War of the decade

Ukrainian Soldiers
Source: https://nara.getarchive.net/media/yavoriv-ukraine-ukrainian-soldiers-assigned-to-29c06d

Ukrainian Soldiers Source: https://nara.getarchive.net/media/yavoriv-ukraine-ukrainian-soldiers-assigned-to-29c06d

Sirens wail in the distance as the whistle of a mortar shell can be heard in the air. Fire burns as smoke billows into the sky from a partially collapsed building and people are crying for the people they know, trapped inside the shelled building, never to be heard from again.

This is going on in Ukraine right now.

 Russia has launched an unprovoked invasion into Ukraine causing millions of people to be displaced and killing hundreds of civilians.

“What we’ve been seeing in the last three weeks is a series of deliberately committed war crimes, crimes against humanity,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.” according to CNBC.

Being in America means having immediate and ready access to news across the globe. This is something that isn’t appreciated here, and something most countries don’t have.

In fact, “Putin signed a law into effect which criminalizes calling the situation in Ukraine a ”war or ”invasion.” The punishment is at least 15 years in prison,” says CNBC This unfair law is restricting the media from accurately reporting on Russia’s military actions in order for Russia to save face after Ukrainian resistance embarrassingly thwarted Russia’s attempts to quickly topple the nation. After all, Russia is the world’s second most militarily powerful nation.

Despite being so far away from the war, people here have a much better idea of what’s going on. Better than some Russian soldiers who are deployed to Ukraine. According to the New York Post, Not all Russian soldiers were “even aware that they were going to be sent into a combat operation.”

The fact of the matter is that Putin is getting old. At 69 years old, he has been in control of Russia for almost 10 years. Putin wants to make himself a legacy. What better legacy could Putin want than reforming the borders of the Soviet Union?

“Russia needs to … stop clinching to the, let’s say, the idea of the reconstruction of the Soviet Union,” says Vsevolod Chentsov, the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU. 

With Putin’s war came consequences from the Western world: sanctions.

These sanctions not only affect the Russian economy and the Rouble but also the Russian people who are suffering from the consequences of an event they can’t even call by its true name.

Companies across the globe are suspending business in Russia. Some of these companies supply people with the money they live off of. Elena, a 31-year-old woman living in Russia, had a huge percentage of her income cut off after Airbnb suspended services in Russia. 

She “rented out her Moscow apartment on Airbnb enough times since 2018 to earn her the “super host” badge. She was earning the equivalent of $1,000 a month. “My listing was booked up most of the time,” she says. “I only had three to four days vacant during a month.” But overnight, that income stream disappeared.” 

Elena’s only other source of income came from Youtube. But now she’s  “worried that Google—or the Russian government—will restrict Russians’ access to YouTube,” according to the New York Times.

“TikTok has blocked its services in Russia, while Russian authorities have banned Facebook and restricted Twitter,” According to Fortune. Google barred “Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps, and YouTube videos”

Elena was forced to move to Turkey due to her income being cut off but had to leave her parents behind who couldn’t immigrate with her because of certain health issues.

Elena is not the only person who is being affected by the strict censorship laws. 

According to the NY Times, “Dmitri A. Muratov, the journalist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said that his newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which survived the murders of six of its journalists, could be on the verge of shutting down as well.”

Protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has suppressed the media and controlled the population through fear by murdering journalists and by “arbitrarily [arresting] thousands of peaceful protesters at anti-war rallies across Russia,” says Human Rights Watch.  “The police used excessive force against protesters while detaining them and, in several instances, inflicted abuse amounting to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, on those in custody.” Putin bullies the Russian people into submission. A lot of Russians don’t agree with the war, and some soldiers would rather surrender than fight it.

“Some entire Russian units have laid down their arms without a fight.” The Russian military isn’t all volunteers like the US military. “A significant number of the Russian troops are young conscripts who are poorly trained and ill-prepared for the all-out assault. And in some cases, Russian troops have deliberately punched holes in their vehicles’ gas tanks” ”to avoid combat, the official said,” said a Pentagon official

Putin doesn’t even have the full support of his military which just goes to show how crazy his actions against Ukraine are. 

