Peace and freedom require morally responsible action from all of us. The West must not repeat the mistakes that led to the Ukraine war and must assume its historical responsibility. This is the title of the following article by Claude Radoux, published in the ‘Luxemburger Wort’ of 25 February 2023:
Great was the shock for the people in Ukraine and in the rest of Europe when the first bombs fell on Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities in the early morning of 24 February. Missiles and bomb alerts were accompanied by news of the first advancement of Russian troops on the ground. For many it was a surprise, for others it was confirmation of what they had recognised since 2014: Vladimir Putin is seeking a resurgence of the Soviet Union, driven not so much by Leninist socialism as by Great Russian nationalism and Stalinism. Others had already suspected it with the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. Putin had announced his world-view in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007.
After the occupation of Crimea by the so-called “green men”, who appeared at the end of February 2014 and shortly afterwards guarded the vote on Crimea's accession to Russia with machine guns in the regional parliament, there had been very few dissenting voices from democratic Europe. Neither the Russian-organised revolts in the Donbass nor the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in July 2014 has led to any clear statements from the EU or NATO.
This silence, in part almost to be understood as approval, has undoubtedly influenced the course of history to the detriment of a free Ukraine.
The political leaders from that time can be accused of serious decision-making errors. But it was not only politics that failed. The representatives of the business community have run exclusively after mercantilist, commercial gain. Civil societies in many countries have been complacent and have swallowed Russian propaganda uncritically.
February 24, 2022, finally put everyone before their responsibilities. The Ukrainian people did not hesitate and took up arms. Women and children were taken to safety, the men went back to their towns and villages to the front with the defence forces. The EU also woke up and, together with the German Chancellor, announced the “historic turning point”, so called “Zeitenwende”.
In retrospect, it can be said that the reactions were initially too timid, partly because no one trusted Ukraine to hold out for more than a few days or weeks. Here it may be stated that not only Putin's intelligence service failed in its assessment of the Ukrainian resistance, but also the Western military and civilian intelligence services obviously provided their governments with incorrect assessments of the balance of power.
For all the criticism and regret about the aforementioned mistakes in the period from 2007 to 2022, the actions and, above all, the omissions have proven that the West has not been actively working to create a strong Ukraine or has not been engaging in sophisticated geopolitics. What is clear is exclusively the will for freedom and self-determination of the vast majority of the Ukrainian population, which has determined history.
“Peace without freedom cannot be the goal.”
Ukrainians have wanted to get closer to the EU for decades. Certainly, also for economic reasons, but above all for domestic political reasons. Ukrainians want to live in a country that provides them with the same rule-of-law framework as the EU. Geopolitically, they have always been careful of Russia, just as adolescent youths are careful not to provoke irascible parents.
In Western Europe, we have lived in peace since 1945 and, above all, in freedom. Freedom to speak our minds, to conclude our state agreements, to elect different parties, economic freedom and social freedoms. We should not forget how valuable that is. Ukrainians aspire to the same freedoms, and it is therefore incomprehensible to many when individuals in the West call for immediate peace without at the same time demanding peace for a free Ukraine. Peace without freedom cannot be the goal.
The desire to live in freedom
The resistance of the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion was accompanied by an enormous wave of solidarity and willingness to help from European civil society. Such broad and spontaneous solidarity has not been seen since the Second World War. Perhaps it was also the attitude of their electorate that persuaded European politicians, after much toing and froing, to grant Ukraine candidate country status in the summer. A big step for which Ukraine is deeply grateful.
“The mistakes that led to the Ukraine war were avoidable.”
During the obligatory celebrations of the end of the First and Second World Wars or the commemoration ceremonies of the war victims, it is always evoked that we must not forget the past. That is true, of course. But even more so, we must act accordingly. The mistakes that led to the Ukraine war were avoidable.