Op-Ed: Europe willing to pay the price for freedom and democracy | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

The Russian authorities assumed that when they decided to invade Ukraine to start an unprovoked and unjustified war, the country would collapse within a few days and a puppet government could be installed. But this was without taking into account the price Ukrainians are ready to pay for freedom and democracy. President Putin also assumed that he could invade a non-NATO member without repercussions. That was also without taking into account the capacity of the European Union and countries all over the world to unite decisively against this Russian aggression towards a peaceful neighbouring country with a democratically elected government. On day six after the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, 141 countries, including Jamaica, condemned Russia for starting this unprovoked war in a UN General Assembly resolution, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian soil.

This war is an assault against everything we stand for, against the values, which are so dear to us all. Freedom and democracy, values we share in the European Union and in CARICOM, have become so attractive to all the countries neighbouring Russia that the risk of contagion for its own population was becoming a liability for President Putin. And this liability seems worth a war for him, killing numerous children, women and men, including his own soldiers, many of whom do not even understand why they are being asked to kill their ‘brothers and sisters’.

This war is all the more shocking given the fact that the Memorandum of Budapest of 1994, which the Russian Federation co-signed, guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for the transfer of Soviet nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation, which Ukraine did. This goes to show that – to the current regime in Moscow, international agreements are to be disregarded as mere scraps of paper.

Russian representatives around the world are going to great lengths, using disinformation and manipulated narratives as pretexts to “justify” a full-scale war that has simply no justification. At the same time, most independent media are currently unable to operate in Russia and cannot show the reality and the brutality of the war in Ukraine.

While Ukraine is fighting to preserve its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the war is having a huge toll on the civilian population. Already more than 3 million women and children have fled the country in search of a safe haven, among them, 1.5 million children, or nearly one child per second since the start of the war. This is, according to the UN, a refugee crisis unprecedented in speed and scale since the Second World War, without sign of slowing down. An immediate cease-fire is absolutely needed.

What have the European Union and its Member States done to preserve freedom and democracy? We acted swiftly in opening our doors to the refugees. We are doing everything in our power to provide the necessary conditions for these exiles to seek refuge from the horrors currently being afflicted on their country, including destruction of civilian infrastructure in major cities across Ukraine. We have also adopted the most far-reaching package of sanctions ever against the Russian Federation. This includes some which will hurt our own citizens, too. The sanctions are aimed at achieving a ceasefire and a withdrawal of the invading troops. We are – for the very first time since the European Union was founded – helping a friendly country to defend itself. Many countries, including some in the Caribbean, have imposed sanctions, too.

Worldwide, all citizens of countries, big and small, are going to be impacted by the increase of energy and commodity prices as a direct consequence of this invasion. This will unfortunately be the price to pay for freedom and democracy, falling upon all who disagree with President Putin launching an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country against all rules of international law and humanitarian principles. As of today, 38 States Parties to the International Criminal Court have asked the public prosecutor to investigate President Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine.

The genuine solidarity of the European Union and its Member States towards its close neighbour Ukraine is undoubtedly remarkable and makes us proud. ‘Realpolitik’ has shown us however that our 70+ years of investments in economic and social well-being, in health and education, in fighting global challenges such as climate change and transnational crime and our continued support to developing countries to reduce poverty turns out to be fragile, if not accompanied by robust and coordinated defence spending. We cannot allow a gun to take away all we built. So, President Putin is directly contributing to moving forward the European Union’s common defence and security policy, an area that had always been a difficult one to address in an essentially peace-oriented undertaking.

This can never compensate for the pain caused by war, but President Putin has made us stronger. Europe has never been as united as we are today and indeed also with its allies and friends, all willing to stand up against the unnecessary atrocities of President Putin’s army and all willing to pay a price for freedom and democracy. That does give some hope during ‘Europe’s darkest day following the Second World War’.

Written by:

H.E. Marianne Van Steen

Ambassador, EU Delegation to Jamaica

H.E. Hugo Verbist

Ambassador, Embassy of Belgium

H.E. Diego Bermejo Romero de Terreros

Ambassador, Embassy of Spain

H.E. Olivier Guyonvarch

Ambassador, Embassy of France

Jan Hendrik van Thiel

Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Germany