By Nat Hill
Ukrainian service members attend a military drill with weapons supplied by Britain at the firing ground of the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on Jan. 28. (AFP/Getty Images)
Genocide Watch is issuing a warning for the potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the likelihood of genocide is low, a Russian invasion will increase the likelihood of war crimes, extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, torture, sexual assault, and other crimes against humanity.
In 2014, Russian-backed separatists seized and still control large swaths of Ukrainian territory in the Donbas and Luhansk regions bordering Russia. The resulting war has lasted for seven years, has killed 14 thousand people, including 3,000 civilians, and has displaced 1.5 million people. Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.
An estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers are now deployed along the Russian-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Belarusian borders. NATO, the European Union, and the United States have sent anti-tank missiles and other weapons for Ukraine’s self-defense, but not enough to drive back Russian tanks and air power. Both US President Biden and the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, prematurely announced that no US and NATO troops will be deployed to Ukraine to counter a Russian invasion. Biden has even predicted that a Russian invasion is likely.
The US and UK have threatened crippling economic sanctions against Russia if it invades. But there is little likelihood that such sanctions will deter Russia’s Vladimir Putin from invading Ukrainian territory, which he considers to be a part of Russia. The current US and NATO policy of appeasement towards Putin's Russia has increased the likelihood of a bloody Russian invasion and thousands of deaths.
For a comprehensive synopsis of the political, economic, social, and historical aspects of the conflict in Ukraine please see the Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder. See also Prof. Timothy Snyder’s “Putin’s Case for Invading Ukraine Rests on Phony Grievances and Ancient Myths” (Washington Post, January 26, 2022).
Genocide Watch is increasingly concerned about the integration of Ukrainian right-wing extremists and neo-Nazi militias into the Ukrainian military in Donbas. Groups such as Right Sector, Azov Battalion, and Svoboda openly promote fascism, antisemitism, homophobia, and xenophobia. They have been given tacit support by the Ukrainian government to organize and fight in Donbas. They pose a threat to Ukraine’s developing democracy and the protection of Ukraine's minority populations.
Ukraine has a long history of genocide. The Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, starved millions of Ukrainians in the 1932-1933 Holodomor. Stalin also deported the entire population of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia in 1944, costing many thousands of lives. Crimean Tatars continue to be discriminated against in their own homeland. The Jewish population of Ukraine was nearly annihilated by centuries of pogroms and anti-Semitism, climaxing in the Nazi Holocaust, which killed two million Jews in Ukraine. Ukrainian militias assisted the Nazis in their genocide, and some Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups still celebrate those collaborators as heroes.
Due to Putin’s massive deployment of Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine, Genocide Watch considers Ukraine to be at Stage 5: Organization, Stage 6: Polarization, and Stage 7: Preparation.
Genocide Watch Recommends:
· The UN Security Council should vote on a Chapter 7 resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine. When the UNSC Resolution is vetoed by Russia, the Uniting for Peace Resolution should be invoked, and the situation should be referred to the UN General Assembly.
· The United States, NATO, and the European Union should begin to impose economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus and fully impose them if any Russian unit invades Ukraine.
· NATO should provide massive military aid to Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic States so that any Russian invasion will be met by effective self-defense.
· The Ukrainian army should remove neo-Nazi militias that fight under its command.