Application of Just War Theory to the 2022 Russo- Ukrainian War

On February 24th, 2022, after months of military buildup on its border with Ukraine, the Russian Federation launched its invasion of the former Soviet Bloc nation. A salvo of more than 100 Kalibr cruise missiles struck sensors and firing units of the integrated air defense systems throughout the country. Simultaneously, Russian tactical-aircraft flew hundreds of sorties, seeking to draw out radars and surface-to-air missile batteries that had not been destroyed in the initial strike, while also hitting assembly areas and defensive positions of Ukrainian Ground Forces. While those jets and attack helicopters were striking their targets, Russian air assault support helicopters carried elite paratroopers to within 10 miles of the center of Kyiv, while dozens of battalion tactical groups stormed border posts near Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Cherniv, Kherson, and a hundred other crossing points. Since then, a United States and United Kingdom led coalition have buoyed Ukrainian President Zelensky’s war effort with military and economic aid, while simultaneously targeting the heart of the Russian economy with crippling sanctions.

That response is rooted in the Western interpretation of Just War Theory (JWT). JWT is a philosophy, rooted in Western, Christina-Judeo values, that has served as the underlying theme in most modern day conflict treaties such as the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Armed Conflict. JWT has historically established two sets of criteria; jus ad bellum, or the right to go to war, and jus in bello, the morale way to conduct war. This analysis will examine available literature on both JWT and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and answer the question: “Does the 2022 Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine violate the principles of Just War Theory?” 

Review of the Literature

In order to accurately understand JWT and how it applies to this conflict, this literature review will analyze existing writings in three areas of study: JWT itself and how it contributes to modern warfare agreements, the conduct of Russian forces in Ukraine, and the international response to the invasion.

Just War Theory has developed independently in many of the ancient civilizations. In 2017, a study found that the Ancient Egyptians were probably the first civilization to write on Just War. In the Egyptian justification, the pharos received their war counsel from the gods which ultimately served the designs of Egyptian state. This effectively gave the pharos unlimited purview in the conduct of their wars. During the Warring States Era in the Zhou Dynasty in China, Confucius developed a Chinese understanding of Just War which also relied on divine mandate in which the emperor dictated campaign plans to an unquestioning force. The success of the campaign was often cited as the justification of the conflict, with victories as just and losses as unjust. Ancient Indian civilization also has their own interpretation of Just War, first provided through the Mahabharata in the 4th century BCE, which discusses the treatment of prisoners and righteous reasons to go to war. However, these ancient interpretations of Just War effectively existed in their respective bubbles and likely had little to no influence in the Western cultivation of JWT. Aristotle is considered to be the first scholar to have introduced the concept to Ancient Greece and subsequently the Western world. In his Politics he argues that war can never be just for the sake of aggression, but for defending ones nation. These ideas carried over to Ancient Rome and were captured nearly 400 years later when Cicero recorded his De Officiis, in which he describes war as inherently wrong and violates the basic rights of humans. During the decline of the Roman Empire, Saint Augustine of Roman Africa (modern day Algeria), and a Christian, began laying the foundations for the Christian interpretation of Just War in which he reconciled the teachings of Christ, concerning non-violence, and the necessity for Christian to fight wars. He said:

“But, say they, the wise man will wage Just Wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man, for if they were not just he would not wage them and would therefore be delivered from all wars.”

This represents the first time that the phrase “Just War” was ever put to paper. After the collapse of the Roman Empire and the following Dark Ages, consequential writings on the topic were not picked up again until the 13th century when Saint Thomas Aquinas recorded his thoughts, which effectively gave birth to the Just War Theory as Westerners know it today. Aquinas took the teachings of Aristotle, Cicero, and Saint Augustine as well as verses from the Bible and wrote the Summa Theologica in which he described his three precursors for Christians to fight a just war. Those were: war must be waged by a rightful sovereign, war needs to be waged for a just cause, and the soldiers fighting it must have the right intent. He also argued that war must be fought only as a last resort.

