Many people are asking whether Ukraine just doesn’t give up. Would that not save lives? How bad can it possibly be? All those cities destroyed, all those refugees, would it not be better to continue living in peace than to resist a much larger enemy? Anyone asking this needs to consider the evidence of what is actually happening.
Russia is not just waging a war, it is waging a campaign of “denazification” and “demilitarization.” What does that mean? Listen to the Russian propaganda, and you will understand: According to the official Russian playbook, a “Nazi” in Ukraine is anyone believing to be Ukrainian instead of accepting to be a “Small Russian.” If you believe that Ukraine has a culture and history of its own, that the Ukrainian people are a people of their own, that the Ukrainian language is its own language, you are considered a nationalist, and therefore a “Nazi.” “Denazification” in this understanding thus means to root out everything Ukrainian, or to reduce it as much as possible.
This explains how this war is waged: Deliberate attempts at destruction of any military capacity, combined with the deliberate destruction of civilian structures – houses and apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, theaters. Elected officials are abducted, some of them killed. We have also now seen how Russian soldiers have tortured, raped and killed unarmed civilians wherever they could, and how they have looted houses and apartments. Wherever the Russian soldiers have gone, they have violated all rules of conduct and engagement.
This war violates the ius ad bellum – the legal justification to wage war – because there has not been any legitimate reason for Russia to invade Ukraine since 2014, including Crimea and Donbass. You are unhappy how the Russian-speaking minority is allegedly mistreated? Since when is that a reason to invade? Russia regularly has violated its own minorities and forcefully Russified them – because Russian nationalism has been the only nationalism allowed in Russia and the Soviet Union.
This war also violates the ius in bello – the legal conduct during war – because of the indiscriminate and deliberate destruction of civilian lives and structures. Given that the war itself is illegal, even attacks on Ukrainian military structures are illegal. Russia has no right to attack anything in Ukraine. This is a war of aggression.
There is a word for the deliberate destruction of a people whose very existence you want to eradicate: Genocide. The lesson from the Holocaust was a loudly sounding “never again.” If we mean it, just as we meant it in Bosnia when we stood up against Serbian aggression, we need to mean it now. This is already the third attempt by Russia to eradicate Ukraine from history, after the Holodomor and Soviet occupation. Ukrainian resistance needs to be supported with any means necessary and possible. Ukraine’s territorial integrity needs to be restored. Russia has to be defeated, it needs to pay reparations for everything they have done to Ukraine since 2014, and it needs to undergo a thorough transformation – a second perestroika. This obsession with erasing Ukraine needs to stop.