4 February 2023
by Grigory Yavlinsky, politician
Source: Free Space
When it was perfectly obvious that Russia’s large-scale military actions were impending in Ukraine, something that Putin himself then called a war, a great many people among the Russian elites and the oppositionally inclined media refused to believe in this real possibility for a long time. In 2021, when everything was more or less clear—they didn’t believe it. In July, Putin wrote an article in which he laid out his goals and intentions openly and in detail—and they didn’t believe it. Even in September, when United Russia ran in the Duma elections led by the defense minister—they didn’t believe it. They didn’t believe it at the end of the year, when the Kremlin issued an ultimatum to the United States and NATO…
And on 24 February, when it all began, they were dumbstruck: “Who would ever have thought?” They believed it, got scared, scattered, hid…
The “special operation” has been going on in Ukraine for nearly a year. In this time, thousands of people on both sides have perished, entire cities have been destroyed, and millions of people have become refugees.
And now, right before our eyes, preparations are in full swing for even wider-scale military actions. At the same time, all the key participants—Moscow, Kyiv, Washington, Brussels, NATO, and with them the crowds of military supporters sitting in cafes and restaurants, hotels and cozy apartments, as well as the numerous Internet media—all of them are demanding the continuation of military actions, fantasizing about victories, seizures, and turning points, agitating for new offensives.
“Thinker”-dreamers from the for-now safe past are calling for continuing military actions to a victorious conclusion no matter what. They talk on the pages of famous magazines about the “wonderful parliamentary Russia of the future” and “model legal proceedings.” Intelligently and coldly, the “analysts” make it clear that there is no call for peace yet…
And once again, as happened a year ago, almost no one understands—or is afraid to say out loud—that the dangers are mounting very seriously and that what is happening now, that is, the continuation of military actions, has no positive prospects in principle. None whatsoever!
If all this continues:
- there will be thousands more dead;
- the devastation will become critical: the economy in the zone of active military actions and over a large adjoining area will be irrevocably destroyed to a decisive degree;
- the flow of what now seems like unlimited foreign assistance to Ukraine will inevitably fall off as the scale of devastation increases;
- the economic problems engendered by the military actions will prove much more difficult than even the military ones, and many will be insoluble;
- there will be critical destruction of human potential, which will be the chief irreparable consequence of escalation;
- the risks of the mounting conflict turning into a world war will be (and already are) extremely high.
It is important to understand that in the twenty-first century the status and well-being of a state and its citizens depend not so much on its territories or even its natural resources but on what place the country occupies in the world. We are living in an age when human capital plays a crucial role. A nation’s future depends on its people, their freedoms, their creativity, and their education.
There is no point drawing parallels between what is happening in Ukraine now and the events of World War II.
Never in the past has a nuclear power been a participant in a major military conflict that touched on its vital interests and prospects. This is a real threat.
Previously, as well as quite recently, Putin has been forthright about his readiness to use nuclear weapons. It’s not worth driving the situation into a corner. It has to be stopped.
We know that many territorial conflicts have no end. There is only one successful example of territorial peace: the European Union. The unification of European states made it politically irrelevant whose territory Alsace and Lorraine were now, territory many thousands of Frenchmen and Germans laid down their lives for the right to possess. The idea accepted by all European Union members, which says that the life of a human being, his dignity and his rights, are worth more than any national borders, became the pledge of peace in Europe.
Herein lies the meaning of contemporary life. Sooner or later, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus will all come to this—to peaceful coexistence with each other and with the other European countries. This is a path to peace without an alternative. But this path is hard and long.
What should be done now? Stop it! Everything else amounts to a foolish and very dangerous illusion.
Reach a cease-fire agreement. Stop killing people!
Reaching a ceasefire agreement is not about a treaty, not about peace, and not even about reconciliation or major dialogue. It is a political demand aimed at saving lives. That is the most important thing today.
A cease-fire agreement is the very most preliminary, very first step toward the beginning of any settlement. As long as military actions are ongoing and people are dying, no attempts at discussions or negotiations make sense. Therefore, in the current circumstances, a cease-fire agreement is the inevitable first step for any even slightly positive development of events.
A cease-fire agreement is a political demand whose implementation depends wholly and fully on the desire and understanding of the decision makers. In practice, a cease-fire can be implemented only if, at minimum, Putin, Zelensky, Biden, and the EU and NATO leadership want it. The problem, though, is that none of them is expressing any such desire right now. As of today, all the parties are intent on continuing large-scale military actions, mistakenly counting on a military victory, which in modern conditions no one can gain. Therefore, we must insist: a cease-fire is essential! If this doesn’t happen, the consequences will be catastrophic and, more than likely, as has already been said, irrevocably destructive.
Most important, the people dying in this catastrophe by the hour will never be returned. Not 18-month-old Makar or 15-year-old Anya from Dnipro, not 5-year-old Milana from Donetsk, not 9-year-old Ivan or 8-year-old Nina from Yeysk.
The continuation of military actions in any form—offensive or positional—bodes no positive development of events for Russia, Ukraine, or the Western countries. Continuation is an unending and irreparable tragedy. Ending the conflict “on the field of battle,” as some dream, is not going to happen. Putin’s state will stop at nothing. Russia will not be powerless as a result of this […]. It will remain one of the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
And now to deprive Ukraine of its prospects—Ukraine which, in the last year, in the opinion of all world experts, “for the first time in modern history became a major state in Central Europe,” but with the possibility of restoring its economy in doubt as a result of the military actions—is quite possible. The situation must not reach that point.
Today it is perfectly obvious that all this needs to stop. Obvious to everyone. After that can come attempts at talking. Most important, people won’t be being killed during that time.
Only in this way can there be any discussion of territorial issues, borders, troop redeployment… After that will come the need for diplomacy, which will be harsh and difficult, with failures and limitations. We all find ourselves in a situation of having only bad or even worse scenarios. There are no good scenarios anymore.
However, there is still a scenario for avoiding a vast number of new victims: stop military actions immediately. The demand to adopt this scenario must now be made by everyone who doesn’t want to kill perfectly innocent people and doesn’t want that to be done in their name. They must make known their position by every available means.
Shout it on every corner: Come to your senses! Stop it!
Translated by Marian Schwartz