Writers decry Russian aggression in Ukraine | Sunday Observer

Writers decry Russian aggression in Ukraine

6 March, 2022

We are now witnessing world’s worst catastrophe after the Second World War. Russian invasion in the Ukraine. Whatever the reason may be, there are no winners in the war. So this is a disaster which takes lives in vain. As of now more than thousand civilians and five thousand Russian soldiers have died – the body count of Ukraine soldiers has yet to be revealed. However, with this backdrop writers around the world started to speak out against the war.

Definitely, it’s a must step as we are still at the initial stage of the war.

If things turn into a World War 3– no one can reverse the aftermath.

Open letter by PEN International

So, with an open letter released by PEN International, a literary and free expression organisation, more than 1000 writers worldwide have expressed solidarity with writers, journalists, artists, and the people of Ukraine, condemning the Russian invasion and calling for an immediate end to the bloodshed.

The open letter says, “We, writers around the world, are appalled by the violence unleashed by Russian forces against Ukraine and urgently call for an end to the bloodshed.” Svetlana Alexievich, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafak are among those writers who spoke out against the war, and they addressed to “our friends and colleagues in Ukraine.”

“We stand united in condemnation of a senseless war, waged by President Putin’s refusal to accept the rights of Ukraine’s people to debate their future allegiance and history without Moscow’s interference.

We stand united in support of writers, journalists, artists, and all the people of Ukraine, who are living through their darkest hours. We stand by you and feel your pain. All individuals have a right to peace, free expression, and free assembly. Putin’s war is an attack on democracy and freedom not just in Ukraine, but around the world. We stand united in calling for peace and for an end to the propaganda that is fueling the violence. There can be no free and safe Europe without a free and independent Ukraine. Peace must prevail,” the letter said.

British author Ken Follett’s criticism

Meanwhile, on March 1, bestselling British author Ken Follett expressed his views over the Russian aggression in an interview with Deutsch Wela (DW), German state-owned International broadcaster. The interview was on his latest novel titled ‘Never’ which describes a nuclear war between China and the US. Following is how he criticised the Russian war:

“Before I started writing this book, I asked Catherine Ashton, the former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, where the biggest threat was in the world. She said Russia, and I didn’t believe her, thinking Russia was no longer a war-like nation trying to conquer the world, so I wrote a story about a conflict with China.

But now it turns out that a very dangerous conflict has begun with Russia.

“We’ve seen how the Russians took over the Crimea and then parts of Eastern Ukraine, and as they did so, the threats of retaliation from the West became stronger. This is this escalation process. And now, even though the West has not sent soldiers into Ukraine, nevertheless, Putin has responded to what he sees as threats — he’s responded by putting his nuclear forces on alert, and this is the dreadful process which I describe in ‘Never’.”

He elaborates the situation:

“(With this war) The Russians aren’t going anywhere, no matter how badly this goes for them, they’re not going to leave Ukraine. It will be like the Americans in Vietnam, it will be a disaster but they won’t be able to walk away from it, I think.

“The only thing we can hope for is that it de-escalates, and that the fighting doesn’t spread to neighboring countries: Poland, Hungary and Moldova.”

Ukrainian writers’ condemnation

Among the authors who affected the war mostly are Ukrainian writers. So they, more than anyone else, come forward to speak out against it.

In fact, when the war began on February 24, PEN Ukraine released a video in which many Ukrainian writers denounced the invasion. Andrey Kurkov, 61, the President of PEN Ukraine, who was foremost among those writers, stated in that video: “This is my city, my home, my country, my native land… I will never welcome occupiers.”

Artem Chapeye, another Ukrainian author, expressed his views in the Pen Ukraine video as this: “It’s my home.

My children are here. They have school. You are already so used to everything that you not only recognise people, but also some animals and birds in your area.”

Tamara Ivanovna Hundorova, a member of PEN Ukraine, stated in the video that she saw hope in the fact that “the best, the strongest people of our home have taken their weapons and went to the front”. She added: “All the artists associating themselves with Ukraine should be here because that is where the cord that connects us is. (It is) our language, our culture that gives us power and opportunity to fight.”

Kozlovskiy Ihor Anatoliyovych, another writer, said: “I have experience of being in captivity. I know what Russia is. I know what Ukraine is. Russia is slavery and fear. Ukraine is freedom and joy. I know the difference between freedom and the lack of it.”

