It goes without saying that I denounce the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war, though lasting just over a month so far, has seen 10,000’s of casualties and a litany of war crimes. It has also become the catalyst for a massive refugee crisis, sending over 4.5 million Ukrainians to flee their country.
The Russian government has used cries of “protecting the Russian people“, a justification oddly similar to the one used by the Nazis to legitimize violating the territory of a sovereign nation.
It would seem like fellow progressives would have no issue in denouncing the actions of the Russian government and supporting Ukraine. Instead I have seen prominent online progressives suddenly piping up after 7 years of silence about the alleged presence of Neo-Nazis in Ukraine. One “progressive” content creator with over 2 million followers on streaming network Twitch went so far as to say that the annexation of Crimea by Russian in 2014 was “justifiable”.
Outside of the internet, local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, in concert with the American Party for Socialism and Liberation, have held rallies denouncing NATO for supposedly causing the current conflict.
This is the tragedy that the progressive foreign policy doctrine finds itself in. I had thought that world peace and the right to self-determination for a country were core tenets of the left, but it turns out many so-called “leftists” will gladly oppose peace and the right of a nation if it is ideologically convenient. They will defend it by quoting holy communist literature akin to how Christian Fundamentalists will quote the Bible.
At the same time, I hear good faith chants of “No War!” A valiant cause, but what happens when war arrives unannounced at your door? What happens when self determination must be violently contested? You can yell “No Walls!” until you are blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean that walls will no longer exist.
Finally, progressives in America have correctly brought up the concern of well-meaning embargoes hurting ordinary Russian citizens but have failed to come up with any alternatives. Sanctions are the least worst option we have to influence Putin to end this war. I also hear vague allusions to “more diplomacy”, but what does that mean, really? President Biden, for all his criticisms, has attempted diplomacy with Putin, to no avail.
To be clear, there have been countless progressives who have denounced the Ukrainian invasion. But as progressives come to prominence in America, they must reject Putin apologia. They must formulate their own ideas and plans in this area.
It is imperative that we learn from this debacle so that we can one day effectively implement a humane and just foreign policy; one that does not exacerbate the suffering of the poor; one that avoids economic and military exploitation for profit; but one that nonetheless deals with the world it is in and does not shy away from conflict in defense of liberty.
Photo courtesy of Mikhail Metzel/Getty Images.