It has been said by many over and over in recent days: war crimes, even against humanity or genocide, committed by the Russian regime in Ukraine are in line with crimes committed in Syria since 2015 and in Chechnya in 1999-2000. In Mariupol, Posha, Kramatorsk, Borodianka, every day brings its share of shocking discoveries.
Western leaders have doubled down on their indignant and astonishing statements. However, this astonishment in itself seems almost shocking because the “international community” has turned its eyes away from the past crimes of the Russian regime. Given the actions of Vladimir Putin’s army in Chechnya and Syria, as well as Putin’s statements about his intentions in Ukraine, the fate assigned to the Ukrainians was predictable. And new crimes will happen soon, without everything being done to prevent them: in fact, major attacks were announced in the Donbass and no doubt elsewhere … As in Syria, everything was foreseen and planned.
the continuation of the crime
As is also the case in Syria, hospitals are being deliberately targeted, many civilians killed and no one knows whether, tomorrow, the Russian regime will not use chemical weapons as it was allowed to by its ally Bashar al-Assad. In Syria, let’s not forget that Russian forces alone have killed more Syrian civilians, including many children, than ISIS.
As in Syria, the Kremlin is developing unbridled and inappropriate propaganda about Ukraine, which is no longer even supposed to be believed. The main thing is to sow doubt. Thus, when bombing the children’s hospital in Mariupol, he did not hesitate to present at least three different and contradictory versions – certainly less than the destruction of the MH17 by a Russian missile over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Thus the Russian authorities successively confirmed: ‘It was the Ukrainians who did it’And The pictures were fake. and finally, “Yes, we destroyed it, but it was a haven for a nationalist battalion.”.
Advocates of the order abroad willingly adopted his assertion that Russia in Ukraine will face first of all the neo-Nazis, always citing the example of the Azov Battalion, not without simplifications and lies. They have done the same to Syria by repeating the Kremlin’s rhetoric about jihadists hiding in schools and hospitals. Using the terms “Nazis” or “terrorists”, they are actually classing civilians to be massacred, people who have no right to life.
However, is this the main lesson? Are these also unique points of comparison? In fact, what the Ukrainian case most tragically reminds of the Syrian case is, first of all, the fact that Western governments do not dare to take measures that would radically change the situation, in other words to save Ukraine and make Russia lose – completely.
To be sure, these governments help Ukraine by providing defensive weapons. Imposing severe sanctions on the Russian regime. The dawn of a broader awareness of his reality. War crimes were finally given that name; And the Europeans in general would be willing to welcome Ukrainian refugees, which they hardly did, with the exception of Germany, for the Syrians.
But this real progress makes our shortcomings even more damning. Nobody can be certain today that the fate of Ukraine in a few months or years does not reveal new points of comparison with Syria: just as the criminal power of Assad still controls Syria and, with the help of Russia, multiplies the deadly attacks on Syria. The Idlib region, perhaps part of Ukraine will remain at war and occupied, with its share of casualties and devastation. Are we fully prepared to avoid such a scenario?
Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, April 10, 2022. | Ronaldo Schmidt / Agence France-Presse
First, military aid is given very little, despite some timid progress recently. It certainly allows Kev to respond better to Putin’s army, but Western slowness comes at a heavy cost in terms of human lives and risks derailing the possibility of a decisive victory for Ukraine.
After that, the sanctions are still insufficient and it is difficult to understand why, from the beginning of the new Russian attack on Ukraine, they do not have a total: the absolute embargo on Russian gas and oil, the separation of all Russian banks for the interbank rapid payment system. And asset freezes and travel bans on a larger number of Russian figures close to the authority. Moreover, a long time passed, long before the war, these measures should have been taken and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should have been abandoned.
Moreover, if there is a greater awareness of the reality of the Putin regime, some continue to practice their Putin religion in silence and in no way have given up their old faith that will come alive again once the war is over. So there is no guarantee that, tomorrow, with the help of fatigue, we will not return to the same mistakes. Moreover, if war crimes have indeed been named, some are still reluctant to classify their main perpetrator as a war criminal. We know the wrong reason: such a public recall would be a “provocation” that would make Putin less inclined to compromise. As if, given the enormity of his crimes, that should change anything in his future behavior.
