Staunton, Mar. 2 – In discussions about moral responsibility for the war in Ukraine, two extreme positions have become popular. Some place all the blame on Vladimir Putin because he decided to go to war and could at any moment stop it, while others blame all Russians for failing to block him from starting the war or participating in any way in the continuation of the conflict.
Ut in fact, Mariya Sekatskaya, a Russian philosopher at the University of Dusseldorf, says, while there is no question that Putin bears moral responsibility for the war, the issue of who else does is far more complicated with some bearing more, others less and some, the very young or the mentally handicapped, none at all (holod.media/2023/03/02/war-responsibility/).
“We are citizens of Russia in 2023,” Sekatskaya says; and “by the coincidence of historical circumstances, we as individual subjects form part of the collective subject Russians. If this collective had acted differently, the war would not have begun or would have ended. What should each of us have done or do now to contribute to that?”
According to the philosopher, “there is no single and definite answer to this question. Each individual chooses how much to participate on his or her own. And it is that choice that underlies the distinction between guilt and responsibility that has become widespread among Russians over the last year.”
“The blame for the war does not lie with us,” she continues, “but the responsibility for somehow helping to end it or if that isn’t possible at least mitigating its consequences, we must assume.” Failure to do so thus makes us more responsible for what is happening and what will happen next.
“To protest, to join the active resistance, to leave or stay, to help refugees, to speak out publicly despite the risks, or simply to defend our anti-war positions in private gives us the opportunity to be moral subjects despite the overarching moral failure in which we all find ourselves” and thus minimize our moral responsibility for the war.