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What it means to be a pacifist

Many in the UK are confusing pacifist movements with threats to democracy

By Caterina Fumero

Photo courtesy of Nato via Flickr

It is a weird time to be a pacifist. That’s how I would sum up the ongoing debate in Britain on a possible intervention in Ukraine. Recently, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has accused the Stop the War coalition of being ‘naïve (…) not benign voice for peace’ and he went as far as saying that they are actively helping authoritative leaders who threaten democracies. Apparently, according to /The Guardian/, he’s not the only one to feel that way.

I personally think that this is a very superficial, and to be honest, actively ignorant way to approach the issue. I find it more harmful to ridicule pacifists' voices rather than trying to listen to what they are saying. Because I haven’t heard a single pacifist claiming that Ukraine has sought the war; they have all condemned Putin’s actions and stood in solidarity with Ukraine.

To condemn the war doesn’t mean that we should just sit on our couches and observe, like we have done for the past decades with the Gaza conflict. To condemn the war is to value human lives, is to seek solutions that might go beyond sending kids and fathers to the frontline to kill each other. It is that privilege that we have, and Ukrainians do not, since they had to become soldiers literally overnight to defend their country.

What I am saying is, wars are usually much more complicated than what one could expect, and the path to peace is a troubled and difficult one. And it is so difficult because either you send your men to kill each other until one side surrenders, or you look for a compromise, which is indeed harder. There is nothing ‘pro Putin’ in saying that Russia might have security concerns about Ukraine joining Nato. It is just more complicated, isn’t it?

To find a compromise between Ukraine’s right of self-determination and Putin’s concern over Nato. In a utopian world, Ukraine should be able to do and be whatever they want, Russia should mind its own business and maybe, as we are already dreaming, Nato and Russia shouldn’t feel threatened by each other.

But, as the world is everything but perfect, we need to recognise the complexity of the ongoing war. Our leaders failed Ukraine when it was the time for negotiations, and what Putin is doing is so horrible, but in our position as countries who do not need to defend ourselves from the immediate threat of invasion, is there any way we can help without killing?

I see videos from Ukraine, and I personally can’t help but think that those Russian soldiers could be my younger brother, and that nobody of those who are putting their lives at stake there, neither Ukrainian nor Russian, chose to be there. It isn’t a war against Russia, it is against Putin, and the EU and US leaders should actively seek a compromise that protects people on both sides and stops the war.

I don’t think that sending soldiers to Ukraine will stop him. Putin must be stopped. Let’s work towards that.


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