The writings of Aquinas were used by modern Catholic and Christian theologians and legal scholars to justify a number of conflicts ranging from the Spanish Civil War to World War I. However, the Just War Theory was not codified into international law until the Hague Conventions in which they became Just War Tradition, adopted in the charter of the League of Nations and eventually the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations. The modern criteria to create a Just War, developed over hundreds of years from Saint Aquinas’ original criteria, are divided into jus ad bellum, or the right to go to war, and jus in bello, or the right conduct within war. Philosopher James Childress accurately summed up the more than two thousand years of philosophical development of Just War Tradition in his Just War Theories: The bases, Interrelations, Priorities, and Functions of Their Criteria, in which he describes the seven criteria for justly going to war and the five criteria for conducting war. Going to war justly requires Just Cause, in which the objective aim is not to exact revenge or recapturing lost lands. The second is Comparative Justice, in which the injustice suffered by one party is vastly greater than another. The third is Competent Authority, in which only an officially appointed or elected government which represents the people wages the war. The fourth is Right Intention, which prevents a party from using Just Cause to achieve other means. For example, a party cannot say they are going to war to defend themselves, which would be Just Cause, but then go on the offensive to take land from another party, demonstrating a wrong intention clouded in a just cause. The fifth is Probability of Success, in which a party must not throw away the lives of its people and others in a futile war. The sixth is Last Resort, in which use of force is absolutely the last possible measure to solve a conflict. Finally, the seventh is Proportionality, which defers from the jus in bello principle of Proportionality, in which a party must aim to achieve goals in war that are proportional to the expected suffering of that war.

The five jus in bello principles described by Childress, begin with Distinction, in which enemy combatants are separated from civilians and targeted accordingly. The second is Proportionality, in which the use of force against a distinguished military objective is not disproportionate. The third is Military Necessity, in which the intended targets are to be selected solely on their impact to the other party’s military power. The fourth is Fair Treatment of Prisoners of War, in which one party does not abuse prisoners of another party. Finally, the fifth is No means Malum In Se, translating to “means wrong or evil in itself”, in which parties must not use weapons that are beyond their control once employed. These 12 criteria and the language surrounding them have directly impacted to verbiage of the Law of Armed Conflict, derived from the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.

Interestingly, the Russian Orthodox Church has its own unique interpretation of Just War Theory. In the Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, which serves as the catechism for the Russian Orthodoxy, there is a section called War and Peace, not to be confused with Tolstoy’s classic. In this section, the church describes how war is an inescapable nature of humanity and that soldiers who die in a just war are to be given the highest honors. The Russian Orthodox Church does not explicitly prohibit its members from fighting in a war in which the security of its neighbors are at risk or a grave injustice is to be righted.

Larry May’s War Crimes and Just Wars, outlines the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Three Amendment Protocols. He also outlines which countries are party to the conventions and amendments. Interestingly enough, The Soviet Union and the Russian Federation are party to Conventions I-IV and Protocols I-II, as well as the first thirteen articles of the Hague Conventions which was actually initiated by Czar Nicolas II of Imperial Russia in 1899. This means that the Russian Federation has a long and illustrious history in being party to the established international norms in instigating and conducting wars. While the Russian Federation did go to war in 2008 against its neighbor Georgia, the whole of government approach to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine was a shocking departure from the established norms between countries party to the Geneva Conventions and thus Just War Tradition.

The second area of study is the actual conduct of Russian troops within Ukraine. On February 24th, 2022, the Russian Federation launched more than 100 Kalibr cruise missiles which hit mostly military infrastructure concerning the Ukrainian Integrated Air Defense System. Russian convoys crossed into Ukraine from Belgorod, Crimea, Belarus, Donetsk, and Luhansk, while air assault helicopters carried Russian paratroopers to the outskirts of Kyiv. The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) has maintained a special mission in the eastern Donbass region monitoring cease fire violations along the Minsk Agreements Protocol Line which brought fighting in 2014 to a standstill. This organization is the premier reporting authority for military activates in Ukraine as they have the most personnel and experience in this region. On April 13th, the special mission published their findings on Russian war crimes in Ukraine since the February 24th invasion, titled: “Report On Violations Of International Humanitarian And human rights law, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Committed In Ukraine Since24 February 2022”. The document first establishes that this conflict, while classified by Russian President Putin as a “special military operation”, is in fact an International Armed Conflict (IAC) since it is occurring between two states:

“As both Russia and Ukraine are States, the armed conflict between them is governed by IHL of international armed conflicts (IACs), foreseen in particular in the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I to which they are both parties, as well as the large body of customary international law rules applicable to such conflicts.”

