Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

The morality of Ukraine’s war is very murky

By Stephen M. Walt

22 Sep 2023 · 7 min read

informed Summary

  1. The moral case for supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia is not as straightforward as it may seem, according to Foreign Policy columnist Stephen M. Walt. While Russia is to blame for starting the war, the claim that Western policy had no role in the conflict is disputed.

What is the morally preferable course of action in Ukraine? At first glance, it seems obvious. Ukraine is the victim of an illegal war, its territory is occupied, its citizens have suffered mightily at the hands of the invader, and its adversary is an autocratic regime with any number of unsavory qualities. Strategic calculations aside, surely the proper moral course is to back Ukraine to the hilt. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a gathering in the Crimean city of Yalta last week: “When we are talking about this war, we are always talking about morality.” Not surprisingly, he conveyed the same message when he visited Washington this week.

If only the moral calculus were that simple.

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