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  • May Soe Min

Free Ukraine, but Free Other Nations Too

On February 24th, 2022, Russia violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, and its on-going invasion efforts have led to cataclysmic outcomes. It is an Eastern European skirmish, but there is no denying that there are international implications. It must be noted that although the active and prompt condemnation of Russia from western nations has been admirable, it is also disappointing. The Russo-Ukrainian War has highlighted what groups are deemed worth saving and what groups aren’t according to western powers.

This is not a competition of which global crisis is worse, but rather a comparison on the international communities’ response towards western and non-western nations. It is undeniable that there is a favorable bias towards western nations, and hypocrisy laces the ways in which global leaders react. Putin has committed numerous violations of human rights in armed conflicts from hostage-taking to arrest of government critics. The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has condemned Putin for it, and Jens Stoltenburg, NATO’s secretary general, has warned Russia to refrain from committing even more violations such as initiating chemical warfare. But, it seems the world has turned a blind-eye on similar human right violations occurring in other parts of the world from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

In Myanmar, the military junta seized control of the nation on February 1st of 2021 and has contributed to over thousands of deaths through airstrikes, raids, and arbitrary arrests. Dictator Min Aung Hlaing has also led crackdowns on political figures that promoted democracy in the small Southeast Asian country. There have also been multiple accounts of sadistic tortures led by soldiers and raping of women in rural villages. These unpunished war crimes remain ignored and silenced by the rest of the world as Burma cannot offer any political or economic incentives. Beyond sanctions and occasional condemnation paired by “thoughts and prayers,” there are no direct communications with the junta like there is with Putin’s government. There is barely a half-hearted response to daily massacres taking place in Myanmar.

Although western nations denounced Russia’s invasion, they simultaneously promote the same colonization and imperialism efforts through continuous partnerships with Israel. How can one denounce Putin’s expansion efforts while promoting the genocide of Palestinians and the overtaking of an already sovereign land? The biggest irony in all of this is Israel offering to hold peacetalks with Russia as if they are innocent from all the atrocities committed on Palestinian soil. The United States may condemn Russia for killing civilians, but will happily send billions of dollars to Israel for its conquest. Western hypocrisy has never been surprising, but it has been on display at an all time high.

It is imperative that we must help the Ukrainian refugees, however, we should convey this same very treatment to all refugees. Borders once closed to refugees from the Middle East to South Asia warmly welcome those from Europe, and news channels sympathizing with European refugees while vilifying refugees of color for being “uncivilized”. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov stated, “These people are European,” when asked to comment about the influx of refugees coming in from Ukraine as if refugees are only supposed to come from non-western nations. He furthers his commentary by including “This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.” People with unclear pasts? Does the Prime Minister mean refugees who faced persecution from the government or victims of western imperialism? Why must we vilify non-European refugees and dehumanize their perils?

Is the worth of a citizen’s life determined by their nation’s affluence? Is humanitarian aid and relief decided upon what a country exports? When will western nations realize the harm they’re doing by picking and choosing what is wrong or right depending on their relationship with a state? Western hypocrisy needs to be recognized and addressed as the crisis happening in Ukraine is happening all around the world. We just need to open our eyes and look.


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