IDG Condemns Russia’s War on Ukraine and Expresses Our Solidarity with the People of Ukraine
Reflections from IDG’s CEO
On September 8, 1941, the Nazi fascists launched the Siege of Leningrad, cutting communications, blocking all roads into the city, shutting off utilities, water, and electricity, and blocking food supplies, resulting in the longest and largest assault on an urban civilian population ever seen until that date. Vladimir Putin knows this history of Leningrad particularly well—his older brother died in the Siege as a toddler, and his father helped the Russians defend against the Nazis. This history spotlights Putin’s cynicism and depravity, as slightly more than eighty years later, Putin and his fascist cronies are exactly following the Nazis’ playbook, trying to surround, choke, and destroy Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other Ukrainian cities, and to brutally beat into submission their urban civilian populations. All of us at IDG condemn Russia’s wanton and reckless assault, and we express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine who bravely are standing up for the principles of freedom, democracy, rule-of-law, and association with Europe.
The people of Ukraine know full well Russia’s capacity for committing atrocities. Russia exterminated at least four million Ukrainians during the Great Famine of the early 1930s, and many more died during Stalin’s Purges and Terror of the late 1930s. During the decades of Soviet rule, Russia repressed Ukrainian language and culture and hunted down, jailed, and killed Ukrainians who advocated for these ideals. It is exactly Ukrainians’ knowledge of Russia’s capability for brutality and repression that drives them to integrate with Europe and resist Russia’s onslaught. Our thoughts are with our colleagues, friends, and family in Ukraine.
For me the war is very personal. I have spent much of my career contributing to Ukraine’s economic development and European integration, collaborating with many unbelievably talented and committed Ukrainians. For many years I lived in the center of Kyiv, in a neighborhood near St. Sophia’s Cathedral which you see in the background of many journalists’ TV reports and near Babyn Yar, the Holocaust memorial that Russia bombed. My wife is from Kharkiv – this is where she went to high school, School #134, recently bombed; this is Kharkiv University, where she went to college, also recently bombed; and this is the neighborhood where her parents own the apartment in which she grew up, where Russian cluster munitions recently fell near a neighborhood children’s hospital.
Why Is Ukraine Important?
The Ukraine war is of global significance for three reasons:
- The sheer scale of human suffering. The number of civilians coming under direct assault and the firepower being brought to bear against them is unprecedented in Europe since World War II, and the direct targeting of innocent civilians on a such a large scale is unconscionable regardless of where it takes place. The world has a moral obligation to respond.
- Ukraine is the linchpin to Euro-Atlantic peace and security. In November 2016, I gave a presentation on this topic at a conference in Warsaw on the Future of Europe (see the second half of the presentation on Why Does This Matter). My presentation placed Ukraine in historical context. For over a century, the US and Europe have struggled to expand and maintain democracy, peace, and security in Europe. World War II established a region of stability in western Europe, while chaos reigned behind the Iron Curtain in the East. The revolutions of 1989 moved this “chaos curtain” further east, bringing Central European countries into NATO and the EU. The Soviet independence movements of 1991 and the Balkan wars extended stability to the Baltics and Balkans, pushing the “chaos curtain” even further east. As I noted in conclusion to my presentation, Ukraine is geo-strategically critical because fully bringing Ukraine into Europe (along with Moldova) would fully establish a zone of countries united in their commitment to freedom, peace, democracy and security, for the first time in a history of centuries of conflict in Europe. This would seal the containment of Russia (the primary and singular threat to European security) to its own borders plus those of its puppet state of Belarus. In short, Ukraine is important because Ukraine is the Future of Europe.
- The precedent of Russia’s tactics. Russia is using its status as a nuclear power, suggesting a possibility to use nuclear weapons or to weaponize nuclear power plants in order to scare the world from responding to Russia’s violence and transgression of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international norms. Other nuclear powers (and potential nuclear powers) – North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India and China – are watching. How the world responds to this conflict will determine whether a new world order emerges in which nuclear powers have constraints on them or whether they are free to get away with anything they wish including taking over neighboring countries or murdering on a national scale.
This war already is more than just a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s threats are not only to Ukraine but to the whole of Europe and to the US. And Europe and the US already are participating in the conflict by assisting Ukraine in multiple ways. While everyone should be looking for all avenues to de-escalate the situation, this already is a world war between Russia and the civilized world, which now includes most countries on all continents taking at least some actions to support Ukraine and oppose Russia, and with Europe and the US leading the efforts. It is a war between freedom and tyranny. It is a world war we need to win. The military aggression needs to be ended, and Ukraine needs to be assisted to continue its progress with economic reforms, democratization, and European integration.