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Regular version of the site

‘In Russian the Word “Justice” Is Not Associated with the Word “War”’

Researchers from the Higher School of Economics have begun working with the research centre of the French Saint-Cyr Military Academy (École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr) on the moral and political issues of modern-day warfare. One part of this partnership was a conference devoted to just war theory and problems with combating terrorism. Below, Faculty of Humanities Professor Boris Kashnikov, also a participant of the conference, tells Scholar Viewpoint whether there can be justice in war and how scholars of the humanities are able to work together with the military.

Boris Kashnikov

The West has something called just war theory. What is it exactly? It is believed that there’s a certain set of principles under which war can be considered justified. This includes just cause, right intention, competent authority, and proportionality. It’s not enough to start a war justly, but it has to be carried out justly as well. The most important principle here is selectivity and proportionality – civilians shouldn’t suffer and force shouldn’t go beyond what is minimally necessary. For example, terrorism is thought to be an excellent example of unjust war since terrorists break most if not all of these principles.

I personally do not support just war theory. I think that contemporary warfare cannot be just, though it can be morally justified. But war is morally justifiable not because it is just, but because it is necessary. In this sense, the only justifiable war is one limited to the need for direct self-defense, which is mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations. There are very dangerous consequences for any attempt to expand this law by including in it war justified by the need to support human rights around the world.

By the way, unlike for example the English or Latin language, in Russian the word ‘justice’ is not associated with the word ‘war.’ War by definition cannot be just, though it can be morally justifiable, but only as a last resort. War is just when a person defends themselves and their family and when they defend their country, but only then. Modern-day warfare does not involve a ‘just’ war from the times of chivalric tournaments, when knights would fight under specific rules without harming the civilian population. In any contemporary war, innocent people are the ones who suffer for the most part, and the consequences of any war are unpredictable.

In addition to myself, other representatives of HSE attended the conference at Saint-Cyr Military Academy: Maxim Bratersky, professor in the Faculty of World Economy and International AffairsMikhail Ilyin, professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences; and Arseniy Kumankov, lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities.

The fact that a conference like this took place shows how much France is interested in developing a partnership with us despite the current political climate, and the relevance of the conference is apparent when you consider the individuals who participated in France. The conference saw the participation of Jean de Gliniasty, the former Ambassador of France to Russia; France Luc Garnier, general commissioner and the head of France’s antiterrorism centre; Thibault de Montbrial, the president of the domestic security research centre; and Sandrine Tagri, a researcher with the Saint-Cyr Military Academy’s research centre.

The conference once again confirmed that solving relevant problems in war and peace requires the broadest of international cooperation, and this cooperation has to be multidisciplinary and scientifically practical. Our plans include involving other HSE faculties in the partnership and possibly organising the next French-Russian conference in Moscow next year for both theoreticians and practitioners.

 

See also:

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