Non-violence and neutralism in Ukraine

We all have great sympathy for the fate of Ukrainians now. But what position should we adopt? The press offers only one perspective: to...

We all have great sympathy for the fate of Ukrainians now. But what position should we adopt? The press offers only one perspective: to support the Ukrainians militarily and financially and to celebrate their heroic resistance.

Insight into the daily plight of Ukrainians can be shed if I (Tom Roeper) resurrect my experience of the Russian invasion of Prague in 1968. I was trying to visit Prague – where I have relatives – but I don’t speak Czech. The Russian invasion happened a few hours after my companion and I arrived and found a spot on the outskirts of town. The hotel owner woke us up in the middle of the night and said “go to your American embassy, ​​the Russians are there”. So we left on foot and saw a few men carrying guns saying they were going to defend the city against the Russians. I did not see any other Czech, then or later, nor through any official representative, declare that he would defend the city.

The American Embassy, ​​which had been the home of the Petchecks who were (and are) friends of my family, had a big Russian tank parked out front and wouldn’t let us in. A diplomat told us to go back to our hotel, which we couldn’t do anymore. It later turned out that they weren’t alarmed because the Russians had warned them in an effort to avoid World War III. So, in a sense, the Americans gave them permission to articulate their sphere of influence.

Once back on the street, we had nothing to eat, nowhere to go, no way out, and no information about what was going on. We were adrift in a world of rumors. A rumor said that the borders were closed, which gave us no reason to go there. The station was crowded and no one was going anywhere, as is the case in Ukraine today. It was a scary situation for us and for the Ukrainians.

The main feature of my experience was the darkness. Everything was unknown and unstable. We finally found a hostel with spare beds. The radio blared through loudspeakers in the walls, but the Czechs said the radio station was the first thing the Russians took over.

To get our bearings and look for information, we walked to Wencelas Platz in the city center where there were maybe 20 Russian tanks, surrounded by people who were laughing. No conversation took place as the soldiers were largely Eastern Muslims and did not appear to speak Russian from Czech. Someone in the crowd threw something on fire through an opening in a tank, and one of the Russians came out firing a machine gun. Everyone, including us, scattered to nearby storefronts. About ten people were injured and ambulances arrived, but nothing more.

The salient fact is that the Czechs chose not to resist with violence and did not engage in dangerous heroic acts of armed resistance. It saved many lives. The leaders quickly signed an agreement to change the government and 20 years later Chechnya and Slovakia are independent countries.

The New York Times on March 7 reports that the Prime Minister of Moldova, which directly borders Russia, has claimed that they are “neutral”. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he wants to “neutralize” Ukraine, and even Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken of “neutrality” as an option to be discussed. Austria was declared neutral after World War II by the post-war powers.

These perspectives sometimes deserve a sentence or two of comment, but they are not presented as serious solutions by the chains and the mainstream periodicals. One should wonder why our media instead treats violent resistance as the only option in Ukraine. An incomplete but relevant response notes the heavy corporate commitments of the news media, both directly to their owners and indirectly to advertisers.

We are not in a position to judge those who are on the ground. However, there is no reason to ignore the possibility that Ukraine may be neutral and that its people may be encouraged to respond to Russia’s criminal invasion in a non-violent manner. The world now has many areas, such as South Africa, which over time have achieved regime change, or imperfect colonies, without war. Spain has both Basque and Catalonia with new arrangements or seeking.

In every area of ​​conflict, it is essential that committed outsiders, including other countries, formulate solutions to problems that the protagonists may not be able to adopt without negotiations. Independent voices – countries, groups of citizens – must discuss detailed alternatives to stimulate real negotiations and achieve peace. It is simply absurd to assert that Russia has no reason to fear the United States or NATO near its borders, when the United States has been involved in unlawful aggression in so many parts of the world. We must, as President Joe Biden casually remarked at a recent press conference, seek a peace in which “the security concerns of all parties are respected.”

Today, March 7, the Russians made a ceasefire offer with many conditions which the Ukrainians immediately rejected. Again, an opportunity to trade may not have been thoroughly explored. We can see how American public opinion, orchestrated by the mass media, plays a role here: if citizens have expressed a preference for federal spending to go to humanitarian organizations helping Ukrainians, rather than arms contracts , so perhaps this peace offer would have been more attractive. option.

This underscores the need for non-protagonists to think about a reasonable peace plan and seek international support for it.

Tom Roeper is a linguistics professor and resident of Amherst. Tyler Fish lives in Northampton.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Non-violence and neutralism in Ukraine
Non-violence and neutralism in Ukraine
Newsrust - US Top News
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