The New York Times roundtable

Meanwhile, on February 24, the day Russian invasion started, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, a New York Times Opinion podcast host started a discussion the shocking news with three NYT journalists-Farah Stockman, a member of the editorial board; Ross Douthat, a Times columnist and Frank Bruni, a contributing Opinion writer. In that discussion, Farah Stockman said:

“I really worry that Americans aren’t ready for the consequences of this. What we’re going to be faced with is the increasing bifurcation of the world between East and West. And it’s time now for the United States and Europe to really think about how — well, to really act, right? We have to make this mean something. We have to meaningfully stand up at this time. And I fear that a lot of Americans are embroiled in fights with each other. And we have a lot of work to do.” She further said:

“A lot of people consider this to be a personal obsession of his (Putin). He has a personal obsession with Ukraine. It has a lot of historical meaning to him. But I also see this as a bigger deal. It’s bigger than Ukraine because he’s been watching for the last, I don’t know, 20 years — he’s been watching the United States do things like this, in his mind. He hated what we did in Libya. He was furious. He hated the Iraq war invasion. He has been seeing us throw our might around and call it international law.

“And I think he’s just saying, well, I can play that game, too. And this is really about telling the United States that it’s no longer the sole superpower and showing that we are weak. He went to Beijing before this and basically got some kind of agreement from President Xi that somehow China was going to back them up with economic deals so that they could live maybe without Europe for a while. I worry about where this is all going.”

Putin’s gamble

Times columnist Ross Douthat’s views over the invasion:

“It is a tremendous gamble that Putin has taken. And I think there are short-term and long-term questions here. “Short-term, there’s the question of: We’re not going to go to war ourselves for Ukraine. That’s been clear for a while. And I think we’ve honestly had a somewhat failed strategy vis-à-vis Ukraine, and this has brought that to a head. But we have to have a response, and there are questions about what is the immediate response, how far can you go with sanctions, what will European countries be willing to do and what kind of pain will everyone be willing to bear at the gas pump in particular.

“But then longer term, this will reorient defense postures and energy policies substantially for NATO and for the European Union, again, in ways that will not be good for Russia.

There will be some kind of sustained push for energy independence in Europe, I think on a scale we haven’t seen before. There will be a realignment of NATO forces in the East. It’s possible that Finland and Sweden will join NATO. All of this — I think those long-term responses are ultimately going to be more important than the decisions we make about sanctions today. But obviously, those decisions are the ones that are immediate and necessary right now.”

Douthat moreover described:

“What is clear is that the United States’ and the West’s policy toward Ukraine in general was conditioned on this sense that we could invest there on a scale that wouldn’t deter Putin. We knew it wouldn’t deter Putin, but it would all work out, nonetheless. And now that we invested heavily in a Government that we can’t defend and is in danger of being destroyed, that is the sort of reality of power politics right now.”

Feels like a page from the 20th century

Times contributing Opinion writer, Frank Bruni, started the round table as follows:

“This feels like a page from the 20th century. And here we are in the 21st century. And I’m struck by this sense I pick up in everyone around me that the world, we were somehow past this, that war in Europe was something that we wouldn’t see.

“And so I don’t think we’re ready for this. I think people don’t know how to process this. I don’t even think they’ve gotten to the point of fear and terror yet because they’re still in that state of shock. And I wanted to also follow up on something Ross said.

He talked about the incredible risk Putin is taking here. I think when people mention that, they’re usually thinking of the risk he’s taking internationally. But he has taken an enormous, enormous risk internally, too.

The Russian people are going to feel this gravely in their economy. They’re going to feel this in terms of lost lives. And he is betting — and it is fascinating and terrifying — he’s betting that this flexing of might and the stoking of national pride is somehow going to transcend and compensate for all of that. I don’t know that we know that to be the case.”

Sanctions are no longer surprise him Bruni further said:

“I don’t think the sanctions are any surprise to him (Putin).

I think they do need to be as severe as possible, as severe as they can be in terms of the effect they’re going to end up having on Western European nations and whether they’re willing to tolerate the consequences there.

“But part of what makes this so difficult to process and so impossible to predict is there are certain responses that we’ve taken off the table, and we’ve taken them off the table for very good reasons.

But now that they’re off the table, what happens? Where is our leverage? Where is our pressure? And how does this end? And if Putin gets away with this, and it looks like he very well may, given his personality, given his megalomania, what comes after that? I think these are real questions, and they are scary ones.”

New barriers in opera

While things are unfolding like this in the journalism field, in art other barriers began to deploy. First, New York City’s Metropolitan Opera said on February 27 that it would cut ties with pro-Putin artists.

Then, other opera houses around the world started to react similarly, according to the Deutsch Wela. DW also reported that Kirill Petrenko, chief conductor of Berlin’s Philharmonic Orchestra, spoke out fiercely against what he called “Putin’s insidious” attack in a statement published on February 25. He called it “a knife in the back of the entire peaceful world,” as well as an attack on the arts which “unite across all borders.”

“And despite the danger, within Russia, some of the biggest names in music have taken to their social media platforms to condemn the actions of President Putin,” DW said.

In this way, the Russian invasion in Ukraine is not just a war between two countries, but also a separation into two groups of artistes and media from their political ends, and a reversing of all the achievements that man acquired in human civilisation.