Anonymous is a very well-known hacking group completely independent of any organization, government or not. “A popular Twitter account named “Anonymous” declared that the shadowy activist group was waging a “cyberwar” against Russia,” according to NBC.

This is a very scary prospect. “It’s terrifying.” said high school senior Harrison Reinisch. 

Anonymous is on our side this time. What if the US does something Anonymous doesn’t like. Will they attack the US?

Anonymous is very hard to be tracked which means catching them would be near impossible. They would have no accountability for their actions and would have an extreme amount of power. 

Harrison quoted Lord Acton by saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Even with good intentions, people with that much power could in time only serve themselves.

What Anonymous is right now is a vigilante group, serving justice on a global scale. While their actions help us today it’s yet another example of how the world’s power scale is being shifted.

With western sanctions on Russia, its economy is in a tumble. 

The ruble lost about 25% of its value to trade at 104 to the dollar … After earlier plummeting as much as 40%,” according to CNN. In addition, the Russian stock exchange continues to be closed for a prolonged period of time. 

People are suffering. There are shortages of basic goods, sky-high unemployment, travel restrictions, Russian banks being disconnected from SWIFT, and companies suspending services in Russia.

Everyone of all ages, including students has formed strong opinions on this topic, especially for Russian Americans.

Georgy Piredda, a high school sophomore was born in Russia but moved to the US where he attended elementary school and still lives. 

Prior to the war, Georgy respected Putin, like many Russians. However, since the reports of Russian soldiers committing atrocities, his respect for Putin has started to waver.

 “I was born in Russia and for as long as I know I always kinda supported Russia but now that Russia is attacking an innocent country, … my ideas on Putin are changing from [he’s] respectable to [he’s] an idiot.” 

Nina Cossin, a high school sophomore, also has an opinion on Putin. “I think he’s just causing a lot of unnecessary death to innocent people.” She also said that “I think it’s crazy what Putin is doing.”

Sanctions on Russia have increased in response to the murder of civilians causing massive shortages across the country.

Once again the people of Russia must suffer the consequences of a  man who suffers not at all.

Secluded from the rest of the world, Putin doesn’t care about the suffering of the everyday person, and how his aggressive and warring tendencies affect everyone across the globe.

But the monstrosity doesn’t end there. The International Convention on the Safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals protects journalists, as the name of the convention suggests. This convention’s aim is to allow journalists to act independently of nations in an effort to provide accurate and untampered news without being persecuted.

However, on March 13, this convention was broken by Russian soldiers who, according to Politico.com,  fired upon a reporter’s car. Brent Renaud was murdered by Russian soldiers just outside of Kyiv. 

 FOX cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski was killed in the same fashion as Renaud: being shot whilst in a car, not posing even the slightest threat to the Russian troops.

This tragedy has more meaning than just the death of a reporter. 

It calls into question not only the safety of reporters in all of Russia but also Russia’s willingness to comply with international law and treaties.

This is not the only treaty Russia has broken since the outbreak of the invasion. Russia has been committing war crimes by murdering civilians, shelling residential areas, and aiming for hospitals, and schools with long-range weapons where the Ukrainians can’t attack and stop the shelling.

“Russia has resorted to the use in urban areas of mass-casualty weapons such as cluster munitions, which scatter hundreds of small, delayed-action bomblets,” says the Guardian

“The UK’s Ministry of Defence alleges Russia is also firing thermobaric rockets, known as vacuum bombs, which suck oxygen from the air (and people’s lungs) to generate an explosion.” as well as cluster bombs which are illegal to have, the Guardian Reported.

A cluster bomb

 The use of such weapons came after the Russian offensive was stalled by surprisingly stiff Ukrainian resistance, embarrassing the Kremlin enough for him to disregard any civilian life to bring him closer to his goal of occupying Ukraine. 

“I think Ukraine was underestimated and now is believed to be a pretty strong country militarily because they’ve lasted for more than a couple of days,” said Georgy. 

When asked about the killing of civilians and usage of mass-casualty weapons, Georgy said “That’s bs. I get if they’re trying to attack you but self-defense or an innocent person trying to escape then don’t shoot them obviously.”

The actions of Russian soldiers during the current conflict have led the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into Russia for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The chief prosecutor of the ICC Karim Khan said that “he would begin work “as rapidly as possible” to look for possible crimes against humanity or genocide committed in Ukraine.” 