As for the remarkable solidarity observed in Europe towards Ukrainian refugees, no one knows if it will last over time.
This human solidarity can have the powerful effect of distracting some rulers. There, the comparison with Syria is significant: many have already focused on the “humanitarian crisis,” a convenient way to apologize for inaction against Assad.
The same could be true of Ukraine: as in Syria, the so-called “humanitarian solution” hides only a concession to the only solution, which is to significantly increase military assistance to Kyiv to enable it to repel the aggressor outside Ukraine. . Focusing on the humanitarian aspects, as necessary, will not solve the humanitarian problem or the issue of Russia’s war against Ukraine – we see it in Syria where the misery of refugee camps, the forced exile of six million displaced Syrians. The massacres committed by the regime and its allies continued simultaneously.
The continuing grip of the Kremlin’s speech
We also find in the Ukraine conflict the same rhetorical elements very sweet to the ears of the Kremlin that we already heard in Syria.
The first is the discourse on the so-called “red lines”. Given the disastrous precedent of Barack Obama’s transformation after the chemical attacks in Ghouta, no one could take this speech for what it is, but Joe Biden’s warnings against the use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine are similar.
In fact, this discourse is legally and strategically unacceptable.
Legally, international conventions certainly prohibit chemical and bacteriological weapons, but the same applies to cluster munitions that are particularly devastating for the civilian population and which numerous surveys show Russia uses in Ukraine.
Strategically speaking, giving a sense of a particular response due to the use of chemical or bacteriological weapons implicitly amounts to reducing crimes committed in a “classical” manner against the population. It is, in a way, ignoring the need to act if war crimes were committed otherwise; If there must be a red line, it lies in war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is what happened in Syria in a war that has killed more than a million people.
After that, we continue to hear, even if it becomes less clear, the diplomatic mantra: “The solution to the crisis can only be political.” Aside from the fact that it is not a crisis, but a war, we know what this language has led to in Syria. There was no political solution because Assad simply could not remain in power. Leaders locked themselves in ineffective UN resolutions and delusions of a constitutional committee that did not produce results as expected. This is only consolation for Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. Believing that it could be otherwise in connection with Russia’s war against Ukraine is the same as denying responsibility.
Finally, the illusion of a way out through negotiations continues to be promoted in some circles. Some will say that President Zelensky is open to negotiations. It is, but on two conditions indispensable condition:
First, any solution must be accompanied by an international guarantee of security in exchange for Ukraine’s neutrality – the neutrality that, let’s recall, was Ukraine’s status in 2014 under the Budapest Memorandum that was violated by Russia. This guarantee must be equivalent to the guarantee provided for in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, or even more so, as the Ukrainian chief negotiator expressly said, implying an automatically applied guarantee, which does not apply to Article 5. .
Secondly, the territorial integrity of Ukraine is non-negotiable, which means that there can be no permanent Russian occupation of Donbas and Crimea.
These demands, which we must fully support, are incompatible with the plans of Putin, who wants Kyiv to recognize his control of the Donbass, the Crimea, and, undoubtedly, the entire region connecting these two regions. Moreover, his project is the destruction of Ukraine as a free country.
Did we learn the Syrian lesson?
If some Western governments seek to pressure Kyiv to accept concessions on these points, they will call into question Ukraine’s sovereignty, as well as the foundations of international law. The Syrian example has already taught us that the fact of entering into such a game of negotiations only allows the Russian regime to strengthen its positions and its army, and that they lead to the defeat of the free world.
The lessons of Syria should apply to Ukraine. Any retreat, any compromise, any appeasement with the Putin regime translates on the ground into a reinforcement of crime. If the West decisively delays helping Ukraine reclaim its territory by providing it with all the weapons needed to do so, it will result in thousands more deaths. Any attempt to negotiate that does not respect the two fundamental principles established by Zelensky will have the same result. By allowing criminal forces to operate in Syria, we have weakened the Freedom Camp. If we repeat the same mistake before history in Ukraine, its collapse will be complete.
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