I’m in Boynton Beach, Florida visiting a friend with my partner. Last night we went out to dinner on the oceanfront. All the restaurants were buzzing with people eating, drinking, having a good time. From the looks of it, you’d never know that we just might be on the brink of World War III.
On the other side of the planet, Russian tanks and artillery are demolishing Ukrainian towns and cities. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people are fleeing their homes. Despite valiant resistance, Ukraine is slowly being overrun by Vladimir Putin and his massive army.
We are at a loss of what to do to prevent such a catastrophe. We send donations. Hope and pray for peace. But really feel helpless, or do not think about it at all.
We leave it to our elected officials to deal with such overwhelming matters. And we fail to remember how the people’s silence helped another tyrant overrun Europe less than a century ago.
So, what can we, the people, do? While there is no silver bullet to stop the invasion of Ukraine, we cannot sit idly by. We must make our voices heard and support the Ukrainian people with donations and supplies. Ukrainians are showing what unarmed people can do to resist. This unarmed part of the resistance is gaining momentum:
“Coordinated resistance can spread and move from inspirational isolated acts to decisive acts capable of rebuffing an advancing army…In shared videos, unarmed communities are facing down Russian tanks with apparent success…The tank driver either does not have authorization or interest in opening fire. They choose retreat. This is being repeated in small towns across Ukraine.”
In fact, some Russian soldiers who learn the truth about their invasion of Ukraine are laying down their arms, even disabling their own armored vehicles.
At the same time, focusing on the Russian people might well be our most effective strategy. We need to flood the Russian people with the truth about the atrocities against Ukraine that their government is committing in their name. Many Russians have friends and/or relatives who live in Ukraine. Ukrainians and Russians share languages, families, and an extensive web of history and culture.
The Russian government has been unable to block social media’s pro-Ukraine and anti-government views. Only 47 percent of younger Russians — more attuned to this media than their elders — support the war. Authorities’ further efforts to block access to independent social media “would come at a high political price among a skeptical, social-media-addicted younger generation. And a younger, antiwar generation increasingly opposed to an aging, isolated leadership may — as the Soviets discovered after their disastrous adventure in Afghanistan — cause unexpected problems for Vladimir Putin.”
A great many Russians oppose this war. As the sanctions being imposed on Russia take their toll, more and more Russians will protest and demand that the invasion must cease. As Time magazine recently observed, “Protests, fueled by the disconnect between the people and the actions of the government intent on suppressing all opposition, could be Putin’s eventual undoing…it is clear that war enthusiasm is already drying up.”
Just as Americans’ protest against the Vietnam War hastened that war’s end, so can Russian dissent quicken the conclusion of the Ukrainian invasion. Americans must do whatever we can to increase the Russians’ awareness of the injustices and atrocities that their government is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. That may well be our best shot at peace in Ukraine.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Maybe you should tell us more exactly, from your comfy lounge on the Florida beach coast, how would you get information into the Russian people from outside the country to increase their awareness about what Putin is doing so they can rise up and protest? Via what communication route? Facebook shut down, internet controlled, journalists who try to recount what is actually happening jailed. How would you reach them? Be specific: otherwise the recommendations are lofty but empty.