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Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Not a Bit of the Old Ultraviolence

By Arseniy Kumankov

From the scale of the force used and the number of victims to the political constellation and the reasons for the war, there is much to suggest that the world is experiencing a return to classic interstate warfare with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The extensively substantiated thesis of the age of “new” wars since the 1990s seems to have been called into question at a stroke.

However, a number of factors suggest that this conflict cannot be described simply by recourse to historical models. Both strategic issues and the breaking up of the state monopoly on the use of force by mercenary troops and combat units should be mentioned here. What stands out the most, however, is the utmost moralization of war.

In an unusual dialog with the enemy, the Ukrainian side appeals specifically to the moral conscience of the Russian civilian population. Each and every individual is asked to reflect on their role as a potential resister or (silent) accomplice in an unjust war. From civilian aid workers to military bloggers: they all play a significant role in the course of the war in various ways. This is evidence of the relevance of the revisionist theory of just war. The traditional doctrine of just war does not do justice to this situation because it assumes moral symmetry on the battlefield and does not grant civilians an active role.

Avoiding these deeply moral questions because they are too complex or unrealistic is not a solution. Nor should it be concluded from the revisionist approach that the clear designation of moral responsibility or complicity justifies attacks on civilians. In a time of real rehabilitation of wars, however, the revisionist theory challenges politics and the public. Strategies and measures are needed that make it possible for individuals to refrain from social militarization.

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