From Shock At Russia’s Aggression To A Thirst For Victory – OpEd
By Arab News
By Anatolii Petrenko*
Feb. 24, 2022, is the date that has been heavily engraved in the hearts of all Ukrainians. This day has become the cornerstone for the reassessment of the role of Ukraine in the world. By destroying false stereotypes about Ukraine, that it “is not ready or able” to defend itself, we have persuaded the international community of our determination to fight for every patch of native land, thus protecting our shared fundamental democratic principles and values.
During this painful year, the whole world has witnessed appalling war crimes, enormous damage, murders and ruined destinies. People living their ordinary lives, enjoying every moment of peaceful being, making plans, building careers and contributing to the development of their country, unexpectedly faced a new reality. A reality that was saturated with cruelty, barbarity and unlimited violence.
Just some shocking figures to take note of: 9,576 civilians, including 461 children, have died; 69,768 war crimes and crimes of aggression have been committed; 80,080 civilian infrastructure assets have been damaged or destroyed; and a third of Ukraine’s territory requires demining.
That is what Ukrainians are undergoing day by day, month by month throughout the year. But our losses and the widespread destruction indicate the resilience and unity of the Ukrainian nation. Our position remains unchanged: We will continue to stand up for our freedom. Our cause is just and right.
War against Ukraine is a massive social phenomenon, led by an imperialistic leadership and comprehensively supported by a vicious Russian community. This is a fact sustained by the year-long passive behavior of most Russians, who have betrayed the idea of peaceful coexistence and totally ignored the Russian-led aggression in a neighboring country.
Moreover, according to open data statistics, more than 70 percent of Russian people support the war on the territory of Ukraine, with a majority of them standing for continued warfare, despite the scale and number of their own losses. People have grown up with hatred of other nations, fueled by a distorted perception of a “progressing Russia” and a “decaying West.” All of this is powered by militarized consciousness, effectively developed by a war ideology, which has been widely proliferated among ordinary Russians by the political leadership for decades.
Instead of dealing with domestic problems like poverty, corruption, economic instability and a total absence of liberty, Russians are trying to impose their destructive lifestyle on others. They have so much land to develop, they could have so much potential to evolve, but the only thing they are craving is destruction. Just look at the debris and ruins they left in Ukrainian cities. Mariupol, Popasna, Bakhmut and many others. Only ashes and black lands. That is what their “Russian world” looks like.
That is why the Russian aggression cannot be considered as purely “Putin’s war” — it is the war of all Russians. It is the war of their common choice and desire.
Russia’s irresponsible behavior threatens all subjects of world order. Its disrespect of and arrogance toward international law are causing problems for nations that are far away from Europe. Comprehension of the negative effects of its actions does not stop Russia from further aggravation. Maybe they like finding themselves in a position as an influential global force. But the only thing they can influence is the stability and security of other countries. Thus, having influence for them means the ability to cause trouble.
Why do our people have to suffer from high prices, malnutrition, terrorism and other social and economic woes? If Russians cannot live according to international rules or just refuse to live in a civilized world, then the only option left is to allow them to live in their marginal world.
Meanwhile, reliable partnerships and friendship are among the values that Ukraine appreciates to the utmost extent. The US has always been considered a strategic partner and its solidity has been successfully tested numerous times. Our American friends are leaders in consolidating the efforts of the international community to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, to counter the aggression of Russia, and to provide multifaceted assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine-US strategic relations will remain an essential foundation that is capable of persuading others who are perhaps hesitating to decide which side of history they will choose.
Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine has not only accelerated a number of global trends, but also furthered the process of Ukrainian self-determination. The fact is that Ukraine has always been and will remain a member of the European family, historically, culturally and economically, with Ukrainians sincerely and unconditionally sharing its democratic values and liberal views. This is confirmed by Ukraine’s consistent movement toward EU membership, while receiving reciprocal support.
Despite Russia’s invasion, Ukraine continues to successfully transform itself and looks forward to opening accession talks. Ukraine’s membership in the EU is in the bloc’s best strategic interest. As an EU member state, Ukraine will significantly strengthen the security of Europe and its global standing, with Ukraine also becoming a new success story of the European project.
Ukraine’s ambition to become a full-fledged member of the EU is indispensable to its Euro-Atlantic integration. Almost 90 percent of the Ukrainian population supports aspirations on this track. And that is going to be a strategic solution for Ukraine’s stability and security in years to come.
Despite the pessimistic forecasts of global intelligence and military analysts, who gave Ukraine only a few hours to resist, the Ukrainian nation has been fighting a real people’s war for freedom, identity and the right to exist throughout the last year, showing unprecedented courage and bravery. Ukraine has demonstrated that her lion-hearted nation is ready to stand up for our shared ideals and principles with all possible means and instruments.
We must honor all those who have perished, making the ultimate sacrifice in the war for the freedom of Ukraine.
Special words of respect must go to the heroic Ukrainian soldiers who amaze everyone with their impressive quick-thinking and incredible skills, especially in speedily mastering foreign weapons systems. Now, Ukraine has one of the most capable defense forces in the world, is prevailing over its enemy in terms of tactics and strategy, and is demonstrating world-class competence and qualifications.
Every day, the forces of Ukraine effectively protect the whole of Europe from Russian chauvinism and imperial folly, which poses a threat to the global security architecture.
No nation desires peace more than Ukraine, but what is needed is a just and lasting peace that will prevent any new war against Ukraine or any other nation. The president of Ukraine has proposed a complex initiative consisting of 10 specific steps to reestablish all the elements of peaceful coexistence in the interests of the entire international community.
For a diplomatic resolution of the war to be successful, we need the united will of the whole world. The West’s voice is strong, but not enough to reinstate global security and guarantee long-term international peace. To achieve this goal, the countries of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America must come forward and use their weight and influence.
Every voice and every country matters, as the UN Charter does not differentiate between “big” and “small” states, or influential and non-influential ones. Those who are earnestly seeking peace should join the consolidated international efforts to implement the Ukrainian Peace Formula. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, being a respectful regional leader, could make a great contribution. We hope to see it taking the lead in one of the prominent elements of the Ukrainian initiative.
Ukraine alone has taken the shock of the Russian invasion and, by her national resilience and adherence to international law, has generated a worldwide thirst for victory. This is noble, this is right and we should maximize all efforts to bring much-needed peace to Ukraine and deliver lasting stability to the entire world.
• Anatolii Petrenko is the ambassador of Ukraine to Saudi Arabia.