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Ancient Rome offers insight into Russian aggression

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Rachel Rhodes

Russia continued its invasion of Ukraine this week, and disrupted efforts by Ukraine to evacuate citizens from areas where the conflict is most deadly. 

Barry Strauss

Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies

Barry Strauss, professor of history and classics at Cornell University and Corliss Page Dean Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is an expert in military strategy. 

Strauss says:

"In trying to understand Putin and the subject of war crimes, a glance at ancient Rome may help. The Romans conquered a vast empire without ever engaging in aggression! How was that possible? Their law prohibited offensive war. The Romans simply either considered themselves or their friends or allies to be the aggrieved parties, and so they went off to fight with a clean conscience.

"As for Putin, he and Russia are under investigation by the International Criminal Court for potential war crimes in Ukraine. But Putin argues that Russia is acting in self-defense. There are protesters in Russia who don’t agree. As long as Putin is able to keep the support of most of his countrymen, he will probably fend off condemnation from abroad. The Romans would have understood."

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