By establishing, first, that this is an IAC, the special mission can rule that both sovereign parties are beholden to the articles of the convention and thus the treatment of non-combatants. The OSCE then goes into detail on reporting it has collected concerning the violation of International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict. The most notable instances being videos surfacing online of the corpses of civilian bodies not being respected, Ukrainian POWs being beaten, and civilian bodies being found bound gagged, and executed. The OSCE also goes into great detail on the disturbingly low number of POWs being recorded by both sides, in fact only about ¼ of initially declared POWs are being recorded in official prisoner ledgers. In the document, the OSCE also references a series of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) webinars held in 2020 that were meant to establish practical guidelines for warring parties in order to fulfill the mandates of the Geneva Conventions and their additional Protocols. The OSCE also references several iterations of the “Update on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine”. This document, put out every month by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, keeps a running tally on the conduct of both armies with regards to civilians, weapons used, and other aspects regarding International Humanitarian Law. These three sources serve as the most accurate and non-biased accounts for the violations or adherence to Just War Tradition in the current Russo-Ukrainian war.

The third area of study is the international response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Any international response is an indicator of the health of Just War Tradition amongst adversary and partner nations to the Russian Federation, since they are the aggressor. By keeping track of the rhetoric and actions of world leaders, which make up the established customs and norms, this paper can deduce if the Russian Federation did in fact violate the Just War Tradition and or Doctrine. The Congressional Research Service has published a comprehensive running document that details the economic response of the U.S. and international community to the invasion. “Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Overview of U.S. Sanctions and Other Responses”, says “Russia’s unprovoked, unprecedented, and unjustified military aggression” has brought the international condemnation of 141 countries in the U.N. General Assembly. The Council on Foreign Relations has also been keeping an accurate count of the worsening conflict which captures the volume of international reactions.

In conclusion, the three main areas of study; JWT itself and how it contributes to modern warfare agreements, the conduct of Russian forces in Ukraine, and the international response to the invasion, serve to inform the reader on existing academic writing with regards to the research question: Does the 2022 Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine violate the principles of Just War Theory? By analyzing the origins and development of JWT, this Literature Review showed the leading scholars that have formed the ideology behind the global response to the current Russo-Ukrainian War. Then by illuminating the sources that are actively tracking the conduct of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, this literature review provided a starting point to future research as the conflict progresses. Finally, by explaining the sources regarding the international response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this literature review can continue to monitor the health of JWT amongst the international community. One possible avenue for further research is the application of jus post bellum, a recently explored JWT field which is attempting to establish criteria for warring parties to establish a lasting peace. Follow on research could apply those criteria to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Methodology and Research Strategy

In order to answer the question: “Does the 2022 Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine violate the principles of Just War Theory?” this study will analyze the conduct of the Russia Federation in the months leading up to February 24th and the conduct of its military in Ukraine since the initial strikes. By analyzing the rhetoric, actions, and intent of President Putin, this paper will conclude if the criteria of jus ad bellum were satisfied in order to make for a just campaign. By analyzing the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine, this paper will conclude if the criteria for jus in bello were satisfied in order demonstrate a justly conducted campaign. Then, this study will analyze the overall international response to the invasion in order to illuminate how the West, who are responsible for laying a foundation of JWT principles in International Humanitarian Law, perceive the justness of the Russo-Ukrainian war. In order to provide an objective analysis of the conduct of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, this paper will only rely on evidence presented by internationally recognized investigative bodies such as the Red Cross and OSCE.

