Op-ed by Tamar Sulukhia, Director of ISET and ISET Policy Institute
The war in Ukraine had just begun when I wrote (on the ISET Policy Institute's website and in the Georgia Today) that the present events in Ukraine offer the world a chance to become better. I could not have predicted at the time that hostilities would unfold in such a disastrous fashion or scale, nor could I have anticipated that, following four weeks of the war, we would witness an even larger and, I would say unimaginable human and global catastrophe. Therefore, I return to the discussion of this critical topic.
The Power of Patriotism and Values in the 21st Century: The progress of humanity has been fueled by outstanding, heroic individuals throughout history, the events associated with them, and the positive impact of these patterns and events on diverse groups of people. The leaders of the world often directed and even today continue to exercise their influence for wicked and vile purposes; This is why acts of heroism frequently occurred utterly unexpectedly and the actors were everyday individuals. Recent events in Ukraine are no exception – we have witnessed an incredible devotion by President Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian government, and ordinary Ukrainians to their country's democratic, European, and free future. This choice and determination, which occurred simultaneously with the incalculable tragedy, set an enthralling example of patriotism for the rest of the world, revived a contemporary model of patriotism, and served as a reminder of a nations’ once nostalgic unity, which had been somewhat forgotten lately. For four weeks now, Ukraine has demonstrated ferocious resistance to Russia's supposedly invincible army, demonstrating to the world that, in the event of a dilemma, the moral and spiritual values of liberty and democracy for a highly developed nation in the twenty-first century take priority over the all-encompassing comfort of modern life.
Democracy is not permanent, and preserving it will require the cooperation of the entire democratic world: the war in Ukraine has shown to developed states that democracy is not permanent, it is still threatened from the outside and needs dire protection. This physical and mental struggle to safeguard democracy demands the cooperation and participation of all democracies, since if democracy is destroyed in one country, this time in Ukraine, it poses a threat to the entire democratic world. Ukraine demands a 'no-fly' zone over its airspace, which must be enforced on the west's behalf before the number of victims increases much further.
To develop a better understanding of this subject, let us conduct a simple test:
You are in a café with your family, sharing a piece of cake. Another ordinary family with children is seated next to you at a table, likewise, enjoying a cake. Consider that infamous criminals threaten, assault the entire family, including murdering the child. How are you going to act in this situation?
a. You are going to keep eating your cake (Approach: this is none of my business)
b. You will seek assistance and contact the authorities (Approach: relying on others, relying on institutions)
c. You will pay the affected family's bill, offer them water to help them relax, and transport them home (Approach: humanitarian and financial assistance)
d. Give the affected family a glass bottle to use as a defense weapon (Approach: Supply of weapons)
e. You will become involved, assisting in physically repelling criminals, and avoiding family members becoming victims (Approach: This bothers me; it is time to act)
I'm not sure which of the responses any of us would choose, but we must agree that (a) is ethically unacceptable, and such activity has always been considered a crime throughout human history. While options (b), (c), and (d) are 'endearing' and reflect solidarity, the only valid answer is found in option (e). This is not only because choice (e) is ethically superior, but also because if a family similar to yours is attacked and defeated by evil, you will be similarly attacked either immediately or in the coming days, with no guarantee that your child would not be killed as well. If we look at the Ukrainian example, its allies and supporters have thus far favored responses (b), (c), and (d) in this test. Ukraine receives (b) so welcome hopes and moral support from foreign states and international organizations, (c) major humanitarian help and overwhelming support for refugees, and (d) so much needed weaponry, but it requires more – which at the moment entails blocking the skies over its territories.
The democratic world deliberates and once again relies on human origins to support its views. The West believes that NATO and Western countries' engagement will prompt Russia to use nuclear weapons, resulting in World War III and worldwide devastation. Consider this: if your engagement in repelling aggression directed at another family result in violence directed at your own family, resulting in deaths, would it be a rational decision? No. However, what if you are the next on the list in any case? If Ukraine is defeated, other countries will most likely be forced to wage war against Russia, maintaining the threat of nuclear catastrophe and global devastation. In that situation, the world may witness the slow rebirth of the ‘Soviet Union’. When, in fact, a timely and more engaged international response during the occupation of Georgian regions in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 could have averted today's war and immeasurable tragedy.
I completely concur that crisis management and problem-solving require a detached, analytical mindset. However, let us not overlook the fact that the world now has an opportunity to stand on the right side of history, avert the ideological collapse of democracy, and preserve the image of competent international institutions. In this manner, the world can improve even further than it now is, but it must happen while losses in Ukraine and elsewhere remain countable.
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS AND THE MORAL DILEMMA
Despite the foregoing, the democratic world has never been so united or demonstrated such unity in its history. Sanctions imposed by the West, hundreds of companies exiting the Russian market, billions of dollars channeled in aid, public support from thousands of celebrities, millions of ordinary people transferring money to Ukraine (including high- and low-income people) and collecting humanitarian aid, as well as the dedication of foreign volunteers who have joined the Ukrainian army, are what unite the world. Combating Putin's evil, admiring the Ukrainians, and sharing their tragedy all serve as a clear demonstration of solidarity.
Sanctions are immensely detrimental not just to Russia and impacted individuals, but also to the imposing countries and businesses that have exited the Russian market. The West's efforts to resolve the energy problem in the absence of Russian supply and to develop other extreme austerity scenarios are a vivid illustration of the harm. The decision to impose the measures is not based on economic considerations, profit-loss analyses, or the establishment of a so-called 'comfort zone,' but on more fundamental ideological principles such as democracy and human dignity. The world is clearly divided into two halves – bright and dark – and everyone has the option of choosing their own position. Today, in an age of super technologies and enhanced intellectual capacities, one cannot remain neutral or silent.
March 18th marked the eighth anniversary of Crimea's unlawful annexation, which was widely commemorated in Moscow by tens of thousands of protesters. Additionally, the occasion was used to rally support for Putin's war in Ukraine. This once again showed that there are many people on the other side of the rift between the democratic world and Russia and that Putin's social contract with the majority of his people remains intact. A critical factor in the establishment of a new global balance of forces is China's position, which is not yet fully understood. All we can do is wait and see whether China's economic interests outweigh the moral dilemma it faces and whether China contributes to Russia's war.
Today, each of us has an opportunity to speak up for democracy, humanistic principles, and a better future. Ukraine deserves our gratitude and glory!