- “The longer wars last, the more difficult it is to reclaim lost liberties” Ukraine’s fragile democracy is proving this statement to be true.
- Since the fall of the Soviet Union Ukraine’s government has frequently been marked by corruption and repression.
- The threat of nuclear exchange between the world’s two primary nuclear weapon states is largely looming over our heads after 60 years.
War and democracy have always been more comfortable bedfellows than they should be. Our own history makes that perfectly clear, says the report from The Guardian.
Wars and effects
During WWII, the United States interned Japanese Americans. During Vietnam, the FBI investigated and attacked anti-war and civil rights movements.
And the “war on terror” resulted in a massive assault on civil liberties, particularly for Muslim and Arab communities.
The longer wars last, the more difficult it is to reclaim lost liberties. More than 20 years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, the 2001 Patriot Act’s attacks on civil liberties continue, and US police departments are more militarized than ever.
This is especially true in a known fragile democracy like Ukraine.
Ukraine’s governments have frequently been marked by corruption and repression since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Furthermore, since Nato’s provocative eastward expansion, Ukrainians have faced renewed Russian aggression, including the illegal seizure of Crimea and other parts of their territory in 2014.
In order to counter Russian influence, the US has backed a number of political actors in Ukraine, including powerful far-right forces linked to neo-Nazi organisations, who were particularly powerful within Ukraine’s military and, to a lesser extent, its parliament.
The 2019 election reduced the influence of rightwing extremists while bringing to power a more democratic government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. However, challenges remain.
Ukraine’s Institute of Mass Information reported 229 free speech violations in 2020 alone, including 171 physical attacks on journalists.
In 2021 and 2022, Freedom House ranked Ukraine 39th among nations in transition.
Things are much worse now. Whatever democratic opportunities Zelenskiy’s election may have heralded, Ukraine’s democracy is clearly under threat – not only from the Russian invasion, but also from the corrosive effect war has on all democratic structures.
Few countries that have been mobilized for war, whether offensive or defensive, have not faced the loss of many of the democratic liberties that existed previously.
Zelenskiy’s administration banned TV stations in February last year, claiming they were part of Russian disinformation, and 11 opposition political parties a month later.
None of this is surprising in a war-torn country.
However, it highlights another reason for urgency in ending it: many analysts have already predicted that Ukraine will face a long-term war of attrition, with neither side achieving complete victory.
If this is correct, whatever remains of Ukraine’s fragile democracy may perish regardless of the outcome.
The best way to ensure strengthened democracy in postwar Ukraine is to end the war as soon as possible, before more Ukrainians are killed, more Ukrainian cities are destroyed, and more of Ukraine’s already precarious democracy is lost.
This necessitates a quick search for a diplomatic path. As Ukraine’s primary arms supplier and funder, Washington must demand that negotiations begin immediately.
This does not imply coercing Ukraine to accept Moscow’s demands; the decision to concede or not to concede in any negotiations is up to Kyiv, not Washington.
However, the US could aid diplomacy by immediately initiating direct talks with Russia on issues affecting bilateral relations between the nuclear powers.
They could try to reopen all stalled or expired arms control and nuclear disarmament treaties.
When a ceasefire is reached, Washington may clarify that sanctions against Russia will be lifted.
It could propose canceling, or at least delaying, work on the controversial new US military base currently under construction in Poland, less than 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the Russian border.
There are many urgent reasons why this war must end soon, and one of them is to protect Ukraine’s postwar democracy.
The war has been a disaster for the global economy, a threat to the environment as governments seek more fossil fuels as oil prices rise, and a threat to millions facing famine as grain exports dry up.
Militarization is increasing in Washington, DC, Europe, and around the world. And the threat of a nuclear exchange between the world’s two primary nuclear weapon states has not loomed so large in 60 years.
Any of these reasons, combined with the need to stop the killing of Ukrainians, should be sufficient to bring this war to an end. They demand an immediate ceasefire and negotiations – diplomacy, not escalation – to end this war.
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Source: The Guardian