Anxious but hopeful for the future, we have gathered here in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. That hope is rooted in the respect accorded a nation which has risen in its own defence. As Ukrainians move forward, we sense their determination and we take pride in their poise and grace. But we are also anxious. That anxiety emanates from the fear all might be lost as the clouds of war gather over Ukraine.
The threat of war is both real and palpable. Against standard international law, in contravention of bilateral agreements and in breach of the UN Charter, Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukraine has shown restraint. But war has a call of its own. And for those who court it, like Russia’s President, Mr Putin, they now make possible what was once thought to be inconceivable. As they invite disaster, they now make probable what was once thought to be unimaginable.
In occupying Crimea, Russia has embarked on a policy of aggression. This has enormous implications not only for Ukraine, but also Europe and the global community. Without respect for the sovereign right of nations, all that remains is anarchy and the abyss.
Russia cites strategic and humanitarian interests in support of its claim to intervene. Its leadership alludes to chaos, reaction and anti-Russianism as reasons for the incursion and occupation. Violence against ethnic Russian kindred in Ukraine is also mentioned. In response to criticism by those who oppose the occupation, Russia’s leadership declares: “This is not aggression. It is fraternal assistance.” As the plot thickens, war beckons and the yawning void of anarchy unfolds.
It is, to be sure, a duplicitous foreign policy that Russia follows, relying as it does on deception as a counter to evidence pointing to the contrary. Moreover, it is a sham foreign policy that Russia follows when it characterizes the Maidan as “a den of terror.” It is, equally, a disingenuous foreign policy when the natural right of a people to defend itself from rapine is described as “armed mutiny.” Being without measure or reason, however, Russia’s foreign policy is also borne of fear and loathing for Ukraine and all that Ukraine now represents.
Ukraine without Yankovyuch – a Ukraine that is free and democratic, open and pluralist, where society insists on the rule of law and rejects corruption – is a challenge to Putin’s Russia. These are values and principles that highlight what is wrong with Russia today. But they also offer a guide to what yet might be right in Russia tomorrow. For this reason, Putin seeks to discredit the Maidan, ignore diplomacy, and dismember Ukraine.
The people of Ukraine are called upon once more to defend what they have so dearly won. It is unclear where this may lead. We look to the peacemakers. We pray for peace. We hope for peace. We take heart in those who have shown extraordinary restraint in the name of peace. But above all, we stand united with those who struggle so that one-day there might be peace. To them, we owe our gratitude. And, to them, we must promise to do all we can for the sake of peace.