Saturday, May 28

How do we respond to Putin’s war?

The war in Ukraine is putting the pacifist narrative on the ropes. Shouting, today, “no to war”, without more, distributes responsibilities between aggressor and victims. Asking for a “negotiated exit” may imply giving in at the negotiating table to a much stronger Russia militarily. And suggesting “dealing with the roots of the conflict” feeds Putin’s narrative to justify the war.

But the war also highlights the limitations of the opposite perspective, the militarist one. Ukraine insists on the need for NATO to control the airspace to avoid bombing by Russian aircraft. And NATO has responded that it does not intend to do so because that would imply entering into direct confrontation with Russia and would extend the war beyond Ukraine. In other words, the international community supplies weapons so that it is the Ukrainian population that faces the Russian army while the Western countries watch it from a prudent distance.

Let’s be honest. Once war has broken out, and faced with an aggressor so strong and so determined to kill, there are no good options. The weapons debate yes vs. weapons is not a wicked dilemma. Either answer implies the death of thousands of people. Those who have no doubts about this dilemma believe that he is not aware of the consequences of his positioning. The heated arguments that we often hear are more conditioned by the political disputes in our country than by the needs of Ukraine.

In any case, the government and people of Ukraine have every right to defend themselves as they see fit. And we have no right to judge the path they choose.

In practice, Russia’s aggression is fought with an amalgamation of strategies, of which the military is only one. The international community prioritizes sanctions and has not given up diplomatically. The Ukrainian population itself confronts the occupation forces with multiple initiatives of non-violent resistance: unarmed people who stop war convoys, hijack tanks or speak out against the soldiers of the occupation forces. Non-violent actions do not stop the invasion, but they bring morale and courage to the resistance, and international support and admiration. In the long run, civil disobedience to the occupying forces will make Russian control untenable. They thus become a fundamental tool to compensate for a balance unbalanced by Russia’s military power.

In Spain we also have various options for involvement: demonstrations against Putin’s aggression, sending humanitarian aid, welcoming refugees and supporting the Ukrainian community. Who else or who least knows someone of Ukrainian origin. It is time for brotherhood, to make our solidarity felt. It’s time to get closer, listen, share hugs. Also with the Russian community, which lives between indignation at the aggression and the anguish of stigmatization. It is essential to distinguish between the Russian regime and the Russian population and to prevent xenophobia. Putin is a dictator who violently oppresses any expression of protest from his own population.

Putin’s War is unlike any war we have known in our recent history. It is the first invasion of this magnitude in a country that borders the European Union. It is also the first time that one country has attacked another with this forcefulness, without any military provocation. And, above all, it is the first time that the aggressor power threatens with nuclear weapons. Ukraine is the direct victim of aggression. But the social, economic and political impact transcends its borders and challenges us more than any other recent war.

The current response is bringing out the best in many people, organizations and countries. Putin has the power of arms, but Ukraine has the power of reason. The resistance against this war must also help us build new consensus and new synergies to stop other wars in the world and prevent new ones.