This article will not discuss the developments relating to the situation at the front line, nor go in detail into events of the past year. Many people far more knowledgeable, and experienced have been commentating the war and its developments from the beginning. What I will try to do is look back at the war, share my thoughts, and feelings about what I have observed about Western society, particularly those identifying as “leftist”, since the beginning of the war.
In May of 2022, I was supposed to publish an article. A multitude of reasons led to the piece hanging in the editorial drive for months, until I realised that it’s been a year since the lives of millions of people changed overnight, since a full scale war began two hundred kilometres away from my family’s home town. I went back. Read it. I knew what I wrote was right. But I knew I had to rewrite it.
That article was full of rage, aimed at Western leftists that readily condemn the violence of Israel against Palestinians, cut their hair in solidarity with Iranians, but swallow Russian propaganda, like some starved ideological pelicans. They share tweets and posts by accounts with (Z) in their username, while simultaneously criticising the media over bias and double standards in their coverage on Ukraine.
Now, that rage is gone and replaced by sadness, maybe frustration. All the anger left in me is directed at Russia, those who support the war.
After hoping every couple of weeks that maybe this war is going to end, only for the tide to turn towards even more deaths, I don’t feel much at all, except wishing for it to end. If I am tired, I can only imagine what it is like for Ukrainians, those who fled and those who stayed. And I think this is what is happening to all of us, only indirectly affected by the war.
We rally up when news emerges and we quickly focus our attention elsewhere. Not so long ago people panicked over a missile hitting Polish territory and the involvement of NATO in the war. No such thing happened. For a short while the West pitied Russians over the mobilisation, reporting on protests from Moscow. However, the invasion has now been going on for a year. The war began even before that. And although we hope otherwise, it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.
It’s easy to shrug it off. Say that we cannot do anything about it. But it’s not true.This war might physically be thousands of kilometres to the east, but we have a role in it too. Our government’s choices, the morale of those in Ukraine, the choices of corporations are influenced by what we read, what we say, and what we believe. Here are some points I want you to understand:
- Beware of the trolls
If you see a Z symbol anywhere on the news regarding Ukraine, fact-check it. Double-check. Triple-check. Treat it as if you read news about the US shared by someone with MAGA in their bio. It is as much a sign of nationalism and imperialism as any other white supremasist dog whistle on the internet.
- There’s no valid justification for Russia’s actions
“Denazification” is as much of a valid argument for invading an independent state as the “war on terror” was. The problem of far-right extremism in any given country is a problem of that country alone. There is no excuse for violence and killing of civilians, breaking all of the international laws in the name of any cause no matter how “noble” it may seem. And it is frankly rich to call out anyone’s fascistic tendencies when attempting to reconquer territory in order to recreate a former empire.
- You cannot oppose one imperialist super power by supporting another
Although you don’t hear it listed as such, Russia is a post-colonial, imperialist power. No country gets this big without conquest and colonisation, not the US, not China, not Russia. There are still many ethnic minorities under the rule of the Russian Federation, some of them are treated better, some of them worse. Ukraine was once one of them. Think of this invasion as if France attacked Vietnam, or Britain declared war on Ireland for not falling in line with their politics. You might be opposed to US imperialism, great but Russia is not the ally you should be looking for. And in this case sitting on a fence is just as bad because…
- Ukraine needs NATO.
You might have your opinions on whether NATO should or shouldn’t exist, whether it does more harm than good, whether it’s a tool of US imperialism, but right now Ukraine needs it. It needs arms and tanks and resources. It needs our support to defend itself.
- It is up to Ukrainians to decide what happens to their country.
Over the past months I’ve observed the internet buzzing with all the possible scenarios for Ukraine’s future. From trolls to politicians, everyone seems to have an opinion. My absolute favourite was possibly that proposed by the king of Twitter himself, Elon Musk.
As much as I love a good laugh at the (not) Tesla founder I want to make some things clear. The 2014 referendums in Donbas and in Crimea had as much legal legitimacy as this Twitter poll, re-doing it will not give it any more legitimacy. There are no legal referendum’s in Russia and those in Ukraine need to be organised by the parliament or the president.
Any change in the country’s territory requires a nation-wide referendum. It took me 30 seconds of google search to figure that much out. Suggestion that Crimea should belong to Russia is legitimising an internationally illegal act. Ukraine’s political standing in the international community is an internal matter of foreign policy. We do not want another Yalta, thank you very much.
In short nobody gets to decide what happens to Ukraine. Not Russia, not the EU, and certainly not a billionaire with a social media addiction. You might think that one solution is better than another, you might wish the war was just over already. But the decision to begin the negotiations and on what terms should be Ukraine’s decision alone and should not be influenced by foreign interests.
I know that when I say that we should support Ukraine regardless of the consequences it has for us, I come from a place of privilege. But Ukrainians deserve our help, our support. I don’t have a good rationale to justify this, other than that this is just the right thing to do. To oppose injustice. Stand with those who are defending themselves against oppression. And I think that’s what the Left is about.