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Two years on, we know that if Russia succeeds, we will find ourselves in a world that will be dangerous for everyone without exception, Oleksandra Matviichuk writes.
I don’t know what historians in the future will call this historical period. But we happen to live in rather challenging times.
The world order, based on the Charter of the UN and international law, is collapsing before our eyes.
The international peace and security system established after World War II provided unjustified indulgences for certain countries. It did not cope well with global challenges before, but now it is stalling and reproducing ritualistic movements.
The work of the UN Security Council is paralyzed. We have entered a highly volatile period in history, and now fires will occur more and more frequently in different parts of the world because the world’s wiring is faulty and sparks are everywhere.
A conflict of what makes us human
Samuel Huntington predicted that new global conflicts would arise between different civilizations.
I live in Kyiv, and my native city, like thousands of other Ukrainian cities, is being shelled not only by Russian missiles but also by Iranian drones.
China is helping Russia circumvent sanctions and import technologies critical to warfare. North Korea sent Russia more than a million artillery shells. Syria votes at the UN General Assembly in support of Russia.
We are dealing with the formation of an entire authoritarian bloc. As much as Russia, Iran, China, Syria, and North Korea are “different civilizations”, according to Huntington’s views, they pose a crucial common feature.
All these regimes that have taken power in their countries have the same idea of what a human being is. That is why this is not a conflict of civilizations. This is a conflict of what makes us human.
Authoritarian leaders consider people as objects of control and deny them rights and freedoms.
Democracies consider people, their rights and freedoms to be of the highest value. There is no way to negotiate this.
The existence of the free world always threatens dictatorships with the loss of power. That’s because human beings inherently have a desire for freedom.
Therefore, when we talk about Russia’s war against Ukraine, we are not talking about a war between two states. This is a war between two systems — authoritarianism and democracy.
If Russia succeeds, we’ll live in a world dangerous for everyone
Russia wants to convince the entire world that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are fake values because they do not protect anyone in times of war.
Russia wants to convince that a state with a powerful military potential and nuclear weapons can break the world order, dictate its rules to the international community and even forcibly change internationally recognized borders.
If Russia succeeds, it will encourage authoritarian leaders in various parts of the world to do the same. The international system of peace and security does not protect people any more.
Democratic governments will be forced to invest money not in education, health care, culture or business development, not in solving global problems such as climate change or social inequality, but in weapons.
We will witness an increase in the number of nuclear states, the emergence of robotic armies and new weapons of mass destruction.
If Russia succeeds and this scenario comes true, we will find ourselves in a world that will be dangerous for everyone without exception.
It’s not post-truth, it’s post-knowledge
Public intellectuals say that we live in an era of post-truth. As for me, we live in an era of post-knowledge.
People with access to Google, who can get the formula for aspirin in a second, forget that this does not make them chemists. People around the world are demanding quick and simple solutions.
Perhaps in more peaceful times, we could afford it. You can treat a runny nose with squats, and at least it will not harm the body. However, if we are already dealing with cancer, the price of such simple solutions and actual therapy delays will be high.
The problem is not only that the space for freedom in authoritarian countries has narrowed to the size of a prison cell. The problem is that even in developed democracies, forces calling into question the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are gaining strength.
There are reasons for this. The coming generations replaced those ones that survived World War II. They have inherited democracy from their parents.
They began to take rights and freedoms for granted. They have become consumers of values. They perceive freedom as choosing between cheeses in the supermarket.
In essence, they are ready to exchange freedom for economic benefits, promises of security or personal comfort.
Yet, the truth is that freedom is very fragile. Human rights are not attained once and forever. We make our own choices every day.
The war has come home a long time ago
In such times of turbulence, responsibility-driven leadership is required. Global challenges cannot be resolved individually or on your own.
The efforts of those who worked to build a shared European project were aimed at overcoming the history of wars. But stable growth and peace in the region are impossible while a part of Europe is bleeding.
People only begin to understand that the war is going on when the bombs are falling on their heads, but the war has dimensions other than the military one: it is an economic war, an information war, a war of values.
Whether we are brave enough to admit it or not, this war has long since crossed the borders of the European Union.
Because we live in a very interconnected world. And only the advancement of freedom makes this world safer.
Oleksandra Matviichuk is a Ukrainian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
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