putin-less world in general, Russia in particular. While all this is happening, unhedged military support for the Ukrainian armed forces is an absolute priority, yet without direct confrontation. The requested no-fly zone will pit NATO anti-access/ area denial assets directly against Russian vectors, and may be deemed as a direct attack on Russia by Putin’s generals. Instead, sophisticated SAM systems, coupled with hardened command and control systems, must be provided to the Ukrainian forces, as well as up-to-the-second situation awareness information. The flow of other assets, from military rations to anti-tank weapons, communication material, fuel and medical supplies must not be interrupted. Operational victories, such as allowing Mariupol to fall, must not be allowed. Moral letdown aside, they will free up Russian forces and allow the continuation of the military efforts in their areas, including the encirclement of critical cities and the cutting off of communication lines. Another critical point will be to preempt any attempt by Putin to ignite hot spots here and there, initiating small conflicts (including in Europe proper) in unstable regions, or commissioning terror attacks, as a means to ramp up negotiations. The end game of all this, coupled with increasing and more comprehensive sanctions, has one clear objective in mind: the total defeat of Russian forces in Ukraine, their forced (as opposed to negotiated) withdrawal back to Russia, the irreversible termination of a weakened Putin at the hands of both the great Russian people (his first and ongoing victim) and administrative establishment that will provide the critical continuum of governance to a 2022-worthy Russia. As Machiavelli once said, “never do your enemy minor injury”, and as we can project, knowing the deeply disturbed and criminal mindset of Putin, God help us if we stop short of his full termination.
Churchill famously addressed Chamberlain’s infamous and inept response to Hit.ler’s ongoing “neighborly” invasions once they reached Poland, which had a mutual defense agreement with the UK (and France) with this: “You had the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you got war.” This brings us to US president Biden officially calling Putin a war criminal. This is a statement that cannot be retracted from or compromised about, regarding the incumbent course of action.
We still haven’t learned, have we? Evil must be confronted, head on, using the only language it speaks, without compromise. It is our legal and moral duty to do so, and we will pay an even heavier price if we don’t, or stop short of his full demise.