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On the One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

February 21, 2023
PVG Contributors and Guests


In this collection, PVG contributors reflect on the war and its consequences, including what justice might look like and how the war might end.

Excerpts From the Post

Will Justice Ever Be Served? By Michael Barnett

Justice could mean any number of things. Perhaps it is Ukraine winning the war—a war that no one gave Ukraine a chance of winning at the outset. Maybe it is not only Ukraine winning but also recovering Crimea. Maybe it is Russia continuing to suffer sanctions and being forced to contribute to reparations and the rebuilding of Ukraine. Maybe it includes a significant number of costs, including lots of dead Russian soldiers or massive flight and a brain drain of high-earning and high-status individuals. Maybe it means ICC [International Criminal Court] indictments of Putin, Russian military officials, and soldiers on charges of war crimes. Maybe it means outcomes that were the very opposite of what Putin intended, such as fast-tracking Ukraine for European Union and NATO membership. Maybe it means seizing the assets of Putin and his cronies, and using them as reparations. Maybe it means that Putin meets a Mussolini-type ending. Justice, in these ways, means just desserts—that Russia somehow suffers the appropriate punishment for its invasion and subsequent crimes.

Whether Ukraine is able to score a knock-out victory will depend on the West continuing to supply Ukraine’s financial, intelligence, and military needs. It is not something that Ukraine can do on its own. The same can be said about reparations; it will require international cooperation of the highest order and among the rich countries and the global economic elite. This might be harder to pull off than a military victory.

And even harder will be punishing those who committed war crimes. There is a likelihood that any negotiated settlement will have to include some kind of amnesty for those who are accused of war crimes. At least that will be the Russian position, a position vehemently opposed by the Ukrainians. But it is one thing for a negotiated settlement to declare amnesty, quite another for the ICC to follow suit.

One way to help the case that war crimes should be punished is by making sure that the extent of the crimes is never lost. I am speaking about more than holding to account those who are responsible for the mass graves and the summary executions. War crimes include the Ukrainians who were disappeared into Russia. They include gender-based violence. But the war crimes are not simply a minor part of Russian war strategy—they are Russian strategy. The continuous barrages of cities, civilians, and infrastructure are often characterized as if they are just another phase of the war campaign. These missile attacks directed at civilians are war crimes. They should be repeatedly described as such. It will drum home the very brutality and inhumanity that have defined the Russian campaign, the current Russian way of war.

Finding some kind of justice will be important not only to “teach Russia a lesson” but also to warn those in the future who might be tempted to make war crimes part of their military strategy that there will be a price for their inhumanity and rampant and wanton violations of international humanitarian law. The outrage is not only that Russia launched a war of aggression but also that it waged war in the most brutal manner imaginable. Russia is not the only offender; there are others. And these offenses will not stop with Ukraine. Many states are simply shrugging off international humanitarian law. A major reason is because there have been no enforcement mechanisms or punishment. This must end.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.