Ukraine and Russia: Struggle for Freedom and the Future

Russian aggression against Ukraine poses a threat not only to our country but to the entire world. Incompetence and brutality of military personnel, intimidation, violence, and propaganda are just some signs of Russian aggression. The victory of Ukraine in this war is essential not only for Ukraine itself but also for the establishment of justice and peace in the world. Russian aggression must be stopped, and the values of democracy, freedom, and human rights must prevail, ensuring stability and security for all nations.

On June 22nd, an online Dialogue, “War and Human Nature,” occurred. During the event, thinkers, intellectuals, diplomats, and human rights activists from Ukraine, other European countries, and the United States discussed the challenges of war and the new global architecture of peace. 

Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute (USA), and Natalie Jaresko, Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of the Aspen Institute Kyiv, delivered welcoming remarks to the dialogue participants. They particularly highlighted the Ukrainians’ courage and readiness to resist the enemy.

Yulia Tychkivska, Executive Director of Aspen Institute Kyiv, emphasized that addressing the issue of global security at the international level is currently highly relevant and contributes to the mission of the Institute — the development of value-based leadership.

Volodymyr Yermolenko,  Ukrainian philosopher, Director of Analytics, Internews Ukraine: “There is a Russian state, but not a nation.”

“The war in Ukraine began in 2014, not in 2022. Many people also believe that this war is related only to Putin. But that is far from true. Nothing will change if we remove Putin because it is not just about individuals but Russian imperialism. The paradox of Russia is that despite having a state, there is no Russian nation. Their imperial policy aims at the assimilation and destruction of Ukrainian identity. We see this in the occupied territories, where Russians behave brazenly toward the Ukrainian population.

The current Russian system and its leaders do not think about peace. They do not consider how to limit cruelty but how to make it lawful. This applies to Ukraine and countries like Syria, Chechnya, and others that have suffered from Russian aggression. Russian war crimes are not unique to this war only. We see history repeating itself. This has been made possible because Russia has not been properly held accountable. But justice must be restored”.

Olexandra Matviychuk, Head of the Center for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2022, “The war between Ukraine and Russia is ideological.”

“Russia occupied Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions when Ukraine made its values-based choice after the Revolution of Dignity. And in 2022, Russia started a full-scale war. This happened not out of Putin’s fear of NATO but of his fear of freedom. Some countries that have not experienced the same find it still incomprehensible.

This war is not just a conflict between two countries; it is a war between two systems – on one side, the system of freedom, and on the other, cruelty. Putin seeks not only to oppress Ukraine for its democratic choice but also to prove to the whole world that the rule of law, democracy, and human rights are false values because they do not protect during the war. The task for the whole globe is to restore justice. Justice is a prerequisite for lasting peace.

Russia has committed and continues to commit terrible war crimes without ever being held accountable. That is why this state began believing it can do whatever it wants. Since the beginning of 2014, I have documented the crimes of war. We have done this with other human rights activists and now have over 41,000 pieces of evidence. But this is just the top of the iceberg. Russians have killed volunteers, innocent people, and even children without any reason. Russia did this because it had the opportunity. Putting an end to this horror and preventing new Russian attacks on other countries is crucial for Ukraine. If we do not stop Putin together in Ukraine, he will continue his aggression further.”

Ambassador William B. Taylor, Vice President, U.S. Institute of Peace, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009: “Ukraine inspires with its resilience and courage.”

“For the world, it is crucial that Ukraine wins this war. Ukraine’s victory is a challenge for the US, Ukraine, and their allies. The United States is actively helping to form a strong coalition of countries that share democratic values.

Ukraine inspires us and our alliance. I have seen brave Ukrainians who fight daily — journalists, military personnel, human rights defenders. We are fortunate to be allied with them and support them.

We demand that every nation, regardless of its democratic status, must respect the sovereignty of other countries and their borders. If one country violates its neighbor’s borders, we cannot talk about democracy. In such a case, no country can be safe.”

Jonathan Littell, French and American writer, film director: “Russia perpetrates terror because it has never been punished.”

“Russia has an incompetent military force, which became evident through its participation in recent wars in modern times. However, Russia successfully instills fear, even among its citizens. Russian military personnel after returning from war can steal, kill, and rape — it was the case after the Second World War. And I see that nothing has changed. Now they have attacked Ukraine, destroying it, using the same methods.

I see incompetence in Russia and the inability to do things differently. The level of cruelty they demonstrate is shocking. Russia is engaged in genocide. They terrorize and destroy occupied territories because they are unable to act otherwise.

Russia militarizes its entire social sphere, including education and using propaganda. I believe that there can be no peace under Putin and such a political system. But Ukraine’s victory is what will break this vicious cycle.”

Susan B. Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker, moderated the dialogue.

Thank you to the participants and speakers for an exciting conversation!