By Patty Friend and Jason Sibert
Since we submitted our argument that the United States and NATO should support the Ukrainians with the arms and other materials that they need to protect their sovereignty (“FOR Military Aid to Ukraine: A Dissent From SDUSA’S Ukraine Resolution”) things have only grown worse on several fronts.
This evidence makes it abundantly clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending his soldiers into combat without water and or food or adequate training or weapons. These conscripts are starving and without proper ammunition. They are getting “picked off by Ukrainian” soldiers per 100 a night. What the Russians are doing to the Ukrainians and the rest of Europe is bad enough, but Putin is also committing crimes against his own people – passing laws against using the very word ‘war’, demonstrators being taken to prison for holding a sign that has nothing on it, rounding up civilians to fight as conscripts, and forcing conscripts to the front line. The Wagner Group is a segment of the Russian army that kills conscripts for not following orders on the front line. If you are one of the Russian troops engaged in this fighting you have the Wagner Group behind you ready to kill you and the Ukrainian soldiers in front of you waiting to kill you, a bit of a dilemma, eh?
Even if we can supply Ukraine with enough supplies and weapons to bring this war to an end, the consequences of this war, not only to Ukraine and its people, are beyond measure and will last for generations. The rest of the world will also face consequences, especially in developing nations (think food insecurity, starvation, and the lack of necessary resources that developing countries desperately need). And then there are trillions of dollars Western democracies will deem necessary to spend on defense and/or stability in the new Cold War. Not to mention the terrible consequences for Russia – up to 1 million people who have left Russia. They have lost anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 combatants and with all the American and European companies that have left Russia and the world turning to new ways of providing necessary energy, this war will have had hugely destructive consequences for Russia. When this war is finally over, the trillions it has cost Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world are staggering to think of and when the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Africa are finally over, who knows what will be left? Truly, the world cannot afford another war. We must find a way that nations and/or peoples can address their grievances without going to war.
The Russians have committed unspeakable crimes against the Ukrainian people and against humanity itself. They have made war against innocent civilians. Even if you think that all Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, you cannot excuse what Russians have done against non-combatants – the old, the sick, women and children, and animals.
The Russians have bombed or destroyed cities and towns, municipal buildings, religious establishments, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim alike. They have bombed or destroyed railroad stations, roads, parks, schools, libraries, hospitals, parking garages, shopping centers, stores, and cafes/restaurants. They have destroyed bridges and land crossings and apartment houses/homes. They have also destroyed doctors’ offices, hospitals, businesses of all kinds, cultural centers, seaports, manufacturing centers, farms, zoos, and much more. Furthermore, the Russians have made it impossible to ship grain or other foodstuffs out of their ports, especially Mariupol which put the developing world and other poor countries in food security or starvation – thankfully we were able to negotiate with the Russians to transport the development of food stuffs to nations in need. Putin has shown he can cut off the supply at any time. This war is not just destroying Ukraine; it’s causing massive hardship for the world.
This illegal and unwarranted war on Ukraine is causing all the NATO countries severe hardships and Putin has weaponized energy products, including nuclear power plants, as well as threatened the world with the use of nuclear bombs. One of the tricks up the Russians’ sleeve was the annexing of the Donbas region and other occupied territories. Given all the atrocities and the establishment of filtration camps, work camps, and kidnapping of thousands upon thousands of Ukrainians (included thousands upon thousands of children separated from their parents and his desire to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth and establish all that land and natural resources such as oil and food crops). Beyond what Putin and the far-right of Russia have done to Ukraine and the people of Russia themselves, especially those who were conscripted and forced to fight with inadequate ammunition and war material. Putin and his minions are on a par to what we have seen or experienced with Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot.
Just because Putin does not call himself,say, a neo-Nazi doesn’t mean he is not just as bad or dangerous to the rest of the world. And Putin will not stop with Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine. He’s already demonstrated that he’s willing to take over Moldova and Montenegro. The people whom Putin considers neo-Nazis may have killed people in the Donbas and Crimea during the eight years that Russia was warring against Ukraine in the East, but they didn’t try to exterminate the population and deny them their humanity, culture, and their history. The Ukrainians did not destroy the regions’ infrastructure, homes, roads, and bridges, etc.
The Ukrainians did not kill civilians in the tens of thousands. They did not kidnap civilians and force them into filtration and work camps nor did they kidnap children and take them from their families. They did not destroy or make wastelands out of Chechnya and/or Syria. They did not cut off food to starving people in Africa and the Middle East or try to cut off energy to Europe. Most of all they never tried to take over their neighbors or sovereign countries on their borders, and the fascist/Christian/white supremist elites have never controlled the government of Ukraine and or the prosecution of this war. Furthermore, the Ukrainians are not forcing untrained students or convicts to fight and die using inadequate weapons or ammunition, nor are they forcing their people to fight with not enough food or water.
With all the supposedly provocative things that Ukraine or NATO did before Feb. 24, 2022, did Ukrainians summarily shoot civilians and leave them to decompose in the street? And what about the mass graves found in Bucha and other villages or the thousands of war crimes documented all over the country? And what do you think we will find when they get into Mariupol? The Ukrainians have never had anything like the Wagner brigade and they never will. Russia has already lost over 1 million people from fighting or leaving the repressive state. Their economy is under severe stress. At least 10 of their major oligarchs (old friends and supporters of Putin) have fallen out of windows, been run over by cars, and died in other strange accidents – all because they’ve criticized Putin’s handling of the war. Putin is more beholden to North Korea, Iran, and China. In what universe is this good for Russia? What would Putin have when the Russian soldiers who manage to come back alive start coming home?
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.