Your anti-war conscience is politically homeless

Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, launched last month, could be the beginning of a long and bloody war. Being already seen as such, it has likely alienated many individuals in the West who formerly sided with Russia against a morally dubious Western foreign policy establishment.

One of the places where those opponents of the West's moral skeleton liked to gather, following the 2003 Iraq War which largely discredited the West as a positive moral agent in the world, was the now heavily censored and cyber-attacked RT (formerly Russia Today). There, such individuals appeared as viewers, journalists, and guests for many years to express their anti-war views.

The doves fly

For anyone watching RT during the opening of Russia's offensive into Ukraine in February 2022, it would be impossible not to notice the great unease of the English-speaking anchors during this Russian government-funded news network's live broadcasts. It is likely that such individuals were recruited in the first place because of their unease with Western foreign policy, which made them more likely to sympathise with and be willing to present Russia's position to English-speakers for many years. Russia's sudden decision to employ force will have changed everything, leaving many of them shaken and confused. Why did Russia apparently choose to rain its own bombs on a country, rather than foiling America's dubious schemes and rejecting its excuses, as had been the case in Syria? That will be burdening their consciences.

Many disbelieved that Russia was planning a major military escalation in Ukraine, holding the Kremlin's promises to the world as true. Those who had supported the Russian media against Western military actions, out of a principled rejection of military intervention everywhere, will find it difficult to maintain that support (see Max Keiser, formerly of the Keiser Report, as an example).

Did Russia make the right choice?

It may be that the Kremlin made a strategic mistake by trying to dominate Ukraine militarily (I concurred with the British government about this in January). We live in an era of failed foreign interventions by even the most technologically sophisticated countries, which is why many will anticipate a slow Russian defeat and withdrawal from Ukraine. Ukrainians are not incompetent or cowardly, having made up a significant portion of the most competent and brave soldiers of the former USSR, so it would be wrong for Russia to think they are easily cast aside.

On the other hand, the Kremlin may have not made a mistake in Ukraine at all. The twin objectives of "demilitarisation" and "denazification" may be impossible to achieve if pursued to total completion all across Ukraine (a scenario vulnerable to "mission creep"), but they can easily be accomplished to a point that Moscow no longer needs to worry. A battered Ukrainian military, pushed back to the west of Ukraine, left with no threatening hardware, can be guaranteed by Russia's brutal and overwhelming firepower. A number of Ukrainian radicals can be assassinated or captured to showcase "denazification". Following such steps, Russia could withdraw. They could also almost certainly defend a number of seized Ukrainian cities indefinitely and annex them formally or informally, managing over time to convince their largely Russian-friendly populations to welcome the change.

Whatever the case, Russia's leadership must have known they would lose much support in the West. The only conclusion can be that, faced with NATO expansion into Ukraine, Russian leaders felt that the problem was so severe and so strategically dangerous that it was worth huge sacrifices to overcome it. It was worth losing any remaining soft power Russia had in the West, in favour of applying hard power in Russia's near abroad. NATO was being intransigent, refusing to rule out nuclear missiles being placed in Ukraine to target Moscow, declaring Russia as its enemy and Ukraine as its frontline partner against Russia.

Anti-war? You are outgunned

Considering the obstruction faced by anyone sympathetic to Russian worries or just simply critical of Western policy in Western societies, it is not surprising that Russia would decide to throw them under the bus. They were never likely to accomplish any significant influence or power anyway. Russia's might still ultimately lies in its unrivalled missile power and vast force of armoured vehicles on its territory, so they decided to exert this power rather than something more subtle.

Those who based their interpretation of world events solely on morality, and were led to side with Russia or China for that reason and reject the interventionist US and NATO, were doomed to be disappointed. International relations is not a moral affair, unfortunately. There are no values, only interests. Sooner or later, any national government will assert its interests in the most brutal way, reminding us all of what a state really is.

Russia is neither good nor bad, and that's what is so shocking to those who used morality to guide their interpretation of international events. Likewise, the United States is neither good nor bad, although the case can certainly be made that it is incompetent and confused, and that has always been the chief complaint that seems to have the most merit.

People who are anti-war ultimately get pushed aside by those favouring force, if we are in a situation where force can work. This is because being anti-war is solely a personal philosophy, not an expression of anything necessarily aligned with the national interest. As long as there are national interests and diplomatic quarrels, force will be part of the spectrum, the continuation of politics by the steel gauntlet of those who have might, if mere talk failed.