There are questions we urgently need to ask about the Russia–Ukraine war. Questions which are important for all of us, because this war holds in it the seeds of our future, whether for good or bad.
How we respond to the war as individuals and as nations depends on the answers we give, so I urge you to think in depth about your responses. I don’t offer answers of my own – but the questions may suggest answers, or perhaps indicate further questions which it would be useful to consider.
1) What are the root causes of the Russian invasion?
- Russian imperialism?
- Putin’s insanity?
- Russian nationalist populism of the kind witnessed in the UK over Brexit?
- Ukrainian nationalist populism of the kind witnessed in the UK over Brexit?
- Ukrainian treatment of its Russian speaking citizens?
- Ukraine’s drift towards NATO?
- NATO’s unwillingness to halt further eastward expansion?
- US interference in Ukrainian politics?
- US economic and military imperialism?
- Some or all of the above?
2) Which of these root causes (if they are root causes) can and should be addressed to achieve peace?
3) Now the war has started, what will minimise the death and suffering of ordinary Ukrainians?
- Perpetuate the war by ramping up financial and military support to Ukraine?
- Encourage all Ukrainians to fight to the death?
- Monster Russia and Russians and lionise Ukraine and the Ukrainians?
- Get as many Ukrainians as possible out of their country as quickly as possible, re-housing large parts of the Ukraine population elsewhere in the UK and Europe?
- Continue with sanctions against Russia, excluding oil and gas?
- Implement harsher sanctions?
- Declare war on Russia by attempting to implement a No Fly Zone over Ukraine?
- Declare war on Russia by bombing Russian positions in Ukraine?
- Negotiate with Russia on a peace treaty?
4) Is there a way to end the war which allows both Ukraine and Russia to ‘save face’?
- Ukraine join the EU but not NATO, committing itself to military neutrality?
- Russia retreat from Ukraine except Crimea and Donbas, with formal recognition of these regions as Russian?
- Russia retreat from all Ukraine except Crimea, with both sides reaffirming the Minsk Protocol in regard to Donbas?
5) If peace negotiations are to be successful, what would a realistic peace treaty look like?
- Involve total Russian capitulation and offer nothing in return?
- Re-affirm the Minsk Protocol and declare Ukrainian neutrality in return for Russian withdrawal (excluding Crimea and possibly Donbas)?
- Require Russia’s recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty and its right to join the EU?
- Involve a NATO commitment to halt further eastward expansion?
- Include Russian commitment to provide assistance/compensation toward rebuilding Ukraine?
- Require Russian commitment to honour the sovereignty of other local non-NATO states?
6) How can the risk of a multi-state or world war be minimised?
Can this risk be minimised
- Through further military support or assistance to Ukraine by Western nations?
- By threatening to declare war on Russia?
- By demanding Russia’s total capitulation and retreat?
- By effectively declaring war on Russia with the implementation of a No Fly Zone?
- By dialling down the rhetoric and urging peace talks between the two nations?
- By NATO confirming it will not expand further?
7) How can the risk of nuclear war be minimised?
- Through encouraging a peace settlement between the two nations?
- Through increased financial or military involvement in the war by the UK, EU, US or NATO?
8) What can we do as individuals to help Ukraine and the Ukrainians?
- Practice our diagnostic skills in assessing Putin’s mental or physical health?
- Proclaim on social or mainstream media our hatred for Putin and our support for Ukraine?
- Abuse or ‘cancel’ peace activists and anti-war campaigners?
- Urge our governments to participate more directly in the war?
- Urge politicians of all parties to support highly targeted sanctions against Russia’s military, economic and political elite?
- Urge our governments to cut their ties to Russian wealth?
- Urge our governments to explore any potential path towards negotiation and peace?
- Encourage our governments to dial down the war-like rhetoric?
- Encourage our governments to welcome refugees?
- Give financial or practical assistance to refugee charities or groups?
- Give financial or practical assistance to the Red Cross or similar charities?
9) What can we do as individuals to reduce the risk of all-out war?
- Be consistent and universal in our morality, treating all people of all nations as equally valuable, equally important and equally deserving of our empathy, consideration and support?
- Be resistant to group-think and propaganda?
- Strive to avoid punitive or tribalistic ways of thinking?
- Strive to be rational and calm?
I hope these questions have helped clarify your thinking about the crisis in Ukraine. Please feel free to offer your answers, or further questions, in the comments section below.
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Luke is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal collective and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).