For weeks, we have watched as the Ukrainian military mounted a heroic defence of their country. Ukraine is fighting off an army that vastly outnumbers them, and who due to their continuous failures, have been forced to rely on destroying entire cities in order to beat Ukraine into submission with indiscriminate shelling.
The crimes against humanity that we have seen committed in Bucha have to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and the European Union has to wholeheartedly engage in the support of the Ukrainian people and its military.
For anyone who was ever under doubt about Russian plans for the Ukrainian people, the recent deluge of information has been eye opening. In particular, the op-ed that was published for state news agency RIA Novosti, titled “What Russia should do with Ukraine”, should make everyone’s blood run cold.
Claiming that “a significant part of the masses of the [Ukrainian]people” are “passive Nazis” and “accomplices to Nazism” who have supported and indulged the Nazis,” the only proposed solution is “deukrainisation,” as well as the ‘liquidation’ of the “Banderite elite.” Not only this, but the destruction of the “social ‘swamp’” is also being proposed.
We know what this proposal is. Our countries have lived this vividly in history; our ancestors have suffered at the hands of people with warped ideologies like this. We cannot allow histories' abominations to be repeated in such a brazen and cowardly manner.
The West has to collectively burn what we have seen of the attempted extermination of Ukraine into its collective memory, and we have to ensure that we never again leave any ambiguity with regards to how we would respond to these crimes against humanity. There cannot be any ambiguity about what war criminals expect from us when an innocent population is targeted with murder, rape, and other weapons of war as punishment for nothing other than existing.
When you read this op-ed, when you listen to what the Russian government has been saying, when you see the corpses of men, women, and children who have been left to rot in the streets, and in some cases, boobytrapped, you get a better understanding about why Russian soldiers seem perfectly happy to commit war crimes in Ukraine. Which is exactly why we have to act with urgency and support the Ukrainian people with every single measure that we can possibly conceive.
We cannot hold back when it comes to our reaction to Russia’s abominable intransigence. The goal now has to be to inflict maximal damage upon a state that has murdered, raped, and pillaged one of our allies, and which has very clearly shown what its initial plans for the Ukrainian people.
While many are claiming that sanctions are ineffective due to the recent rebound in the Russian ruble, the reality is that the currency is effectively being propped up by the Russian government, who are enforcing currency controls to inflate the value of the ruble by banning its transfer and doing everything to enforce its usage. But unfortunately for the Russian state, the reality is that its use is still severely limited, and its value unrealistic.
But what should the EU do that hasn’t already been done?
Firstly, the EU needs to aggressively identify and target any and all existing gaps in its sanctions regime. Then it needs to ratchet up the pressure by converting the existing import and export bans into a blanket ban that targets all sectors, as well as any company or organisation that has not been a part of the existing packages.
Secondly, the EU would need to aggressively target the energy sector; particularly gas and oil which are Russia’s primary exports and the main commodities that prop up their economy. We cannot allow our dependence on Russia to continue, and we must begin to consider a total ban on the import of Russian energy of any kind. With spring in full swing and summer on the horizon, we should make use of the breathing space that we have to inflict as much economic pain as possible as a consequence for the actions of the Russian military.
Third, the EU needs to identify the specific needs to identify the specific requirements of the Ukrainian military: ammunition, weaponry, tanks, aircraft, missiles, medical supplies, and technological equipment required to bolster their cyberwarfare capabilities. Whatever we may think of NATO and the EU’s refusal to engage militarily, we still have a responsibility to support this young state in any way possible.
We cannot continue our inefficacy, and we have to use this ongoing catastrophe as the trigger that pushes the EU as so many of the polycrises have in the past. These are our European brothers and sisters. These are our fellow citizens who have been struck by an empire looking to snuff them out of existence. We cannot continue to react with the weakness that underpinned our flight from Kabul.
The only way that we can possibly end the bloodshed and bring an end to the pain of the Ukrainian people, is by being willing to stick our neck out and actively fight the Russian state in any way possible. If we do not, we will have then abdicated our position as the guarantors of the values of the European Union. We have to isolate our energy sector as much as we can from the Russian market in order to starve Russia of western financing in its entirety.
And if we are not willing to fight for human rights, human dignity, and freedom, then what exactly do we stand for?