Claire Finkelstein discusses Ukraine, NATO, and U.S. ethics and cybersecurity

Claire Finkelstein, the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, offers an explainer on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which she says Russia has been planning for a long time.

Claire Finkelstein smiles beside a brick building
Claire Finkelstein is the director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.

Finkelstein is the founder and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, a nonpartisan interdisciplinary institute affiliated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). She is a distinguished research fellow at APPC and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Her current research addresses national security law and policy and democratic governance with a focus on related ethical and rule of law issues.

“His great fear was that Ukraine would join NATO and that NATO would therefore respond with force once Russia invaded Ukraine,” says Finkelstein. “He learned from the takeover of Crimea that though there may be bloodshed, in the end he can prevail. Crimea was the staging ground for the current takeover, and his experimentation with techniques such as cyber and Denial of Service attacks, as well as propaganda, etc., are being replicated here with a vengeance.”

She adds that “while Putin is so far winning the bet that NATO would not engage militarily, he is thus far losing the war he started.”

As for the West’s ethical and political response, Finkelstein says “the Biden administration is, accordingly to news reports, debating the ethics and legality of arming and training the Ukrainians. Any reason to doubt the probity of this step should lie only in policy, not in law. It is beyond question that Russian is conducting an illegal attack on a sovereign member of the United Nations.”

However, “the possible worry of the Biden administration, however, may be that by assisting Ukraine, the U.S. may be directly participating in hostilities and may thus forfeit its formal neutrality and entitle Russia to respond with force to U.S. military installations.”

The critical question, says Finkelstein, “is whether the U.S. and its NATO allies should be afraid that use of such techniques would legally and practically constitute participation in hostilities such that we would make ourselves legitimately targetable by Russia.”

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