30 years ago we supported the Soviet Union’s satellite states. Today, we must commit to support them again.
In 2014 we bear witness to the most self-evident show of aggression conducted by Russia since the Soviet era. We did nothing in 2008 when Georgia was carved up in the name of separatists, we did nothing when Russia brutally began putting down its own separatists in Chechnya, and we did little to nothing when it launched cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007. By we I don’t just mean western governments (though it is their action that is critical right now), I also mean JEFers, and particularly YEM UK.
YEM UK represents the British in the JEF Europe community. And the British are well-known for their willingness to remain pro-active in foreign affairs, to be the world’s policeman while no longer controlling the territory they wish to police. Some excursions in British foreign policy have been much-criticised, others have been much celebrated. I will let you as reader make your own mind up about which foreign policy endeavour was good and which was bad. Most recently, the UK is set to lead a NATO force in some form in the future, with the Daily Mail making it a populist cause (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738677/Britain-spearhead-10-000-strong-Nato-rapid-reaction-force-mission-halt-Putins-Tsarist-expansionism.html ) as we all surely knew it would.
Standing up for the liberty of European states, and standing up for them against Moscow for that matter, is not something that is new to us as Britain or as YEM members. The current Senior Vice Chair of the European Movement, David Grace (“once a JEFer always a JEFer”) made a symbolic move that epitomises this exactly. JEF Europe has had three logos in its history. There is the current logo, the Federalist ‘E’ which was adopted at the Congress in Paris November 2013. But before that they took a form more like the one below. This logo however is the second incarnation, not the first. That map in the middle once only showed Western Europe. David when he worked in JEF as its Secretary General and its President whipped out the paper and pens and grafted in our Eastern half. This isn’t to say that he changed the face of JEF forever, generations of thousands of members did that, but it does show a British-European making it clear what Europe is all about.
JEF supported those countries under the yoke of Soviet Russia. We weren’t happy with the repression of the Polish uprising in 1981, we sent members across the iron curtain to enter dialogue with young people on the other side. We celebrated when they gained their freedom and we worked with them to develop sections there. A JEF Poland or JEF Slovakia for example, were unthinkable back then, and yet are now fully-fledged JEFers with something to contribute.
We defend European freedom elsewhere too. Europe’s last official dictatorship (in practice joined by Russia), Belarus has huge limits on individual freedom but JEF continues to work against that dictatorship. On an annual basis it has a “Free Belarus” campaign which is all about criticising Lukashenko’s hateful regime. Earlier this year – when Maidan was on the lips of anyone remotely politically engaged – Christopher Glück, one of JEF’s Vice-Presidents was on the ground in Ukraine beginning the long hard job of bringing prosperity to a Ukraine only just beginning to liberate itself from Russian dependency.
As Europeans, we all must condemn what Russia is doing in Ukraine and we must stop burying our heads and/or making excuses. Yes Ukrainian fascists are fighting Russian fascists but that doesn’t give Putin credibility. Ukrainian liberals, socialists, democrats, greens and independents are also fighting and Ukrainian families continue to be under the occupation of some fully-fledged psychos. If we want to keep Ukrainian fascists out of the action, then support the beleaguered Ukrainian army, and join the call for NATO to save the day.
If we’re worried about Russian strength remember its economic strength is comparable to Italy, which while a beautiful country with awesome people, is but one of our Union’s member-states and not even its most powerful. Remember who NATO consists of. Would you really want to mess with a coalition consisting of the likes of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France besides countless others? Remember the MAD principle taught in every 20th century history textbook. And remember that Russia is having to keep its people in the dark about this to keep it going. A recent Guardian article is showing that Russian civilians are beginning to realise what is going on and they, like any other citizenry, don’t want to see their soldiers dying for an unnecessary cause. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/29/russia-ukraine-war-asking ) In short, Russia’s fundamentals are weak and ours are strong, so let’s keep criticising and let’s defend Ukraine.
JEF and YEM have a history of sticking up for the little man, and sticking up for the European ideal. 100 years after a European war was beginning to be fought, another European war is now being fought. Let’s keep supporting European integration and its mission to forge peace and liberty. As I recently said elsewhere: if we do not support Ukraine now, we may have to be supporting the likes of Poland again in years to come.
And if you’re on Facebook, you should definitely follow ‘We are all Ukrainians and Europeans’ whose output is helping to keep us all updated with what is happening: https://www.facebook.com/WeareallUkrainiansandEuropeans .
Young European Movement UK