Analysis and Findings

Before analyzing the 2022 invasion, it is important to recognize that the Russo-Ukrainian War has been ongoing since 2014. On November 21st, 2013, the Euromaidan uprising was sparked in parts of Kyiv after Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych rejected the widely supported Ukrainian- European Union Association agreement, instead opting for closer ties with Russia. These protests grew into the 2014 Revolution of Dignity which eventually overthrew the Ukrainian government in 2014 and installed Arseniy Petrovych Yatsenyuk as the new Prime Minister of a less Russian friendly Ukrainian government. Several pro-Russian uprisings then began in Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the Donbass, and Crimea. Russian troops crossed into these regions and helped stand up self-declared republics which began to wage war against the new Ukrainian government.  This 2014 Donbass War eventually settled into a static conflict which set the stage for the 2021 Russian military buildup and eventual 2022 invasion.

In September of 2021, the Russian Federation completed its Western Military District military exercise, Zapad-21. However, a vast amount of Russian arms and troops were left in Belarus, causing alarm in Western planning circles. The Russian Federation claimed that this buildup was due to an increased military cooperation with Belarus and a desire to implement basing operations in that country. In fact, Belarusian President Lukashenko told Russian state media that in the event of a conflict, Belarus would become “a military base of Russia”. President Putin cited increased NATO activity and repeated violations of verbal agreements to not induct former Soviet Bloc nations into the alliance as his reasoning for increased partnership with Belarus and military buildup near Ukraine. President Putin especially cited U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker when he said to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in February 1990, that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.” President Putin stated several times that Ukrainian accession into NATO was a red line and that the addition of Montenegro to the alliance in 2019 and Northern Macedonia in 2020 was an indicator that Ukraine was next. In fact, Ukrainian President Zelensky told press on February 14th, 2022 that his country was seeking to join NATO. So, on February 21st, 2022 the Russian Federation announced that the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republic would be independent nations, recognized by the Russian Federation. Three days later, after increased violence that left more than 20 Ukrainian and Separatist troops dead, President Putin addressed the Russian Federation:

“In this regard, in accordance with Article 51 of Part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council of Russia and in pursuance of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance ratified by the Federal Assembly on 22 February this year with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, I decided to conduct a special military operation.

Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous, bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Considering this background knowledge, this analysis concludes that the Russian Federation did meet the jus ad bellum criteria of Competent Authority, in that the democratically elected President of that country carried out duties well within the government’s charter, despite international and some internal protests. Although around 5,000 protestors were arrested at the outbreak of the conflict, that number represents a small minority of the Russian population. The invasion also meets the criteria of Probability of Success, in that the Russian Armed Forces marshalled nearly 200,000 troops, comprising about 190 Battalion Tactical Groups, armed with advanced weaponry ranging from the T-90 to the S-400 to the Su-34 which presented a more than 5:1 overmatch to Ukrainian troops stationed in the eastern parts of the country.

However, the case made by President Putin does not meet the criteria for Just Cause. According to Childress, war cannot be waged to reconquer lost lands, but instead to prevent the loss of life. President Putin made the case to the Russian people that the shift of Ukrainian sentiment towards NATO and the violation of verbal agreements concerning the accession of former Soviet Bloc nations, especially Ukraine, was the red line that precipitated the invasion. However, the argument that Russian speakers were being killed en-masse in a genocide in Eastern Ukraine does not stand up to reports concerning the Donbass War by the OSCE. President Putin’s arguments also do not meet the criteria of Comparative Justice, in that the 2014 Donbass War, and the ensuing static conflict did not negatively impact the Russian Federation vastly greater than Ukraine. In fact, during the entirety of the fighting before the February invasion, around 14,000 had been killed on Ukrainian soil, with about 3,400 of them being civilians. The U.S. State Department has estimated that about 500 Russian soldiers had been killed while fighting in Ukraine, while approximately 4,400 Ukrainian troops have been killed. The argument for the Russian invasion of Ukraine also does not meet the criteria for Just Intention. President Putin’s stated war aims of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine in order to halt the genocide of Russian speakers in the East and preventing further pro-NATO shifting, is intentionally vague and leaves the overall objective of the operation open to interpretation. However, on February 24th, Russian Airborne Forces, eventually supported by mechanized infantry and Special Forces, did make a concerted push for Kyiv, indicating a desire for regime change. According to the Congressional Research Service, after severe military setbacks in the Northeast, President Putin scaled back his war aims to solidify the independence of the Donbass, further enforcing the notion that initially the Russian Federation was seeking regime change with their Kyiv thrust. Thus, this paper concludes that President Putin intentionally shrouded the intentions of the invasion to justify any level of force he deemed necessary to conclude the conflict on Russian terms. This analysis also concludes that the Russian Federation did not meet the criteria for Last Resort. While President Zelensky did express a desire to join NATO, in the face of a Russian military buildup, there was no indication that the Ukrainian government was drafting legislation for an application or even holding a vote on the issue, as Sweden and Finland have done since the invasion. Since President Putin expressed his war aims as a deterring action against Ukraine’s accession into the alliance, a pre-emptive invasion before any action by the Ukrainians to join NATO does not constitute a last resort. This analysis also concludes that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine does not meet the criteria for Proportionality. Proportionality in jus ad bellum demands that the inherent harm caused by military inaction be outweighed by action. 14,000 killed since the 2014 Donbass War demonstrates that a high cost in human life had already been paid by both sides in the static conflict. By conducting a full scale invasion in parts of Ukraine previously untouched by war, the harm in Russia’s campaign to compel Ukraine not to join NATO increased tenfold. This conclusion follows the same logic as Last Resort; if eight years of sustained combat in the Eastern part of Ukraine was not sufficient to achieve Russia’s goals of halting NATO expansion East, a full blown war between the two nations would only have the opposite effect.

