Ukraine: Critical Issues

The editors of Ethics & International Affairs have published a series of online exclusive essays analyzing critical issues arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Topics include ethical responses to the invasion; the perils of escalation; humanitarian aid; sanctions; moral emotions; and much more. The series features contributions by Nikolas Gvosdev, Juris Pupcenoks and Graig R. Klein, Joy Gordon, Hugo Slim, Valerie Morkevičius, Daniel R. Brunstetter, and Ayelet Shachar. 


Ukraine: An Ethical Response
Nikolas Gvosdev

With the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin resumed his use of force against Ukraine that began with the seizure of Crimea in 2014. As we examine the question of ethical policy responses to the invasion, we must first address Russia’s justifications for acting.


First Georgia, Then Ukraine: How Russian Propaganda Justifies Invasions
Juris Pupcenoks and Graig R. Klein

The morning that Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian television outlining his rationale for war. While concern for what was about to befall Ukrainians and Ukraine dominated many peoples’ minds, politicians and scholars alike were left scratching their heads at Putin’s stated justifications.


A No-Fly Zone in Ukraine? The Perils of Escalation Should Convince Us Otherwise
Daniel R. Brunstetter

As the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine unfolds, we have witnessed multiple calls for the West to implement a no-fly zone. How do we ethically evaluate the decision of whether or not to implement a no-fly zone in Ukraine? What criteria are most important to think through the choice? To answer these questions, I turn to jus ad vim, the set of moral principles governing the decision to use limited force.


Solidarity, Not Neutrality, Will Characterize Western Aid to Ukraine
Hugo Slim

The war in Ukraine is already causing terrible human suffering, the likes of which is all too familiar from recent wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere. But this war is also likely to see a significant change in humanitarianism itself. Many humanitarian organizations, and the governments funding them, will step away from the principle of humanitarian neutrality, which has so dominated western humanitarian aid in the wars of the last 30 years.


From Anger to Action: Moral Emotions and the Invasion of Ukraine
Valerie Morkevičius

For many people, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered strong emotions. These emotions—moral emotions—can be helpful guides to moral action.


Russia, Ukraine, and the Demise of Smart Sanctions
Joy Gordon

There is no question that the invasion of Ukraine is both illegal and immoral, and there is an understandable desire to use every tool in our toolbox in countering Russia’s aggression. But there is a real question as to whether aspects of the sanctions that are hammering Russia’s economy, or major sectors of it, are ethically defensible.


Expanding Protection: Global Lessons from the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis
Ayelet Shachar

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has wreaked devastation and incalculable suffering, triggering the largest displacement of civilian populations in Europe in eighty years. The EU’s response may well prove to be a blueprint for dealing with future incidents of mass influx, whether from war or climate crises or any manner of catastrophe.


Expanding Protection: Global Lessons from the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis
James Murphy

If, as expected, Sweden and Finland apply to join NATO this week, their membership will rattle Russia and exacerbate the geopolitical insecurities of a heavily armed nuclear power. Actions that increase the risk of any kind of war are always open to ethical questioning. How, then, do we address the ethics of their joining NATO?


Russia’s Blood Fossil Fuels
Petra Gümplová

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the question of whether to continue importing Russian oil and gas has been at the center of public debates in most Western countries. Is it morally permissible to continue trading with Russia—to be more precise, is it morally permissible to buy Russia’s most prized hydrocarbon commodities?