I am in a quandary.
This week, Russia invaded Ukraine. We can discuss the reasons behind it, but they are irrelevant. Simply put, Vladimir Putin wants to control the country, while the country wants to join NATO and the European Union. It is clear that Putin is a ruthless dictator who wants to rebuild the Russian Empire, conquering people who do not want to be controlled by Russia.
The West has imposed sanctions on Russia, which short of declaring war and putting troops on the ground is as much as they can do. Fighting Russia on its borders would be catastrophic for all involved, and so before it gets to that, they are going to try the sanctions. Anyone who knows what terrible effects war can have would support this… unless of course you are Ukrainian and your country has been invaded.
For these reasons, I support the sanctions. The fact that, as many news outlets are reporting, the effects of the sanctions might take years for them to feel does not diminish the importance of them. Russia invaded Ukraine, we impose sanctions. Everything else might take time, but this is an immediate step that we can take to show our support for the Ukraine and our opposition to the criminal activity of Russia.
I know people in Russia who are against the war. They are against Putin, and know that he is a ruthless dictator. They want him gone, but are realistic enough to know that he is not going anywhere. These people have already started to feel the effects of the sanctions. This morning, many Microsoft Certified Trainers living in Russia received an e-mail effectively saying that they are not to receive the benefits of being an MCT anymore.
This is not from an occasional trainer; this letter was forwarded to me from an active full-time trainer who is a nice guy, and who is now worried because he has effectively lost his livelihood, and his ability to feed his family.
So how can I be in favour of sanctions, yet against the effects of them? It is indeed a quandary that I have had to think about. I feel terrible for the individual Russians who are going to feel the effects of the sanctions long before their government ever will, and I will cry for them. At the same time, I have to cry also for the trainers in Ukraine who are also losing their livelihoods… and often their lives. They are not losing anything because of sanctions, rather because of the invasion that is killing people.
War is not simple. It is not black and white, good and bad. It is, in a sense… but it is not completely so. This war is a completely unwarranted invasion of a sovereign nation, and there is a right side (Ukraine and the West) and a wrong side (Russia and Vladimir Putin). The response from the west could be stronger and it could be lesser, but for the time being, the effects are being felt by the innocent, where the not-black-and-white part comes in. I feel horrible for the people in Russia who are being hurt by the sanctions, but if the alternative is sending in troops that will result in more death and destruction, then maybe the current economic sanctions (that are hurting the wrong people for now) are the only reasonable immediate response.
And so, I completely support the sanctions… and I completely sympathize for the innocent people who are being hurt by it. I would love to send this friend money… but with the sanctions what they are, not only would I not be able to get it to him… I would be in danger of having my accounts frozen for trying to defy the sanctions.
I have thumbed my nose at blockades when they are unjust. I feel that the American blockade of Cuba is not only an anachronism, I think it was a stupid blockade when it was put into place… essentially John F. Kennedy and the Americans taking their ball and going home after the Cuban Revolution kicked out his (JFK’s) gangster friends out of the country, and then foiling their attempted invasion at the Bahía de los Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). I have been to Cuba dozens of times, mostly when I was living in Canada but also several times when I was living in the USA. Yes, I have thumbed my nose at this unjust blockade. Sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine? I’m sorry, but there is nothing unjust about that. Unfortunately, the effect is that many innocent people will be hurt in Russia.
When the innocent people in Ukraine stop getting hurt and killed by Russia, then we can discuss removing them.
It is hard to be for an action but against the effects of the action. On the surface, the geopolitics of a war can be clearly good versus evil, but there are good people on the side of bad who are going to be hurt by the consequences of what their government does, and that is unfortunate. I wish there was something that could make it easier for them, but it is up to them, if they feel they are being led by an unjust dictator, to topple that dictator… and I am not going to go into by what means they should do that. Hoping that he, one of the richest men in the world, and not yet 70 years old, will die soon of natural causes is unrealistic. The people of Russia who are against the war and against the man must find a way to bring about change. It cannot be done by foreigners, who would then be seen by the Russian people as just as bad as we now see the Russian government.
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