On 24 February 2022 Russia began a military invasion of Ukraine. We were completely astonished by the unfolding events that same day. We felt the need to make sense of this situation and to connect with others. Therefore, we opened a digital space in our Policy Kitchen platform to discuss and share thoughts, feelings, and ideas on the consequences of this war and its repercussions in the global order.
Sadly, the terrible conflict in Ukraine is still ongoing, with more and more people being displaced and civilians suffering. During this time, more than 30 thinkers from different countries, including Russia and Ukraine, have joined the platform. Many others joined our two open discussion nights. What comes below is a reflection of the main ideas and discussions that were held during the first days of the invasion. While we are aware that we won’t stop the war with our ideas, we hope they will serve as a point of reflection and deliberation for those with decision power.
With some of us based in Switzerland, the concept of neutrality was very quickly put into question. How would the Swiss government react? And what about other neutral states? As of today, Switzerland has imposed some sanctions on Russia in accordance with EU sanctions but the response with delay. The government inaction was heavily criticized at home and abroad. Besides those actions, many questions still remain open: How far can the Switzerland go with sanctions without being a party in the conflict? Does Switzerland still have a chance to be a mediator? If Switzerland is elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Counicl, what will be the consequences for the country?
This will remain a central topic of debate within the foraus community for the weeks and months ahead.
Another relevant question was raised in the role that NATO and the west might have played in triggering the invasion. From the Russian government's perspective, the attack on Ukraine was justified as a necessary preemptive action to counter the inevitable increase of a military threat by NATO and the west. While this argument was branded as Russian propaganda by most, could there be a point to it? With NATO accepting several ex-member states of the Warsaw Pact and increasing military operation in the area, could Russia legitimately feel threatened? Might the threatened-state-perspective be the key to forging a path to end the war?
Many other ideas ranged from how to keep engaging with Russian scientists to questioning the effectiveness of sanctions and what would happen with them once the conflict ends, passing by the disinformation war, and sharing the feeling of many Russian citizens that oppose this cruel invasion.
For now, we have closed this space, but the discussions and debates continue throughout the Open Think Tank Network member events and publications. Follow the latest developments on the websites of Ponto, Polis180, Agora, and foraus.