Every war is an abomination.
For many days I have struggled to articulate my thoughts on Russia’s terrible escalation of its conflict with Ukraine.
I was born in Yugoslavia in the early eighties. From a remove I saw the country dismembered by nationalist strongmen. My brother had recently finished his military service when the wars started in 1991 and he was drafted into the Slovenian territorial defence. Fortunately, he was unharmed. Fortunately, Slovenia’s experience of the war was short. Tragically, over 100,000 people died and over 4 million were driven from their homes in the wars over the next 10 years. Grievances hardened into hatreds and the lives of generations were scarred.
And I was lucky. And my country was lucky. And still, I think the war was the bad outcome. The lives ended are gone forever. The lives of the survivors are overturned forever. There were no victors.
Yes, our nation has, as our nationalists remind us, achieved its “1200 year dream of independence”.
But the nation is an imaginary thing.
And the dead are dead for ever.
Every war is an eternal stain on the leaders who foment it.
I have lived in a few countries in Europe, today I live in South Korea. I have friends from Ukraine and from Russia. They have family in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Dnipro. I have other friends from Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania. I hoped to visit Crimea, hike the Caucasus mountains, drive across Eurasia from Korea to Vladivostok to Portugal. Ukraine is not a far and distant land. It is close to home. I have walked Kyiv’s streets, eaten in its restaurants, visited its churches.
The illegal war that the Russian president-eternal Vladimir Putin started against Ukraine in February 2014 is abhorrent. His recent decision escalate the war and attempt to destroy Ukraine as an independent nation is monstrous.
It surprised me. The USA, once the beacon of democracy, has so stained itself with two decades of endless wars on terror, invasions, assassinations, secret prisions, torture and more that when it warned of Putin’s invasion, it was like the Boy who cried Wolf.*
It surprised me, because it is so stupid. Putin’s invasion will slaughter thousands, bring suffering and deprivation to millions. It will make Russians pariahs in Europe and beyond. It will finally end for generations the amity that many Ukrainians honestly felt for Russia before the start of the war in 2014. It will forge Ukraine as an unbreakable nation, through its suffering. In the end, Russia itself will choke on this war.
As the Oracle said, “If Croesus goes to war he will destroy a great empire.”
What will come next? After? After that?
I do not know. The future is a cloudy night.
When covid struck and I saw the different responses in East Asia and the West and Russia and elsewhere, I had a sense of something momentuous. Of the axis of the world turning and of history returning with a vengeance.
The axis is turning. Where it will turn, is unclear. That it turns greased with the blood of innocent Ukrainians and conscripted Russians, watered with the tears of millions of families, is clear.
My heart weeps for the victims. The dead. The maimed. The homeless. The bereft. The emigrés safe but helpless abroad.
Please, if you can, consider donating to the victims of this unprovoked military aggression.
I have donated to ICRC (https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/europe-central-asia/ukraine). Choose the charity that suits you best.
Please, do not forget that most Russians are also victims of the Russian president-eternal and his government.
Please, if you can, stand for freedom, peace and solidarity against aggression.
*The background of this war is also complicated and involves the geopolitics and strategy of great powers, the manoeuvrings of middling and small powers, alliances and more. This is a fact, but it is not the point of this post.