Unfortunately, the rulings may not have much effect on those convicted. The only way for the ruling to be enforced is if the individuals are in countries that are members of the ICC and are willing to enforce the ruling and anger Russia.

Basically, the people who authorized the murder of civilians’ only punishment would be that they couldn’t leave Russia without being arrested.

Russia has a blacklist of people who aren’t allowed to enter Russia. Russia has blacklisted a total of 313 Canadians including the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. 

According to a state-run Russian propaganda website tass.com, the blacklisting of the Canadian PM was in response to “new sanctions hastily imposed by official Ottawa, which is apparently competing with Washington in Russophobic rage” which is an absurd excuse for Russia punishing Canadian officials for standing up for its allies on the global stage.

Russia is doing everything it can to lash out at the countries that imposed sanctions, crippling Russia’s economy. The Russian “news” agency which publishes Russian propaganda tass.com does not even mention the economic crash, only the Russian central bank increasing the national interest rate.

Russia refuses to tell its people that the world is against Russia and that Russia cannot win in the long term. The anti-war protests are proof of the Russian people not believing in Putin as a leader. The censorship laws are designed to prevent the spread of information that’s causing people to believe that Putin’s war is wrong.

Before Putin’s reign, Russia’s president was Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin brought much change to Russia. He reformed the way Russia functions, mainly economically by transitioning Russia to a more capitalist-style economy, creating a market exchange for the ruble, and lifting price controls.

What Putin is doing now was unexpected (censorship laws) after a reformist like Yelstin.

But Reisch says “I think it’s not very surprising.” Based on Russia’s aggressive actions in the past, some people have begun to see what kind of person Putin really is.

Although nations who imposed sanctions on Russia will suffer, they will be ok in the long run. The same cannot be said for Russia, which could possibly default on its large amount of debt, according to MarketWatch.

Russia is expected to make a 117 million dollar payment on bonds this Wednesday, March 16th. 

The people who invested in Russian bonds expect their money to be paid back in dollars which is stipulated in the bond contract. 

“Neither of the two dollar-denominated bonds which need to be paid on Wednesday allow for any other currency to be used,” says the BBC.

Russia is threatening to pay back the debt in Roubles or not at all.

The problem with paying the debt back in Roubles is that no one wants them. Its value is extremely volatile due to the war and the sanctions. It also lost a huge percentage of its value, and people aren’t trading with it due to sanctions on Russian Banks.

Russia is running out of foreign currency which isn’t currently frozen by sanctions. 

Russia is prioritizing the invasion over maintaining its economy. Food shortages are beginning to occur which will only get worse. The Russian people will suffer the most, while Putin and oligarchs use the mountain of money they have saved. 

What could occur would be similar to Soviet-era Russia where there are nationwide shortages, mass incarceration of political prisoners, limited speech, and a militaristic and unpredictable government.

Russian Newsletter Foreign Affairs talks about how these sanctions would only make Russia more of an enemy than it already is.

I believe this to be false. The conflict between Russia and the western world has quieted down since the end of the cold war but has heated back up.

This decades-long clash of superpowers could culminate in another world war or in one of the superpowers capitulating and a new government taking place, much like the fall of the Soviet Union.

The western world must not back down and must strive to protect the freedoms and basic rights of those around the world who ask for it.

Time and time again western countries have forcefully imposed western values on those who don’t want them, like trying to prevent the spread of communism in Vietnam.

This is a time when a country is begging for the west to interfere and spread its values. If there is any time to get involved in global politics and have a meaningful presence in the world, now is the time.

The western vs Russian conflict is coming to a head as more and more countries impose sanctions on Russia and as NATO begins to deploy troops to eastern European countries like Poland.

The world is walking on eggshells and is one step away from world war three. 

Only strength and solidarity on a global stage can prevent the military dictatorship Russia is from destroying the world as we know it.

Meanwhile, people continue to discredit Putin as a crazed madman that has no idea what he’s doing.

“I think that he’s probably more competent than a lot of western people would give him credit for,” said Reinisch. “A lot of people think he’s crazy and has no purpose for his actions but I disagree. He doesn’t even care about Russian people. He uses them as pawns in his geopolitical game.”