[guest post by Dana]
It’s disturbing to hear people, smart people, argue that the burden to end the war in Ukraine rests on President Zelensky: He needs to be willing to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. He needs to be willing to surrender the four regions annexed by Russia. He needs to give something in return to appease Putin. Strangely, there is usually silence from them when asked what makes them think that Putin is to be trusted and would abide by any peace plan. (I mean, don’t we already know that he is wholly untrustworthy and would never abide by any agreement that would curtail his insatiable thirst for power and an ever-expanding empire.) Oh, the naivete. And yet, I had it explained to me that the enforcers of any such deal would be us, the United States. As in if Russia acts in contradiction to a peace agreement (oh, say, by invading Ukraine again), U.S. troops would then be sent to the region… *Blinks* *Blinks again* And still, even when pointing out that Russia is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people, including thousands of children being abducted by Russian authorities and sent to camps inside Russia’s borders, it is seen as yet another reason why it is imperative that Zelensky be willing to negotiate with Putin and find some sort of compromise. In other words, Zelensky is the real problem here.
To my layman’s mind, it appears that there are four ways the war ends: 1) Russia voluntarily and wholly leaves Ukraine (and the four annexed territories), 2) Ukraine drives Russia out in defeat, 3) Ukraine surrenders to Russia, or 4) Ukraine is defeated and subsumed into Russia. I don’t believe Option 1 will ever happen. I believe Option 2 is the best and most effective option. As for Option 3, it would take a lot more pressure from Russia coupled with a lack of support from the West for Ukraine to ever surrender to the boot. Such is their immense resolve to fight against Russian domination, and fight against all odds. And as long as the Ukrainians are willing to fight against the invaders, I believe that we should support them in any way that we can. And obviously, Option 4 would be the worst possible outcome. And not just for Ukraine.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Blinken described in an interview with NPR the one necessary and highly unlikely condition that would need to be in place for there to be a “just” and “durable” peace in Ukraine:
“Vladimir Putin has to give up on his notion that Ukraine is not its own country, that it needs to be erased from the maps and subsumed into Russia. He’s already failed at that. But he seems to continue to believe that that’s what he’s trying to achieve. And unless he’s disabused of that notion, it’s hard to see how peace can really move forward.”
I think that one of the most harrowing parts of the war continues to be the abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children – from new babies to teenagers – in an effort to re-educate them and make them Russian. A just-released report confirms that all levels of Russia’s government are involved in this genocide:
The Russian government is operating an expansive network of dozens of camps where it has held thousands of Ukrainian children since the start of the war against Ukraine last year, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The report contains disturbing new details about the extent of Moscow’s efforts to relocate, re-educate, and sometimes militarily train or forcibly adopt out Ukrainian children – actions that constitute war crimes and could provide evidence that Russia’s actions amount to genocide, it said.
The report found that more than 6,000 children — ranging in age from mere months old to 17 – have been in Russian custody at some point during the course of the nearly year-long war, although the “total number of children is not known and is likely significantly higher than 6,000.”
It identified 43 facilities that are a part of the network, which “stretches from one end of Russia to the other,” including Russian-occupied Crimea, the “eastern Pacific Coast – closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow,” and Siberia, Raymond said.
“The primary purpose of the camps appears to be political reeducation,” he said, noting that at least 32 of the facilities identified in the report “appear to be engaged in systematic re-education efforts that expose children from Ukraine to Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and in two cases, specifically military education.”
We can then assume that somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 parents (obviously a general approximation, depending on whether either parent is still alive or was part of the children’s lives in the first place) have been or are currently experiencing an indescribable, never-ending anguish that must eat at them 24/7. An unbearable pain.
As to whether an actual genocide is taking place, Prof. Timothy Snyder confirmed, even before the release of this report, that it was indeed happening. In an interview from December, he discussed the need to make sure that genocide fulfills all of the acts that are specified in the 1948 convention, and then focused on the issue of intent and the deportation of children:
So there are five things that must happen to constitute genocide in the normal sense, and every one of those five things stipulated is met by Russian activity. The one that gets overlooked a lot is number five, which is the deportation of children in an attempt of assimilating them. We remember the killing of populations and so on, but the Russians keep boasting about deporting Ukrainian children to assimilate them. So there’s that. There are the mass deportations, there are the filtration camps. There are the murders of local elites. And all those things are genocide, according to practice. But the interesting thing about this genocide is that the intention is so clear. Usually, the hard part in prosecuting genocide is not the actions, but proving intent. And what’s unusual in this case is that Russia keeps saying over and over again, in so many words, that they mean to commit genocide. And I think that puts everyone in the West in an embarrassing position because our default position is “Well they do terrible things, but how do we prove intent?” And this time, basically the Russians are overwhelming us with the evidence, as they do so often…
From the State Department, commenting on the new report:
“The fact that these are transfers and deportations of children is unconscionable by any standard. Russia must immediately halt forced transfers and deportations and return the children to their families or legal guardians. Russia must provide registration lists of Ukraine’s relocated and deported children and grant access for outside independent observers to related facilities within Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine and inside Russia itself.”
“Mounting evidence of Russia’s actions lays bare the Kremlin’s aims to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, history, and culture. The devastating impacts of Putin’s war on Ukraine’s children will be felt for generations. The United States will stand with Ukraine and pursue accountability for Russia’s appalling abuses for as long as it takes.”
As expected, Russia laughably pushed back on the accusations, and defended its actions as if they were something noble:
“We took notice of the absurd statements of State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, who had accused our country of ‘forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children’ to the territory of the Russian Federation,” the embassy said in a statement on Telegram.
“Russia accepted children who had been forced to flee with their families from the shelling and atrocities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We do our best to keep minors in families, and in case of absence or death of parents and relatives – to transfer orphans under guardianship. We ensure the protection of their lives and well-being.”
And so it goes…