Kyiv's war matters in Thailand too

Kyiv's war matters in Thailand too

On Feb 27, 2022 Lidiya Zhuravlyova, a Ukrainian-born performance artist, poses as she takes part in an anti-war protest in Bangkok.
On Feb 27, 2022 Lidiya Zhuravlyova, a Ukrainian-born performance artist, poses as she takes part in an anti-war protest in Bangkok.

Imagine daily rocket attacks on your city, causing numerous hits of residential buildings. Air alarms almost every night force you to take refuge in a subway station. Children having classes underground for safety. A bloody trench war, with many victims are the young men you used to know.

Impossible? This is the terrible reality for many Ukrainians, ever since Russia launched its full-scale aggression of its neighbour on Feb 24 two years ago.

Just days before, Russia denied having such intentions, accusing those who warned of a war of Russophobia. However, it was clear the Russian leadership expected Kyiv to be conquered within three days -- Russian tank crews even brought their parade uniforms with them when they crossed the border.

This was not the first Russian attack on Ukraine: in 2014, Russia formed irregular armed bands to grab Crimea and eastern Ukraine in a surprise operation, while the world watched in disbelief. When these bands came under military pressure, Russia brought in large numbers of its regular armed forces, while claiming they were soldiers "on leave" who had "found" their heavy armament.

After two years of fighting, Russia has paid a high price and suffered many setbacks, in human, military, economic and diplomatic terms. It cannot reach its objectives in Ukraine and must not be allowed to win. This senseless bloodshed must end. But how?

After 2014, upon the initiative of Germany and France, negotiations were held. They resulted in the Minsk Agreements and led to a shaky cease-fire along the so-called "line-of-contact". However, the territorial gains were not enough for Russia, so Russia attacked again in 2022, this time openly and with full force.

There is no way around it: international laws such as Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter absolutely forbids the use of military force among states. There is only one exception: self-defence, or assisting in another state's self-defence against aggression.

Therefore, there is no justification for Russia's invasion, no matter what counter-factual, flimsy theories Russia makes up to confuse our minds. On the other hand, President Vladimir Putin is quite clear: He claims that for historical reasons, Ukraine has no right to exist as an independent state, even though his predecessor Boris Yeltsin formally recognised Ukraine and even guaranteed its borders.

But does this matter here in Thailand?

We are living in the 21st century, in a globalised world, and we all benefit from global trade and rules that apply everywhere and to every state. Beyond the humanitarian crisis and deaths in Ukraine, Russia's aggression has hurt the world: for instance, Russia's blockade and destruction of Ukrainian ports disrupted Ukrainian grain exports which has lead to a global food shortage. This has a great impact on developing countries as underlined by United Nations warnings. The war has also caused a sharp rise in oil and gas prices.

We would all suffer in a world where a large, militarily powerful country can invade and try to annihilate a smaller neighbouring country at will. We need a world that is governed by universal rules of international law that apply to all states, and that protect us from potential aggressors.

We must protect ourselves from potential aggressors, be they in Europe or in Asia or elsewhere. Therefore, it is in our own direct interest to resist aggression wherever it occurs, and to support the attacked party. Many neutral countries across the world have taken clear positions against Russia's aggression. A country can be militarily neutral and yet clear when facing a blatant violation of international peace.

Over the last decades, we have been fortunate enough to live in a world of relative peace and stability. This benign international environment has made our lives better, and it is in our best interest to uphold and defend the peaceful order that protects the weaker against the powerful.

Therefore, it is in the interest of every nation, including Thailand, to stand and defend the rule-based order and to condemn any attack that doesn't respect it. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an exemplary case that will shape the world we will live in.

Jean-Claude Poimboeuf is the ambassador of France to Thailand. Ernst Reichel is the German Ambassador to Thailand.

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