Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has parallels with 1939

Ukrainians rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, February 24, 2022. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases. Photo by Oleksandr Khomenko/ Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News
Ukrainians rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, February 24, 2022. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases. Photo by Oleksandr Khomenko/ Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has rightly shocked the world. It is the most tragic event of our century so far, with parallels to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

The excuses and justifications given for these two invasions are strikingly similar, both groundless and horribly deceptive.

I speak out categorically against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since Putin’s famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russia has repeatedly broken international law, yet faced no significant negative consequences or condemnation. If it is possible to annex Crimea without punishment, Russia realised, then Ukraine could be free for the taking as well.

The West must stop being afraid.

All believers in a civilised world must do their utmost to stop aggression and hold the ones who instigated it responsible. Whilst collective action, including military aid and sanctions, are necessary, the system of international law and justice must be strengthened and tightened, ensuring that justice and the basic rights of all people are upheld, and every aggressor stopped.

Leaders have to know that there will be personal consequences for reckless and unlawful actions that endanger the lives of innocents.

If we in the West fail to act, we will remain passive bystanders, watching and remaining silent as innocent people are placed in mortal danger.

Many Russian citizens, perhaps even the majority, are categorically against the invasion of Ukraine.

However, a large number still stand in support of Russia’s invasion, believing the false justifications of the Russian government in the absence of a genuine democracy and free media to question its actions.

Whatever further machinations are being planned at the moment by a bunch of criminals, Russia will soon have to return to its senses.

Knowing the Russian people as I do, I am ultimately optimistic that Russia will eventually and inevitably return to a civilised and harmonious path of development. It is, after all, a great country, with incredible human and natural resources. But how long this takes depends on many factors, including the actions we all take to make it so.

The aftermath of the Second World War showed us the frightening consequences of war for nations embroiled in it, even for those that tried to remain outside observers. If we remain passive bystanders today, reading the headlines without mobilising international law to prevent further destruction, the same fate awaits us.

I must speak out. I am not pro-Putin and I do not stand with his kleptocracy. It has been all too easy for people to assume that anyone who has built a successful business in Russia is pro-Putin. The rationale for this is obvious – to be able to operate successfully in modern Russia, Putin and the authorities demand their dues. There is no other option. But for those of us who have refused to comply, the response from Putin and his associates has been ruthless. Whole businesses have been seized, and more than this, the authorities have targeted anyone who resists their corruption and illegality with fabricated criminal cases. It is not enough to take away businesses and possessions, so they are taking away individual freedoms, forcing opponents to leave Russia or face being thrown in a cell. Within this context, you can truly understand the bravery of anyone within Russia today who makes a public stand against Putin and this unjustifiable war.

For more than 30 years, I have been striving to support the development of democracy, local self-government, the market economy, and non-profit and charitable initiatives in Russia, to help foster an open, fair, and civilized Russian society. The current regime has no interest in that kind of society and that is why anyone who has a voice should speak out against the injustice and unwarranted aggression we are witnessing against the people and Government of Ukraine. Those responsible for these crimes, starting with the Russian President, must be held to account.

About the Author
Dr. Boris Mints is a businessman, philanthropist and committed supporter of cultural and social projects. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of Patrons of The Conference of European Rabbis (CER), which is the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe. He is also a President and Founder of The Boris Mints Institute, which is based at The Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences in Tel Aviv University, and honorary Professor of Tel Aviv University. In 2016, Dr Boris Mints expanded his family philanthropic contribution by creation of The Mints Family Charitable Foundation. He also established the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow in 2014.
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