No to War An editorial from Meduza
4:30 pm, February 24, 2022
Last night, Vladimir Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” in the Donbas. The Russian authorities often use these kinds of euphemisms to hide the obvious, calling their mansions “hotels,” dubbing members of the political opposition “extremists,” and labeling independent journalists “foreign agents.” We, however, believe in calling things what they are: Russia has begun a full-scale war against Ukraine.
We trust that every Meduza reader is aware that war always means deaths — both the deaths of people sent into combat and the deaths of innocent civilians. The Russian Defense Ministry is trying to convince both Russians and Ukrainians that “military infrastructure” is the only thing under threat. They are lying. There’s no weapon that can be deployed without leading to the loss of human life. We’re already reading the first reports of fatalities. There will undoubtedly be more.
The popular saying holds that war is the continuation of politics by other means. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz formulated this idea in the early nineteenth century. However, in the modern world — which has been through two world wars and had the monstrous experience of the use of nuclear weapons, — war isn’t a continuation of politics, it’s evidence of their complete failure. In our case, it’s evidence that Russia’s leadership, having committed to a military invasion of Ukraine, failed to meet the challenges it set for itself. Whatever they may have been.
There’s only one situation that can justify the use of tanks and military aircraft: self-defense. That’s exactly what Putin referred to when he announced this “special military operation.” The problem is that we don’t have a single piece of convincing evidence that anybody was planning to attack Russia. And the responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in the Donbas lies to a great extent with the Russian authorities themselves.
The tragic experience of the twentieth century should have been enough to convince Putin that Moscow’s intrusion into its neighbors’ lives wouldn’t bring them closer to Russia, but drive them further away. That’s what happened after the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states in 1940, after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, and, of course, during the Prague Spring of 1968. Evidently, President Putin would rather lecture people about history than learn from it.
We understand that we’ve found ourselves in a situation where we hold little sway. But we have a duty to state loudly and clearly that this is not our war and we do not support it. The invasion of Ukraine was started on behalf of Russian citizens but against our will. The shame that comes with it will be with us forever.
The fighting must be stopped immediately and the Russian army must return to Russian territory. Let’s stop this. It’s never too late to end a war.