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The Illusion of Remoteness: Why the West has not responded sufficiently to the massive shelling of Ukraine

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 min

On December 29, the Russian occupiers launched a massive shelling of Ukraine, targeting the country’s largest cities. Capturing the world’s attention, one of the missiles violated Polish airspace. Political scientist Dmytro Levus on Hromadske radio discussed whether the Western society feels safe amid Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.

«I would have been surprised if the foreign reaction had been much harsher or more emotional than it was. But even though I’m not surprised, I think the reaction is rather lukewarm, it could be much stronger. But it’s understandable why it happens».

The international community’s reaction to Russia’s massive attack has been muted, raising a number of questions and discussions. According to political scientist Dmytro Levus, this atypical reaction can be explained by several factors.

Firstly, the Christmas holidays play a role in reducing the activity of politicians and public leaders. Secondly, there is a habit of looking at the war against Ukraine as something ordinary, waged by the Russian Federation. This is also linked to the illusion that it is possible to negotiate with Russia at the expense of Ukraine.

Thirdly, international institutions such as the UN and NATO have not shown a clear reaction due to institutional failures adapted to other times.

«I recently spoke with Latvians, and they have a decreased sense of security again. That is, they are aware that they are at the forefront».

Does the West feel safe in the face of Russian attacks? The political scientist notes that the illusion of the remoteness of borders from Russia fragments Western society, but recent events are changing this perspective.

Over the past couple of months, German Chancellor Scholz has emphasized the importance of supporting Ukraine, and Germany has provided aid packages. Additionally, the Chief of Staff of the Dutch Army has spoken about the necessity for his country to prepare for war. These actions are, in part, reactions to figures like Orban, who advocate for negotiation and the cessation of the war at all costs.

Poland is already responding to the incident intensively. It is officially recognised that it is a Russian missile. Discussions are ongoing, but whether Articles Four and Five of the NATO Charter will be invoked remains a question.

«The swiftness of the Polish reaction suggests that this may be the end of it. Perhaps there will be further discussions and pressure on Russia on international platforms, but this is the highest limit of the specific situation».

On the reaction of the Ukrainian community

According to Dmytro Levus, the emotional reaction of Ukrainians to the Russian massive attack is often criticised, especially in international discussions. The analyst notes that there is an opinion that excessive emotionality can tire partners and lose its effectiveness.

«Ukraine is often criticised, even in internal discussions, for being too emotional, and this makes our partners tired. We have to show emotion and arouse sympathy. After all, this is what helped Ukraine mobilise the world to support it in 2022», — Levus said.

However, the political scientist recommends taking into account another aspect – the need to understand Russia’s criminality in specific terms. According to Levus, it used to be enough to react emotionally to events, but now it is necessary to focus on specific violations of international humanitarian law, such as the deportation of children, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the genocide of Ukrainians in general.

«We need to talk about what exactly Russia has violated, what norms of international humanitarian law. In fact, there is a lot of information available: about the deportation of children, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the genocide of Ukrainians in general. We have to talk about it all the time. I don’t think there will be any fatigue from this, especially if we bring it into the legal sphere», — the expert said.

It is also worth noting that the idea of forming an international tribunal is becoming relevant again. If the state takes up this task, this area of work may prove to be key in resolving issues related to Russia’s violations of international law and human rights.

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