As stated in the review of the literature, the OSCE, has kept an exhaustive record of the 2014 Donbass War and the current 2022 invasion. Their findings, published on April 12th provide the best source documentation of the failure of the Russian Federation to meet jus in bello criteria for conducting war. The first criteria, Distinction, has not been met. Distinction demands that acts of war should be directed at enemy combatants and infrastructure that supports them, avoiding civilians and obvious civilian infrastructure such as evacuation trains, civilian housing, and individual civilians. The most troubling accounts of Russian targeting of civilians were the accusation of summary executions of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. More than 100 civilians were found during the March withdrawal of Russian forces from Northeastern Ukraine, many of them blindfolded with their hands bound behind their back. The trial of Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21 year old tank commander who gunned down a Ukrainian civilian on his bicycle has also garnered international attention to the sheer haphazardness and wanton destruction wrought by average Russian soldiers in Ukraine. This incident, along with a plethora of open source videos documenting Russian air strikes against civilian housing, demonstrate that the Russian Armed Forces, en-masse have not made serious efforts to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants throughout Ukraine.

This analysis has found that the criteria for Proportionality was also not met in many cases during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The best example of this was the use of thermobaric, multiple launched rocket systems, and cluster munitions, especially in Kharkiv and Mariupol. Proportionality demands that a commander use forethought with regards to weapons to target match. The Russian Federation has one of the most advanced militaries in the world, so the use of dummy munitions in crowded urban areas shows that Russian commanders did not exercise proportionality in their weapons selection in areas where civilian casualties could have been lessened with the use of precision weapons. The state of Mariupol demonstrates this perfectly. Despite the intense urban fighting with Ukrainian forces, the flattening of civilian areas, and the second and third order effects, mostly fires, illuminates how Russian commanders resorted to the use of munitions that were not proportional to the threat.

This analysis has also found that the criteria for Military Necessity has not been met. Distinction demands that military fires be guided at combatants and minimize civilian deaths, however, military necessity demands that key infrastructure only be targeted if it has a solely military impact. In an urban war where civilian infrastructure supports military personnel, this criteria quickly becomes muddy. However, it is clear from reports in Mariupol, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities that cultural infrastructure was decimated, with little to no impact on the Ukrainian military. The OSCE has recorded at least 52 incidents where cultural heritage sites were destroyed since February 24th, with one of the worst being Svyatoguirsk monastery where 1,000 civilians were sheltering. The monastery was specifically targeted by Russian tac-air due to its prominence in the town, while it did not serve any military purpose to the garrison defending it. The OSCE has also received 576 reports of schools being damaged by Russian airstrikes, several hundred of them being in towns and cities removed from the front line. While the argument can be made that such structures can be used to house combatants on the front line, a pattern emerges where large structures are targeted by Russian strikes simply due to the prominence of the structure, not the use by Ukrainian fighters.

