West must beware the language of appeasement and see Russia’s war on Ukraine for what it is

Words influence the way we see the world. In 2015, we warned that the language used by the west to describe Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine was a jumble of euphemism and understatement that failed to serve the public interest.

The problem hasn’t gone away. Today there may be a reckoning in the west with how political and business interests have long accommodated the barbarism of Vladimir Putin’s regime for profit and short-term gain. But there is one form of appeasement that we have yet to confront. This appeasement comes in the form of our words.

Check the headlines about Ukraine. How many of them bend over backwards to avoid even mentioning Russia? Instead, they speak of the “Ukraine war” or “Ukraine conflict”. We read about “Ukraine at war” or “the situation in Ukraine”. Even public gestures are curiously neutral – such as the moment of silence and statement of solidarity for the people of Ukraine observed at the 2022 Academy Awards, which failed to acknowledge the very state responsible for unleashing death and destruction in the heart of Europe.

Such verbal appeasement is casual, almost unconscious – but it is dangerous all the same. It not only misrepresents what is happening today, but also undermines our ability to imagine and prepare for what can happen tomorrow. For the sake of Ukraine’s future and the sake of our own security, the world needs to speak of this war clearly and directly.

Call out Russian aggression – relentlessly

This is Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russia chose to wage war against Ukraine in 2014 and has chosen to escalate it in 2022. Our headlines and reports should not shy away from the fact that Russia is the one state that could end the war right now.

This failure to make Russia the focal point also gives cover to Putin’s toxic rhetoric of grievance that disavows responsibility for Russia’s own behaviour and frames every action as a “look at what you made me do” reaction – always blaming the victim.

But talk of “

Continue reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *