Russia’s Attack on Ukraine Is an Attack on the Free World

Jacek Malczewski: Vicious Circle (1895–1897) // Public domain

Russia attacked Ukraine. The first missiles and rounds fell in the south, including the capital – Kiev. The Russian army crossed the borders of Ukraine in a number of points, including across the border with Belarus.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion is an unprecedented act of war. A war that will cost hundreds of thousands lives. Today, the thoughts of all good people are with the Ukrainians, who defend their homeland against a ruthless and cynical aggressor.

Putin denies Ukrainians the right to exist. He undermines the very foundations on which the coexistence between nations has been built after the second world war.

Russia trampled the Charter of the United Nations, according to which: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.[1]

In a deceitful speech, Vladimir Putin spoke of a special operation in Donbas and the “denazification” of Ukraine. This is nonsense prepared for the benefit of an audience in his country. Along with the war campaign, the machine of lies has already started to operate.

Our weapon in this information warfare is truth. The truth that calls the aggressor the aggressor and refers to the victim as the victim. A truth that does not justify a war that is a result of sick aspirations of a Russian dictator who denied Ukraine the right to exist. We know similar justifications from our history all too well to fall for such propaganda and lies.

In Poland, the last war was remembered for and has instilled fear in several generations. Today, the war becomes a reality for Ukrainians. For those living in eastern Ukraine, it has been a reality for eight years.

In Poland, we know very well what it means to be on the wrong side of the border. What does it mean to be abandoned by allies and doomed to fight alone.

I believe that many Russians today are ashamed of the decisions of their president. Russian democrats are powerless – many of them have ended up in exile or in prison, like Alexander Navalny. Today, a lot depends on the average Russian. If the protest against the invasion appears to be a heroic act, Russians should at least refrain from duplicating the propaganda, and instead listen to the moving speech delivered in Russian by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukrainians are fighting today not only for their homeland, but on behalf of all of us – the people who do not agree to live in a world in which dictate and naked power decide how we are to live. In which every individual has the right to choose their destiny, and where every country has the right to develop.

This is a historic moment when any action or the lack thereof will be remembered forever. The countries of the free world must do whatever it takes to stop the Russian aggression. Forget appealing to Putin’s conscience. Today, all those who, for Russian money, in the hope of profitable appanages, proclaimed the need to agree with a dictator who never concealed his goals, should at least remain silent if they do not want to repent.

The Kremlin understands only strength. It despises weakness. Putin attacked Ukraine because he decided that the West was too weak to oppose it.

There is no longer any time to consider whether or not to help Ukraine, we have to do it – send every weapon and any help necessary. Helping Ukraine is not only our duty, but it is also in our interest. Dictators with a mania for grandeur are very unlikely to stop what they have already started doing.

Today, we can either be on the side of the aggressor or the victim. Putin has put us all to the test. Those who turn their heads will be found complicit. Revealing the indifference of the world and arousing fear – these are the first goals that Putin has set for himself. The world cannot be intimidated.

By attacking Ukraine, Russia has become an international pariah. Even North Korea, since the Korean War seventy years ago, did not resort to military aggression. If the sanctions imposed on Russia are not radical and immediate, it means that Russia is being allowed to finance military operations in Ukraine.

Russia must be cut off from the resources to wage war. The price will be high – it will be visible at gas stations, in gas bills, and suffered by the companies that trade with the east, which may go bankrupt. Our states must be prepared for such an eventuality, and support those who will pay a high price for the necessary sanctions.

What we need is the military strengthening of the countries in the NATO’s eastern flank, on which Russian aggression may spill over. Poland, as the largest country in the region, must be prepared to provide aid to its neighbors, especially the Baltic countries isolated from the rest of NATO, if necessary.

The influx of war refugees from Ukraine must be taken very seriously. We must be prepared as a state and as a society for far-reaching solidarity and massive aid. It will be a very serious test, but I hope it will not take away our will and consistency in our efforts and necessary sacrifices. Words are cheap.

Let us show solidarity with the Ukrainians – those who will serve us today in a shop or a cafe, those who, locked in their homes, listen to Russian airplanes and news about their relatives, and those who, with arms in hand, stood up to an uneven fight in defense of their homeland.

Let us attend anti-war protests. As I am writing these words, a protest begins at the Russian Embassy in Warsaw at 10:00.

When Polish families get up for their normal day at work, taking their children to schools and kindergartens, Ukrainian parents are packing their bags in case of an emergency evacuation, listening closely to whether the bombing has started nearby. When we will be waiting for a late tram that will take us back home or complain about the traffic jam in the rush hours, Ukrainians will look for directions pointing them to the nearest bunker.

Let us not feel as if we are powerless. Let us not allow information noise and lies to make us indifferent.

Ukrainian brothers and sisters, we stand with you.


The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by dr Olga Łabendowicz

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