This study has concluded that the Fair Treatment of Prisoners of War has not been met. In early March, the OSCE was extremely distressed by the low reporting of POW numbers by both sides. After two weeks of fighting, the Ukrainians had only reported about 500 Russian POWs and the Russians had only reported about 260 POWs. These numbers, juxtaposed with the number of wounded, which was in the tens of thousands, painted a grim picture where POWs were not being given quarter. International Human Law (IHL) and the fair treatment of prisoners of war, defined by the Geneva Conventions, demands that POWs be held in camps, not in detention centers. However, after the surrender of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, the Russian Investigative Committee publicly stated that members of the Azov Battalion would be incarcerated and tried for war crimes. This conduct directly violates the fair treatment of prisoners of war criteria. It is worth noting that Ukrainian executions of Russian prisoners of war have also been well documented in open source video captured by Ukrainian soldiers.

This analysis has concluded that Russian Forces have complied with the criteria for No Means Malum In Se. This demands that weapons or other warfare methods used be characteristically evil or uncontrolled. While there have been instances of rape, especially with the confirmed 25 cases in Bucha, there has not been substantiated reports of mass rape, encouraged by the hierarchy of the Russian military, such as the rape of Eastern Prussia in 1945 or Nanjing in 1937. This paper does not minimize the horror of each individual case, but it is clear that Russian commanders did exercise judgement in holding an overwhelming majority of their professional military to a standard not permitting the evils of mass rape. While there have been at least two dozen confirmed reports of the use of white phosphorus, the Russian Federation has not used biological or nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

While the above analysis measures Russia’s actions against the criteria of JWT, the point is moot unless taken in context with the response of the international community, who is responsible for holding the Russian Federation accountable for conducting an unjust war. The international response demonstrates the health of JWT and its implementation behind core international agreements such as the Geneva Conventions, Law of Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law. The Congressional Research Service has documented how countries, especially the United States, have taken steps to denounce and economically and politically punish Russia for these violations. On March 2nd, 2022 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution ES-11/1 which deplored Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with 141 nations voting in favor, 5 against, 35 abstaining, and 12 absent. This show of solidarity demonstrates how even nations not steeped in the Western values that comprise JWT were shocked by the invasion and conduct of Russia’s war in Ukraine. However, it is the military and economic aid of these countries that really shows the resolve of the nations that voted to denounce the invasion. The Congressional Research Service and the Devex Funding Platform have tracked more than 28B USD funded to Ukraine. Most of the aid has come through the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States, which has provided, to date, more than 20B USD in loans, military equipment and training. However, the most telling aid, still, is the supply of military hardware to Ukraine to fight Russian forces. The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, The United States, Germany, and Canada have provided surface-to-air missiles and an array of other weapons. Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Czechia and Belgium have provided millions of rounds of small arms ammunition, helmets, body armor, howitzers, and logistics aid. On May 23rd, 2022, the Ukraine Contact Group, comprised of 47 members, pledged to provide Ukraine with Neptune Anti-Ship Missiles in order to open the port of Odessa for Ukrainian grain exports, currently blocked by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This overwhelming international support for the Ukrainian people serves to demonstrate that the JWT principles that established international norms of warfare are alive and well in the 21st century.


This study has answered the question: “Does the 2022 Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine violate the principles of Just War Theory?” Through analysis of the Just War Theory, the conduct of Russian troops in Ukraine, and the response of the international community to the invasion, this analysis has demonstrated that the only principles of jus ad bellum satisfied by the Russian government were Competent Authority and Probability of Success. However, the Russian Federation did not meet the criteria for Just Cause, Comparative Justice, Right Intention, Last Resort, or Proportionality. This analysis has also illuminated how the conduct of the Russian military in Ukraine has satisfied No Means Malum In Se, but not Fair Treatment of Prisoners of War, Military Necessity, Proportionality, or Distinction. This analysis, coupled with the response of the international community, who is charged with enforcing the Geneva Conventions, Law of Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law, has shown that the Russian Federation has violated the principles of Just War Theory by invading Ukraine. As this conflict continues, further areas for research would be how the Russian Federation and Ukraine could justly end their war through satisfying the criteria for Jus post bellum.

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.


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