The battle in Ukraine must be for human, not Western values

Vladimir Putin’s brutal and cruel war against the Ukrainian people is completely unjustified.

It is entirely appropriate, and even necessary, for us here in Canada and in other western countries to oppose this war. We are right to support the Ukrainians by all reasonable means that do not expand the war or risk the global catastrophe of a nuclear conflagration.

But it is a mistake and potentially self-defeating for us to label the conflict as defending our own Western values.

Not only is this claim fallacious, given the West’s own history, but it does not help build a broad coalition to support Ukraine.

Many Southern countries oppose Putin

There have been two votes on war in the United Nations General Assembly, the most recent on March 22. In both cases, only a small handful of countries sided with the Russians. The majority voted with Western countries to condemn the Russians as aggressors.

This majority includes many members of the UN from the countries of the Southincluding Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil.

Some of these countries might, under other circumstances, feel a certain affinity for Putin’s Russia. In the case of the invasion of Ukraine, however, it is clear that they cannot stand the murderous brutality of the Russian President and his blatant disregard for international law.

With this in mind, it is counterproductive for leaders and pundits in the United States, Canada and Western Europe to gossip about our superior Western values. Such ill-considered talk will not strengthen the resolve of the many non-Western countries that now oppose Russian aggression.

The two most populous countries, China and India, chose to abstain in both votes at the UN. But it is remarkable, and not insignificant, that they did not side with Russia.

The rest of us have an interest in maintaining Chinese and Indian neutrality. We don’t want the two giants leaning towards Putin as we continue to hope that the Russian leader will finally see the reason – or, failing that, decide that the cost of an outright victory would be too high – and agree to a ceasefire. fire and a negotiated settlement.

President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has already acknowledged that his country will not seek NATO membership and has signaled that he is open to considering some sort of autonomous status for the two disputed regions in eastern Ukraine. .

For us in the West, as we legitimately support Ukraine, a good measure of candor about our own record might be in order.

Slavery, Colonialism, Coups and Death Squads

What Putin is doing is an act of aggressive imperialist expansion. But we in the West know all about imperialism and the cavalier use of violence to advance imperial ambitions.

Our heritage includes the slave trade and the extensive and profitable slave economy that the trade nurtured. For several hundred years, the legal practice of slavery meant that millions of people were forced to live in misery, while millions more died in horrific and degrading circumstances.

And this legacy is not just a matter of ancient history. If you were to visit plantations in the Deep South of the United States today, guides would show you the unserviced slave shacks where sharecroppers and other farm workers still lived in the 1980s.

Then there is colonialism and efforts to eradicate indigenous peoples. We are still dealing with the legacy of this company in Canada to this day.

The end of World War II was meant to usher in an era of peace and human rights, inspired by US President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from fear and need – and the creation of the United Nations.

Instead, since the defeat of fascism, the world has witnessed almost constant warfare, largely in support of self-serving imperial ambition.

During the 1950s, the French and British engaged in a number of costly and futile rearguard military actions to keep their empires intact – in Algeria, Indochina and Kenya. The Portuguese stayed there much longer, well into the 1970s, waging protracted wars to maintain control of their African possessions.

The way the United States has repeatedly used multiple forms of violence and coercion has had more lasting consequences. It has often done so in order to promote the economic interests of transnational corporations. Moreover, like Putin today, the United States has used violence to defend and expand its sphere of political and military influence.

America’s wars in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the 2000s in Iraq, were no more legal and justified than Putin’s current war in Ukraine.

A lot of dishonesty for everyone

Like Putin, American leaders have often been dishonest in their goals – defending non-existent democracy in Southeast Asia, for example, or getting rid of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And they were ruthlessly violent in their methods, which often resulted in casualties among innocent civilians, including children.

There is also the penchant of the United States, since 1945, to stage coups and fund insurgencies to get rid of regimes they considered hostile.

Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic and Salvador Allende in Chile were all victims of American interference. They had all been democratically elected.

And when repressive and authoritarian regimes sympathetic to Western interests faced popular resistance from below, the United States funded and supported paramilitary death squads.

In 1981, in the Salvadoran village of El Mozote, one such death squad murdered about 1,000 peoplemostly women and children, in cold blood.

It was the worst massacre in recent Latin American history, but it contributed only a small portion of the more than 70,000 victims of the Salvadoran Civil War.

In recent years, El Salvador has made a belated effort to bring to justice those responsible for the El Mozote killings and other similar atrocities. But the current right-wing populist and pro-American government of President Nayib Bukele is doing its best to put a stop to this effort.

In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin showed that he had learned his lessons of brutality well. The Russian leader obviously understands the usefulness of terror as a tactic of war. He doesn’t seem at all perturbed by all the Ukrainian blood on his hands, including the blood of a nonagenarian Holocaust survivor, pregnant women and innocent children.

In the West, we must do all we can to end the carnage and defend Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation. But if we are to keep the non-Western world on our side, we must stop claiming that we are doing so in the name of our own narrow interests and values.

We must defend Ukraine and oppose Putin’s aggression, on behalf of all humanity.