Against Natural Law: Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory — Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia — is against the natural law. In Catholic theology, natural law is based on the nature of human persons, human society, and the ability of reason to understand right from wrong. In philosophy, natural law can be considered to be the basis for all fundamental indispensable human laws. This would include laws against murder, theft, rape, assault, fraud, but would not include mere regulations).

When one nation adds another nation’s clear indisputable territories to its own, as in the case of invasion and war, such an act is gravely contrary to natural law. People have the right to the security of their homes. A person cannot force their way into your home and live there against your will. Similarly, nations have a right to their territory. So the invasion, war, occupation, and annexation of Ukrainian territory by Russia is gravely contrary to natural law.

Such offenses are non-negotiable. It is not a debatable question, as when the border between two nations is a river, and the river changes its course, leaving small areas of land under dispute.

Also, a war of aggression, in which one nation makes an unprovoked attack on another — especially clear in the case of invasion and occupation — is again gravely contrary to natural law. The same principle applies, that a nation has a right to its security, borders, and territories. So the war by Russia against Ukraine is itself gravely contrary natural law.

But atrocities committed by either side in any war are exceedingly grave and never justifiable. When a nation defends itself, only the just use of force is reasonable and in accord with natural law. The defense of a nation does not justify atrocities against anyone.

It is claimed by the former president of Estonia that Russian forces killed over 100,000 civilians in the siege of Mariupol earlier in the war in Ukraine. He stated: “According to the latest estimates, 116,000 people were killed….” Nothing justifies the mass killing of civilians. It is a crime against humanity.

War is never preferable to peace. Not enough was done by politicians on all sides to avoid the violence in Ukraine (from 2014 to the present). Not enough is being done to end the conflict. The rush on all sides to fight with ever greater ferocity tends toward the development of a wider conflict. Ukraine will likely be approved as a full member of NATO. Russia is claiming a large area of Ukraine as its own territory (contrary to natural law and international law). The solution is not more weapons and more battles, but a cease-fire and negotiations. How can this be achieved at this point? Politically, I don’t know. Otherwise, prayers are needed.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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