Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

The Concept of a “Just War” in the Russian Political Mainstream since 2014

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
East Quad Lecture Theatre


Mikhail Suslov1
1 University of Copenhagen, Denmark


This paper discusses, how the concept of justice is being used by the Russian political leadership in order to legitimize the war in Ukraine. The argument is that the leadership is weaving together three narratives:
  1. the classic (Hugo Grotius’) interpretation of a just war as a war of defense, restitution and retribution;
  2. the Darwinian understanding of inevitability and permanence of wars in human society; and
  3. the relatively new conceptual development of the theory of justice as the lack of interference in a community’s ways, lifestyles and thinking habits.
This latter interpretation is grounded on the concept of sovereignty of civilizations, and its corollary is the assumption that the struggle against the Western normative, ideational, economic, political and military hegemony in the world is justifiable and even morally needed. The paper explores the conceptual evolution and practice of resorting to the “just war” idea by analyzing the Russian political mainstream since 2014, which includes statements of the leading political figures, analysis papers of some think-tanks (with the focus on the Council for the Foreign and Defense Policies, and the Valdai Club), and TV-shows of the major propagandists and media anchors (especially Dmitry Kulikov and Timofei Sergeitsev). The special attention is paid to the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in elaboration of the “just war” concept.