EDITOR’S NOTE: This is adapted from an article from Russia’s independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Grigory Yavlinsky is the founder and leader of the Yabloko Party, the only party in Russia to protest the war and call for peace.
The war in Ukraine has been going on for almost a year. During this time, thousands of people have died on both sides, entire cities have been destroyed, and millions of people have become refugees.
But now, before our eyes, preparations for even larger-scale military action are in full swing. And all the key players—Moscow, Kiev, Washington, Brussels, NATO, and along with them the crowds of militaristic fans sitting in cafés and restaurants, hotels and cozy apartments, as well as numerous Internet media outlets—are all demanding the continuation of hostilities, fantasizing about victories, takeovers, and breakthroughs, agitating for new offensives.
The dreamer “thinkers” from a still-safe distance call for military action to continue until a victorious end, and they write in leading magazines about a “beautiful parliamentary Russia of the future” and “show trials.” The “analysts” cleverly and coldly insist that there is no call for peace yet.
And again, as a year ago, almost no one understands—or is afraid to say out loud—that the dangers are growing very seriously and the continuation of military action has no positive outlook. There is none!
If all this continues:
There will be thousands more deaths;
The devastation will become critical: The economy in the zone of active combat operations and in the adjacent large areas will be decisively and irreversibly destroyed;
The flow of seemingly limitless foreign aid to Ukraine will inevitably wane as the scale of destruction increases;
The economic problems created by the hostilities will prove far more difficult than even military ones, and many will be insoluble;
There will be a critical destruction of human potential, which will be the main irreparable consequence of escalation;
The risks of an escalating conflict turning into a world war will become (and are already becoming) prohibitively high.
It is important to understand that in the 21st century the status and well being of the state and its citizens depends not on territory or even on natural resources, but on the country’s place in the world. We live in an era when human capital plays a key role. A nation’s future depends on people, their freedom, their creativity and their education.
And we should not draw parallels between what is happening in Ukraine now and the events of World War II.
Never in the past has a nuclear power been involved in a major military confrontation in which its vital interests and prospects are affected. This is a real threat.
Putin has spoken openly several times in the past and just now about his readiness to use nuclear weapons. The situation should not be aggravated. We need to stop.
Many territorial conflicts are known to have no end. There is only one successful example of territorial peace: the European Union. The idea accepted by all members of the European Union that human life, human dignity and human rights are valued higher than any national boundaries has become the guarantee of peace in Europe.
Sooner or later, this is what Russia, Ukraine and Belarus will come to—peaceful coexistence with each other and with other European countries. There is no alternative way to peace. But this way is complex and long.
What should be done now? Stop it! Everything else is a stupid and very dangerous illusion.
Declare a cease-fire. Stop killing people!
A cease-fire agreement is not a treaty; it is not about peace, and not even about a truce or large-scale dialogue. It is a political demand aimed at saving lives. That’s the main thing today.
A cease-fire agreement is the very first step toward a settlement. As long as there is fighting and people are dying, no attempts at discussion or negotiation are meaningful. Therefore, under the circumstances, a cease-fire agreement is required to make way for any positive development.
A cease ire is a political demand, the realization of which depends entirely on the willingness and understanding of the people making the decisions. In practice, it can only be implemented if at least Putin, Zelensky, Biden, and the EU and NATO leadership are willing to do so. But the problem is that none of them is willing right now. To date, all sides are intent on continuing large-scale hostilities, mistakenly counting on a military victory that is beyond anyone’s reach in the current climate. We must therefore insist: A cease-fire is necessary! If this does not happen, the consequences will be catastrophic and most likely, as already mentioned, irreversibly destructive.
And the main thing is that we will never get back people who are dying hourly in this catastrophe: not 18-month-old Makar and 15-year-old Anya from Dnipro, not 5-year-old Milana from Donetsk, not 9-year-old Ivan and 8-year-old Nina from Yeisk.
The continuation of hostilities in any form—offensive or “positional”—does not bode well for Russia, Ukraine, or Western countries. To continue means an endless and irreparable tragedy. Ending the conflict “on the battlefield,” as some dream, will not work. Putin’s state will stop at nothing. Russia will not become powerless as a result of this war. It will remain one of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.
But there is a possibility of depriving Ukraine, considered by many experts to have become a major state in Central Europe, of its prospects by questioning its ability to restore its economy after the hostilities. It must not come to this.
It is perfectly clear that all this has to stop. Everyone. And only after that should we try to talk. The main thing is that during this time people won’t be killed.
This is the only way to discuss territorial issues, borders, and movement of troops. Then diplomacy will also be needed—tough, difficult, with failures and limitations. We are in a situation where we are left with either bad options or even worse ones. The good options are gone now.
But there is still an option that can be avoided without further colossal casualties—that is, an immediate cessation of hostilities. And the demand to use this option must now be made by everyone who does not want to kill innocent people and does not want this to be done on their behalf. To make their position known by all available means.
Shout on every corner: Come to your senses! Stop!
Translated from the Russian by Antonina Bouis.