Though Russia’s war against Ukraine is contained on Ukrainian soil, it would be naïve to interpret the framing of this war as a conflict between just two sovereign nations.
Russia’s war on Ukraine is a war upon fundamental and basic universal human values. More specifically, the right of individuals to live in dignity and peace, to pursue their individual and national economic ambitions, to create a societal order based on the rule of law and to exist in pursuit of their own national identity and destiny. In this war, Russia has shown that it does not respect the principle of human dignity that is secured and protected by the rule of law.
In pursuit of its imperial ambitions and its 19th-century economic plans, the Russian way of life is informed by its corrupt civic culture that continues to be defined by a self-absorbed and interested authoritarian economic oligarchy which not only despises the free market, but also works towards its destruction.
Russia does not respect the basic tenets of international law. The Russian Federation is an undisciplined military power whose forces terrorize and murder civilians. As the self-declared successor to the Soviet ‘Evil Empire’, Russia, though not yet classified as a terrorist state, is committing genocidal acts against the Ukrainian people.
There can no longer be any doubt that Russians are not only committing systematic war crimes in Ukraine, but that the real purpose of Russia’s military action is to eradicate and destroy Ukraine, its people, its government, its unique culture and language, and its economy.
In short, the Russian people’s war against Ukraine is, by all definitions, a genocide.
Ukraine has once again been made into a “death stage”. Thousands of innocents have been killed, around 10 million have been displaced and millions have been forced to flee their communities to seek haven in safer locales in Europe and North America.
The Western world is aware of all these facts. In so knowing, it does not have the right to ignore the images of the tortured and murdered, the massive and intense shelling of residential neighborhoods, the needless bombings of schools and hospitals, the burning of fields that provide food for millions and the destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage.
This has happened before during the Nazi reign over Europe. And just as it did during the Second World War, the Western – and supposed civilized – world, is tolerating the genocide of a distinct people.
The West is fully aware of the intentional mass destruction of human beings in Ukraine by Russia and currently does nothing to either stop it or put up impediments to prevent further human annihilation. Sending weapons to Ukraine is not enough.
The Free World cannot remain recalcitrant in engaging to put a stop to what can be clearly defined historically as evil behavior.
One reason for this hesitance is because it is informed by a morally relativistic and secularized moral lexicon that is unable to provide a workable definition and plan of action that would inform its ability to both judge and condemn what are clearly evil acts. Not knowing and not propounding a meaningful definition of evil in the Ukraine space and frozen by fear, the West has forgotten how to confront evil, let alone resist and defeat it as Ukrainians illustrate on a daily basis.
The assumption by the West that only military weapons are needed in the war against Russia is sincerely wrong. War is not solely the assertion of military power, it is also the projection, as it is in this case, of one’s worldview and the meaning of what it means to be human.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is not only an act of aggression against the Ukrainian people’s sovereignty, but a war against fundamental human values and dignity and the freedom and ability of sovereign nations to govern themselves according to the rule of law.
The Russian Federation’s authoritarian despotism is a war against fundamental universal human values. Moscow’s brutal aggression is against the fundamental principles of the Western rules-based order. Russia’s war on Ukraine is “anti-human”.
Thus, in Ukraine, the West has to transcend its fear of Russia and think of what it can potentially do to counter Moscow. Authoritarians always use fear to control another’s behavior and moral resolve, therefore, the West must not and cannot be afraid to act assertively and show its moral resolve.
Where is the sustained moral outrage when Russians bombed children and destroyed the once thriving port of Mariupol? Where is the moral outrage regarding the lunchtime bombing in Vinnytsia or the shelling of a shopping center in Kremenchuk? Since when has this become ordinary?
Genocides occur when the people who supposedly represent good, civil and lawful behavior fail to act with moral courage.
In Ukraine’s case, believers in democracy and fundamental human rights, practitioners and representatives of the rule of law-based societies, have not adequately used the rhetorical strength contained within these principles, nor used the moral arms to fully undermine the “moral” vacuousness of Russia’s legitimacy.
Putin has not only exploited the West’s weakness for his propagandist rhetorical ends, he also assumes this as a fundamental weakness of the free democratic world. He has not only exploited military weakness and military unpreparedness, but moral weakness which emboldens him to act with impunity, assuming that he will not be held accountable on the world’s stage.
Ukraine’s resistance to Putin is an example to the civilized world that not only does evil exists, but that it must be fought through action on numerous fronts. If this is not done, then Putin will continue to exploit this. The continuance of Western inaction only contributes to his resolve and confidence that he can destroy Ukraine’s political and human existence.
The political rhetoric and geopolitical machinations presently being practiced by numerous European powers reveals a certain moral cowardice and illustrate how Russia exploits this outright fear to be more forcibly assertive. It is not enough to just send weapons for Ukraine’s defence. What is needed is for the West to join Ukraine’s desperate voice and to express courageous solidarity to reject the attitude of what is becoming the “ordinariness of genocide”.
Western partners must begin to build the case for the respect of human rights and the centrality of human dignity in international forums.
Second, they must make the case against the process of genocide now being perpetrated upon the Ukrainian nation.
Third, they must create and vociferously proclaim a legal framework for Russian accountability regarding the atrocities being committed by Russian forces at the UN’s security council.
Fourth, it must aggressively reassert the rhetoric of the principles of an international rules-based order.
The potential effects of such efforts will clarify and stiffen the resolve of the international community’s support of Ukraine in moral/philosophical terms:
- It will challenge and unify efforts to discredit Russia’s international “moral” standing.
- It will prove that Russia is a criminal, if not a terrorist state.
- It will reaffirm that Russia’s behavior in Ukraine is unacceptable.
But probably most important, such a declaration would be a historic act of resolve which would dispel the assumption that Ukraine continues to be an international “death stage” where empirical interlopers can wantonly commit unaccountable crimes.